I'm still buzzing over the great time I had last Friday at the Beacon Pub. I've always heard it was one of the best places in town to karaoke, but this night totally exceeded every expectation I had. I was there for my friend Keiko's 26th birthday party. She and our dear friend Lauren were regulars last year at the Little Red Hen's Monday line dancing/karaoke night. Outside of the Hen, the Beacon is their favorite spot to sing. They'd been trying to get me to join them there for the past year, but I was always out of town. This time Lauren was the one not able to make it.
Morris thinks it's time for his favorite UPS driver to get hammered.
The party started at 8:30, but I got there at 7. I was feeling great after getting through a busy week and wanted to get the night going as early as possible. It was a beautiful evening and the bar was still bright from the sunlight. It made the Rolling Rocks taste even more delicious.
I felt a really welcoming vibe from everyone around me. There were three people bellied up at the bar: two older black ladies and a dude with a black ponytail drinking Crown Royal and beers still in his UPS uniform. This UPS guy was a huge crack-up, chatting everyone up around him, and he fired up some awesome early 80's R&B on the jukebox. That first hour I was there he gave me a lesson in Morris Day and the Time--we're talking deep cuts, as I know what the essentials are.
Any worry I could have had about the sound or production quality disappeared the moment I saw the Absolute Karaoke sign on the cover of their books. It's the karaoke company co-run by the dude Josh who KJ'd last week at Dante's. They seriously are one of the biggest and best in town. I didn't even need to hear a single note to know it would be top notch.
Keiko and her fiancé, Ian, got there around the same time Rio, the KJ, arrived. I introduced myself to Rio right away because I was excited to tell her I knew Josh. She totally knew who I was and I was flattered that she read my column. It was 15 minutes before showtime, and we worked out a better way to set up our tables in front of the stage to allow more space for dancing.
I had a stack of slips already worked out and was the first to hand one in. The monitors are set up to run a ticker at the bottom of the screen so you can see who the upcoming singers are. Five minutes before showtime I returned to the bar to order my first shot. One of the older black ladies that sat near me earlier asked if I was going to sing. I smiled and told her, "As much as I possibly can." Then she told me I had beautiful teeth.
As the bartender poured my shot the nozzle popped off the Hornitos bottle and I wound up with a double. I made it disappear in one gulp and he told me, "Nice--way to take that down, man." Those back-to-back compliments (and that enormous shot of tequila) put me in the perfect zone for the rest of the night.
By 9:05, our entire party had arrived and the rest of the bar still had some open space but folks were filling in fast. My first offering was "The Lido Shuffle" by Boz Scaggs. The song's chock full of fun lyrics and attitude--plus it's a great one to help warm up the crowd and stretch out the pipes. Everyone gets a charge when they hear that refrain, "Lido, whoa-oh-oh-oh..." and it feels even better to sing.
It didn't take me long to understand why the Beacon Pub is known as one of the top karaoke bars in town. It's a simple formula: The singers choose party favorites that keep the crowd fired up, and the crowd makes every singer feel like a star. I haven't been around an audience that's clapped along to songs as much as this crowd did, and the singers didn't even have to have great voices. This scruffy dude in a leather jacket sang Rod Stewart's "You're In My Soul" completely out of key, but it didn't matter. This audience appreciated that selection and everyone joined in to back him up. I looked around as we all chanted "you are my lover - you're my best friend - you're in my soul" and thought to myself, my goodness, this is fucking awesome.
Keiko, a seasoned karaoke pro, delivered a crowd pleaser of her own: "I Want You To Want Me" by Cheap Trick. Robin Zander is not the easiest guy to sing, but she nailed it effortlessly and people started dancing like maniacs. I've heard it sung many times before, but watching it here amongst this crowd was like hearing the song for the first time.
This place contained people of all stripes. I felt like I saw a lot more black people early on but as I looked throughout the night it was white folks that packed the place in. There were definitely Filipinos there but I figured there'd be more (since most of the Filipinos I knew growing up were from Beacon Hill). This dude in his thirties (I'm pretty sure he was Pinoy) got everyone riled up with a traditional Scottish folk song, "The Wild Rover." I've seen my people entertain with many different styles, but that was by far the most random. At first, it was odd for me to think that a Filipino could get into that style of music, but the more I thought about it, only a Filipino could mimic it as authentically as he did.
For my second number, I wanted to do one for our buddy Lauren who couldn't make it that night. She loves country music, so I decided to sing, "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks. I've always wanted to sing that song but always felt it was too played out. It was around 10:30 by the time Rio got back me back up so the house was already good and drunk. The song wound up being perfect for my range and I found it super fun to sing with a country accent.
Some of the performers that night were established house favorites. The crowd went wild when they announced this guy Earl the Pearl. He's a legend at this bar and he electrified the place with "All Night Long" by Lionel Richie. The singer that stole the show was a dude in his twenties with Down Syndrome named Zoey. His performance of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock & Roll" was the most memorable of the night.
It's a good thing we moved those tables at the beginning of the night, because it was a full-on dance party from 11:00 on. Our friend Sabrina absolutely blew me away with her rendition of Nelly's "Air Force One." Seriously, it's one of my favorite cuts from this past decade and I didn't see it coming from her at all. At first, I couldn't place it, but it took a few moments to soak in after I realized that's what it was. She wasn't messing around at all. Her stage presence was amazing and she just owned it. I'll never look at that song the same way again.
At midnight the screen announced a 36-singer waiting list. As I got up to sing my last song, "You Are" by Lionel Richie (inspired by Earl the Pearl), I looked down at Rio's tip jar and that bucket was packed with big bills. It's always great to see a KJ rewarded for delivering an awesome night. My Lionel performance was one of the best I've ever done, and it's all because I wanted so badly to deliver one last time for these people. Who knows how long it's going to be before I come across a room like this. If anyone asks me where's good to karaoke on a Friday night, The Beacon Pub is where I'm going to tell them to go.