kjrteq.jpg
The Karaoke Correspondent--featured on the cover of last week's Seattle Weekly --checks in with Reverb every Wedneday .
By Jeff Roman

I order take-out from

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Karaoke's Not An Olympic Sport, But it Packs Plenty of National Pride

kjrteq.jpg
The Karaoke Correspondent--featured on the cover of last week's Seattle Weekly--checks in with Reverb every Wedneday.
By Jeff Roman

I order take-out from Taqueria Tequila in Greenwood twice a week. It's been my go-to spot for carne asada for three years. Last month they doubled their space and added a beautiful new tequila bar. I took a peek in the first week and they told me they were going to start doing karaoke on Friday nights.

A couple weeks ago I found myself there with my buddy Steve after coming back from a friend's birthday party. It was 10:30 and the bar had a few folks bellied up chatting with the bartender. There was a guy sitting at a table with a computer ready to take requests. We were the only ones who weren't Mexican, and nobody was singing.

Some of the most happening karaoke bars in town are Mexican restaurants (Jalisco, Tarascos, Azteca), but there is a huge difference between singing karaoke at a Mexican restaurant and singing Mexican-style karaoke among Mexicans. Last Spring I was in Playa Del Carmen with all of my friends for our buddy Tim's wedding. One night we wound up in a karaoke bar in town and it turned into an all-out USA vs. Mexico sing-off. It didn't start out that way. But when we realized the karaoke jock (KJ) was favoring the locals we took it personally and decided to try and take it to them. We gave our best shots, but in the end Mexico won. Eventually, the fact none of us knew any Spanish songs led to our downfall. They didn't have to know any English songs. We were in their country.

When we requested a book from the KJ at Taqueria Tequlia, he told us he was sorry but they only had Spanish selections. I was actually relieved, because I pretty sure no one there was interested in listening to either of us sing. As we waited for our food, the KJ told us he found one English disc. It was a compilation of Beatles songs. I still wanted to bag it. My plan for this place was to bring my own discs and take it over some night, but before I could say no, Steve was up and singing "I Saw Her Standing There." Steve has a great voice and he's not shy about performing. His mic was turned up nice and loud and he was giving it all that he had.

I looked over at the people sitting at the bar. It looked like he wasn't ruining their time so I decided to do one myself. I chose to sing "Michelle." The song holds a lot of personal meaning to me because the best girlfriend I ever had was a gal with that name. I figured if I tapped into my emotions I might be able to deliver something that could actually impress these guys. Part of what was so frustrating about that k-bar in Playa was the regulars there gave us no love whatsoever. I sang it pretty well but as soon as I got to the part where the lyrics turned to French a douche chill shot up my spine. I'm in a place where the crowd wants to be entertained by Spanish songs and here I am forcing English and French down their ears. When I was done, Steve, the KJ, and the bartender clapped for me.

Finally, someone else in the bar requested something to sing. He did a traditional Mexican song and sang it with that beautiful Latin style. It reminded me of Playa. Every singer we were up against sang really well. We had fun with our rock songs and 80s tunes, but in order to pull off that Mexican pop vocal style you have to have true singing ability. There's no way around it.

Steve's second and final offering was "Let it Be." During his performance the KJ gave me a sheet of paper and told me to make a list of songs & singers so he can have them available for me the next time I came in. I thought that was really cool of him. I started to write down a bunch of Springsteen songs but decided to take it home and think about it first. I went back to him, handed him a five-dollar bill and told him thanks for letting us sing. He seemed kind of confused by the gesture. I guess he didn't realize he was entitled to tips.

My last number was "Hey Jude" and I had no idea what I was thinking requesting that song. It's over seven minutes long and half of it is "naa naa naa na-na-na-na" over and over again. If I didn't annoy these poor folks before, that song definitely sealed the deal. I've really got to make it up to them someday.

 
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