Oftentimes, Karaoke Jeff Roman has the humblest of intentions when he walks into a bar on the Thursday night. But just as often, those intentions get chucked by the wayside in favor of a multi-tune bender, as this week's dispatch proves once again.
If you're looking for a fun spot to karaoke in Northwest Seattle on a Thursday night, Molly Maguire's in Phallard Gulch (the valley at the western bottom of Phinney Ridge that could just as easily be classified as East Ballard) has the best concentration of true karaoke fans I've been around in a long time. I stopped by to get a song in last week, and wound up having such a blast that I almost closed the place down.
When I got there at 10, the place was packed and the crowd was super fired up. I grabbed a book and took a seat at the bar. They have an awesome stage set up right at the end of the bar before the entrance to the pool and dart area. The first performer I caught was a rough Mickey Rourke-looking dude that performed "The Unforgiven" by Metallica. The past few places I've reviewed. I've witnessed some pretty horrible singers. I started to forget there were actually places that had mostly good ones. I was expecting this guy to mumble and stumble his way through the song, but he totally went for it and was awesome. He wasn't exactly in tune, but he knew the song well, hit all the key parts on time, and delivered it with a ton of passion. The response he got from the crowd was a genuine ovation from people who appreciated a great karaoke performance.The singers who followed were just as good. They picked songs everybody loved and belted them out with everything they had. One guy did "Patience" by Guns N' Roses, and had the entire bar singing along. He was followed by a skinny dude who brought the house down with David Bowie's "Suffragette City." I never realized how much I liked that song until this guy sang it. He knew it so well that he barely looked at the monitor, and had the crowd eating out of his hands. It was a total party atmosphere; this would be a perfect spot to take someone who has never done karaoke before to show them how much fun it is.
I felt the pressure to deliver a gem of my own. They didn't have the best selection, and all the books arranged by artist were taken, so I had to pick mine out of a catalog arranged by title. The key to finding a song in that type of catalog is to not search by the songs, but to scan down looking through the randomly-arranged artist column. Once you see an artist you know, look at the song. It's way easier that way.
A few pages into the book I spotted John Cougar's "Crumblin' Down." I was a big fan of his growing up, but pretty much turned my back on him after I discovered Springsteen. Still, this cut's pretty respectable as far as Cougar songs go, and it has a lot of attitude--so I turned the slip in.
A couple singers later, a guy in his 40's with Elvis hair and sideburns chose to sing "Born to Run." I always am annoyed when people sing it because it's usually some stupid drunk screwing around, but this guy could actually croon. Earlier in the night he showed he could handle Jack White's voice when he knocked out a killer rendition of "Seven Nation Army," so I was interested to see how he'd do with the Boss. Just as I figured, he hit all the notes with ease, but his voice wasn't ballsy enough to make me feel like he had anything over my version. I clapped for him out of relief when he was done.
I got extra excited to deliver my song, and decided to take it up a notch and order a shot of Hornitos. Another great thing about this place is the bartender, Brandy. She's hot and pours a deep shot of tequila. KJ Mitch slipped in a Bowie song of his own and did a solid version of "Changes." The crowd wasn't as dialed-in to his performance as the other singers, but when he was done, everyone stopped what they were doing and gave him a good round of applause. This place just gets it.
When it was finally my turn I raced up to the stage. As soon as the song kicked in, a couple gals recognized it and started cheering. John Cougar may not be the Boss, but it can't be denied his hits are way catchier. "Crumblin' Down" is not a commonly requested karaoke song, and it's not played much on the radio either, so I appreciated the fact they dug the obscure choice. When I started singing and they saw that I knew what I was doing, they really went crazy.
This is the reaction I strive for every time I hit the stage. I looked down at Elvis and gave him a friendly smile to let him know that when it comes to singing the works of blue collar songwriters from the '70s and '80s, I'm number one.