Karaoke Korrespondent Jeff Roman checks in on Reverb every Wednesday. The Boss' "Thunder Road" remains one of his go-to numbers.
This week, the Karaoke Korrespondent


Karaoke Korrespondent Discovers South Shoreline Romance at Its Finest

Karaoke Korrespondent Jeff Roman checks in on Reverb every Wednesday. The Boss' "Thunder Road" remains one of his go-to numbers.
This week, the Karaoke Korrespondent heads north to the land of blondes, Bob Seger, and a little too much Ghostbusters.

By Jeff Roman

A buddy of mine who lives in Shoreline tipped me off to a seven-nights-a-week karaoke bar connected to an Indian restaurant just past the city limits on 15th Ave N.E. called Mr. Z's. Last Friday I decided to check it out. The moment I walked in, I saw the waitress from the old Peking Palace, and realized this is where their karaoke crowd wound up after it changed owners and turned into the cesspool known today as Tiger's. I felt right at home immediately, and enjoyed myself so much that I came right back Saturday night and closed the place down.

I arrived Friday night at 9, just as the festivities began. The tables on the floor were all taken, and there were already a lot of singers on deck. I hung back at the bar with the catalog. The scene barside was noticeably elderly. The old-timer sitting beside me wore a small cowboy hat and greeted me with a very welcoming smile. I can thankfully say I've never experienced any real racism in my life, but whenever I feel genuine kindness from old white men, I always take stock in how lucky I am that I didn't have to grow up before the 1970s.

The KJ (Karaoke Jockey) came up to the old guy with a bunch of slips. They were all of the guy's regular songs. He just picked one, and gave them back to him. I really need to get around to listing my favorites, because looking through the book gets really monotonous at times. It took me a while to settle on something, and I knew I needed to get one up, because the first round of singers was already well over 10 deep.

I assessed the crowd and decided to go with my number-one go-to song: "Thunder Road." The last time I sang it was when I choked during the karaoke contest at Wingmaster a couple months back. I took a break from it, because it let me down when I needed it the most. From the moment I heard the harmonica intro I got really exited to lay into it, but this time I didn't try to ham it up and sound like Bruce. The mic volume was perfect. I decided to sing it with my voice, but really feel the lyrics and live the story the Boss is telling. It worked out great. The crowd gave me the reaction I've come to expect when I perform that song.

Things got even busier as I was trying to figure out what my next offering would be. I didn't want to waste the pick on something too challenging, but I also wanted to deliver something the crowd would love. Of all the classic rockers, the performer whose vocals I can handle the best is Bob Seger. I can sing most of his songs with very little strain. The place was totally packed and I figured it would be my last performance of the night, so I decided to go with "Against the Wind."

As I was waiting for the KJ to cue up the disc, I decided to do a move that seems subtle enough, but makes a big difference when you're singing. I decided to leave the mic on the stand and just sing into it. As soon as the song kicked in, three ladies sitting at the table next to the stage area started dancing. That was awesome, and so is the first part of that song. The verse that goes "Janey was lovely--she was the queen of my nights" always makes me feel squishy the moment I sing it. You can only get to that level of feeling a song if you know the lyrics by heart. During the piano interlude I stepped away from the mic and danced along with the ladies. That's when I decided I'd be back the next day. When the song was over I got another great ovation and called it a night.

The next night I got there right at 9 again. There was about a quarter of the crowd that was there the night before. I'm pretty sure it's because people were saving themselves for the Super Bowl the next day. I grabbed a book, sat down at the same stool I was sitting in the night before and ordered myself a beer and a shot of Hornitos. The guy sitting next to me was in his 40s and asked me if I was planning to sing. I replied with "You better believe it" and raised my tequila and toasted his beer. Before I could even open the book, he began to talk my ear off. I was completely stuck. He was drunk and rambling. I tried the best I could to show him I was trying to focus on the catalog, but he wouldn't let up. I finally found a song, and a free moment to politely excuse myself to turn in my slip. When I returned to my stool, he was talking to this really loud guy sitting down the bar. I positioned myself to face the stage, and tried my best to look like I was completely focused on the singers. I think he got the message.

There were four dudes in their mid-20s who took it all the way to the end of the night like I did. One of them was a chubby dude with curly red hair at the top of the rotation. I used him as my mark throughout the night, to let me know I'd be coming up soon. He opened up with "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" by Billy Joel. It was a solid pick, but the dude was being silly with it. The lamest karaoke performances are from people who are trying to be funny--whether it's picking a stupid song or singing intentionally bad, it's just plain hacky. He was one of a few people that annoyed me early on that night. The loud guy who bailed me out of my conversation with the chatterbox thought he was Robin Williams. All night, he was throwing out these lame attempts at zingers that weren't working for anybody.

My first song that night was another Bob Seger classic, "Still the Same." I'd never done it before. I used to love that song back in high school, but it was used for some ad campaign in the '90s, and it ruined it for me. I was a bit nervous, because it had been a while since I'd heard the song, so I was a bit iffy on the lyrics. As soon as that sweet piano intro kicked in, I remembered why I loved the song. When I heard my voice roll out that first line, I locked it into my brain this would be one of my standards from there on out. When it was done, the loud guy clapped and hollered out "Bob Seger ... oh yeah ... that was awesome!" I stopped being annoyed with him.

As the KJ slipped in a nice rendition of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer," a blonde walked in and ordered a drink at the bar. The bartender knew who she was and it seemed like this gal was flying solo. She was a pretty attractive woman, around 10 years older than me, but looked sorta like she'd been through the ringer. She took a seat at a table right in front of the KJ station at the other end of the room. I decided to keep an eye on her for the rest of the night.

As the loud guy was up singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" I saw the waitress from the Peking playing the Megatouch at the end of the bar. I took that opportunity to tell her I recognized her from the Peking Palace, and that my friends and I hung out there all the time. She acted like she didn't recognize me, but I could tell in her eyes she knew exactly who I was. We weren't exactly liked by her or the KJ there, and we never bothered to know her name. My buddy would call her Roseanne, because they shared similar physical characteristics. I remember her not liking that one bit. When I told her I was the one who brought Jack Black in to karaoke twice, she dismissed me by saying, "He was in there three times actually, but that's cool." Excluding the fact she was totally wrong, she was basically telling me I was full of shit, so I smiled and called that conversation a night.

The blonde got called up to sing her first number and she did the Sheryl Crow version of Cat Stevens' "The First Cut is the Deepest," and it was really good. She didn't have a remarkable voice, but she was totally feeling every word of the song.

The curly red-headed dude continued his shtick with "Ghostbusters" and I thought to myself, 'My goodness, somebody's gotta give this guy a clue.' He wasted a precious selection to sing that garbage? It's not even singing. There's no challenge to it. I think the only reason he picked that nonsense is he wanted people to say "Ghostbusters" after he calls out "who you gonna call?" I admit the crowd did get into it, so what the fuck do I know?

My next offering was "Tougher Than the Rest" by Springsteen. It's a song from his divorce album, Tunnel of Love, and I chose it to see how the blonde would respond to it. I delivered it soft and sad, and tried my best to look sensitive. She was definitely paying attention. My plan was to take another shot of tequila and mosey on over to her table, but she was joined by a middle-aged dude decked out in denim with a grey pon tail. Seeing her with this guy made her look closer to his age than mine all of a sudden. She definitely seemed more "pullable," but I haven't reached that point in my life where I'm attracted to old chicks.

The guy that talked my ear off earlier took off, so I could face forward again. I chatted with the bartender a bit. She had a cute "Mimi Rogers" quality about her but she had a ring, so there was nothin' doin' there. A group of dudes in their early 30s came in and hung around the bar as they waited for drinks. One of them took the chair of the chatterbox. As soon as the blonde noticed these dudes, she came up to them and was talking frantic to them about something that happened with someone that night. I didn't catch the details, but it was definitely about a guy and it was something about him being drunk. All of a sudden she looked hot and young again.

I love drama, especially when it doesn't involve me, so for the next half hour I had a front-row seat to a nice little soap opera. A couple of the dudes who came in took a table, but the guy sitting next to me wound up being the one who had to calm her down. She must have been feeling her drinks at this point because she, out of nowhere, called this guy out in front of the entire bar about his lack of success in the online dating scene. Just as this was going on, the grey ponytail dude in the Canadian tuxedo called out to her from the stage to serenade her with "Sara Smile." It was clear at this point she wanted nothing to do with the guy, because she didn't pay attention to his performance at all. He was shot down in a very public and embarrassing way.

She was called up after his performance and sang a very heartfelt rendition of "Strong Enough," another Sheryl Crow song. During her performance, the dude that she called out for striking out all the time on the Internet dating started in on a very bitter rant to the bartender about how marriage is stupid, and explained all the reasons why people are stupid for tying the knot. She tried to explain her experience, but he wouldn't let her get a word in edgewise. I could tell she was annoyed. When he got up to rejoin his buddies, I turned to her and said, "Either that guy's gotten his heart horribly stomped on, or he's never been in love." She smiled and told me "Nah, he probably just has little-man's syndrome" and wiggled her pinky. I laughed and replied, "Or that."

Shortly after that, this big, strapping guy with a drunken thousand-yard stare came in. The blonde went to him immediately. This was obviously the guy she was stressing about. They got into this heavy discussion in the middle of the bar as one of the old timers sang "Lay Lady Lay" and they kissed and made up by the end of the song. I felt like I was in the middle of an off-brand reality show, but it was South Shoreline romance at its best.

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