This week's print edition cover boy, Jeff Roman, spent last Thursday night in a very fishy karaoke setting on Northgate Way. Here is his riveting account of that experience.
Seattle Crab Co. in Northgate has a pretty fun karaoke night on Thursdays, but don't get there before nine if you only plan on drinking. They don't have a true bar set up, so if you get there too early you'll find yourself in a bright restaurant sitting around as people eat. Normally I use that early time to get a jump on the book, but I stuffed myself with cheap Chinese takeout before I got there, and the strong smell of crab that permeated the bar grossed me out. I had to kill time at different k-bar around the way to allow time for them to transform the place.
I returned at 10 and the atmosphere was much better. They'd dimmed the lights, had the KJ station all set up, and the place didn't smell fishy anymore. The darker setting was key because in the light the place looked like a Skippers--which it actually used to be back in the day. Half the restaurant was filled and I got there just in time to see my buddy Steve bomb trying to sing "Better Man" by Pearl Jam. He thought he knew the song, but learned the hard way that he didn't know it at all. He just stared blankly into the screen as the verses flew by, and he stuttered out a lyric here and there. And he doesn't even drink!I joined him at his table and a few other friends met up later. It no longer felt like we were in a Skippers. but it still didn't feel like a k-bar either. The only monitor around was the one the singers used to read from. Most bars have at least four TV screens wired throughout the room to show the lyrics, so the crowd can read and sing along. It was weird at first, but I grew to like it--because it forced the audience to pay attention to the performers.
I could tell the moment I settled in the wait time would be long. There were three big tables full of singers, and one of them was a group of Filipinos. I hate the pressure of searching for a song in the book when I need to get a request up in a hurry. Nothing ever looks good when I'm in a rush. This is the time when it is crucial to have a list of emergency standards. I dug deep into my mental catalog and went with a Chicago song I used to sing all the time during my Baranof KJ days: "Look Away."
The singers that night were hit and miss. I was prepping myself for some stiff Pinoy competition, but outside of one gal that sang a decent Madonna, "Crazy For You" the rest of their table didn't deliver any type of a threat. Some singers made good song choices but couldn't deliver them, and others picked lame songs and hammed them up way too much. The KJ had a box of props (hats, scarves, canes, glasses, etc.) available for singers to enhance their performances, and some got a bit carried away.
My friend Cary delivered one of the better numbers of the evening. She sang "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel and got the whole crowd clapping along. This was the first time she ever tried the song and she nailed it, but when she got back to the table she told me she wasn't happy with it at all. She sounded great, but I think she was down on the song itself. I wasn't as fun as she thought it would be.
A few singers later was a chick who did "Home Sweet Home" by Motley Crue. Her performance was okay, but she acted like she was the second coming of Mariah Carey. Being able to sing Vince Neil is nothing to get cocky about. This naturally bugged the hell out of Cary. I've been in the exact same situation so many times where I'm not satisfied with my singing, then some asshole goes up and nails something easy. It ruins my night every time. I felt bad she was down on her performance, but also felt reassured that I wasn't the only one who took things that seriously. Karaoke is not a game. If more people understood that, they wouldn't be so annoying.
When I was finally called up I was pretty nervous, because I hadn't sung the song in years and I remember people not liking it back when I did. Late '80s, post-Cetera Chicago is a tough sell. As soon as the song started I knew everything would be fine, because I knew every word and I just went crazy with it. The lyrics are direct and easy to follow. It's about a poor sap who's been dropped on his ass and is trying to deliver a hard-core guilt trip to his ex in the event that they run into each other. One dude in the crowd really related to it and kept yelling out "you no good bitch" and "fuck you whore" between each verse, which really rounded out the performance nicely.