A couple nights ago I hit The Dubliner for some Monday night karaoke. It was my first time ever singing in Fremont, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I got there at 8:30 and there were already three full tables of singers in front of the stage ready to roll.
Have you seen this masked man on the streets of Fremont?
I set myself up at a great spot facing the stage a couple steps above the floor on the bar level. The entry wall is all windows, and the stage is located on the right corner, so you can see the action going down on Fremont Avenue as you watch the show.
There's a small KJ station located just left of the stage and a table to the right that held all the books. I grabbed a catalog, cased out the audience and decided to go Classic Rock. It was a younger crowd for the most part, so I wanted to deliver something cool and obscure.
The cover of the catalog has a list of guidelines that basically informs singers they run a very strict rotation, attempting to sneak your way back on stage before your next turn will not be tolerated, and that bribes are not welcome. It struck me as kind of rude. It reminds me of the old days when every KJ was a jerk and had to have total control and wound up alienating themselves from the singers.The first half of the catalog is arranged by Artist, and the first part of the Artist section is the update supplement. They have a really good selection of newer pop and even some indie stuff. I was exited to find "Dead Flowers" by the Rolling Stones. It was exactly the type of cut I was looking for, so I turned it in.
The KJ's name is Joe. At around 8:45 he started loading singer's requests onto his computer, and the big plasma on the side wall announced things would begin soon. Ten minutes before showtime, a great treat came on overhead. Out of nowhere, "Ten Years Gone" by Led Zeppelin blasted from the speakers. It's an epic cut from Physical Graffiti that's just packed with juicy guitar licks. I slammed down two beers in the time it played, and it put me in the perfect mood to rock out.
Joe was feeling it too because he kicked the night off with "The Seeker" by The Who, and it was all muscle. It was a great way to start the night. Next up was his buddy Craig, who announced before his song started that he made a last second change because one of their friends had never heard him sing Johnny Cash. He sang "Sunday Morning Coming Down," and the way he nailed Cash's voice I was surprised he'd ever bother singing anything else but Johnny Cash.
Joe had many friends in the audience that night, which had to be fun for him. He called his buddy Brian up next. Brian put on a black fedora for his performance and sang "Sweet Home Chicago." He sang it well, but the Blues doesn't translate to karaoke very well for me. It's one of those genres where I prefer to watch the real thing.
Up next was Shiloh. She was the first female performer and she sang "Uprising" by Muse. She gave it her all and clearly knew it well, but it was one the most annoying songs I've heard in my life. The singer after her was someone I knew back when I used to hang out a lot at The Moon Temple in Wallingford. It's this guy named Selena. He looks just like the witch in the Bugs Bunny cartoons with long stringy black hair and a short black dress. He was a raging asshole back then, and hasn't changed one bit. He sang Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55," and it was just plain obnoxious. After clearing out one table within the first 20 seconds, he took the floor and tried to get the crowd chant "55." No one did. It was horrible. I was waiting for someone to start booing.
The next guy up picked the Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge," and it always annoys me when people do that one because they don't have to sing it even remotely well and it still gets half the crowd singing along every time. I could sing the shit out of that one, but it's a total beginner's pick. Midway through, as I looked up at the big screen and saw I was three singers away, the guy stopped singing. There was some commotion on the floor, tables emptied and some people chased somebody outside. The singer stepped off the stage and the KJ got on that stage pacing around with his hands on his head freaking out.
I have no idea how I missed all this, but there was an altercation between the KJ's friends and another table that ended with a dude getting clocked in the head and the KJ's laptop smashed. The guy that did all this ditched his shoes and bolted out the door. Nobody caught him. It was barely 9:30.
Joe was a mess. The screen on his laptop looked like a lava lamp. Luckily his buddy Craig was able to provide a backup source for songs. He had a laptop of his own that contained most of the songs that were on Joe's. As Joe was outside collecting himself, Craig worked on getting everything back up and running.
At 9:55 he announced karaoke was back on but people would have to resubmit their picks. I wasn't able to fall in line as fast as the people on the floor, and was worried I'd get snaked, but Craig was able to get the order pretty much back to the way it was. I was pretty impressed at how fast they were able to move past this situation. He started things back up again with a fitting Johnny Cash selection, "God's Gonna Cut You Down."
The next singer was a rough-looking older guy wearing a hat turned backwards over a bandana. As he slurred his way through "Little Black Balloon," both KJs and all of their friends were outside. I was the next singer up and was no longer that pumped to sing. There were plenty of other people throughout the bar, but no one was paying attention to the stage.
My "Dead Flowers" performance was lame. It wasn't only that. The song itself wasn't as fun to sing as I thought it was going to be. It was too laid back, and I was shooting for something with the energy of "Brown Sugar." The Stones are tough.
Around the time Selena was called up again the cops arrived. I stepped outside to escape his performance and listen in to hear exactly what I missed as they recounted the incident to the officer. As Joe's friend (the one who got hit) was explaining what happened to him, this dickhead bouncer asked me, "Can I help you with something?" I said I was just listening in. He asked, "Why?" I told him I'd been there all along and wanted to know what happened. People were having cigarettes out there and he chose to single me out. While he wasn't the moron who caused this mess, the bouncer was the biggest dickhead of the night. Then again, coming off surly is an occupational hazard of sorts when you're a bouncer.
After the cop left, Joe returned to his duties and everyone gave him a nice round of applause. He seemed like a really nice guy and that was a messed-up thing to have happen. The rotation was really small after his return. I was able to sing some Boss and closed the night with "Just What I Needed" by The Cars. I told Joe before my last number how bummed I was that happened to him and asked him where his tip jar was so I could drop in a five. He told me he didn't accept tips.
That response has been eating at me for the last 32 hours. Who doesn't accept tips? He said, "If you really want to help me, man, buy more drinks at the bar." I walked out of there having no idea what he was talking about. He made it sound like the Dubliner didn't allow him to accept tips, but that's ridiculous. This isn't McDonald's. I've been to well over 50 karaoke bars and every KJ has a tip jar. The only other reason I could come up with is it has something to do with his no bribes policy stated on the catalog. I understand wanting to be fair and not accepting money to bump up singers, but not to the point of denying yourself gratuity. That's crazy.