Last September when I first started this gig, I figured half my reviews would be me ripping on KJ's for being dickheads. But the opposite has happened: I've met some of the nicest people that are so fun and entertaining I look forward to the next time I get to sing for them.
James Taylor: totally appropriate for karaoke.
This guy DJ Ferhonemo (real name: Ferhone) I've seen host numerous times at k-bars around town is a perfect example. The Saturday back in January at Hamburger Harry's where I first met him, he charmed my friends with his friendliness and positivity. We were all accustomed to asshole KJ's, especially in Ballard, where for years we were at odds with the ogre that ran the show at Sunset Bowl. It was so nice to not have a bossy prick that had to have everything his way. Ferhone was happy to have us there and was all about making sure we had a good time.
When I saw him host a few weeks later on a slow Wednesday at Goofy's, I learned it was possible to be completely entertained watching a KJ sing every other song. Ferhone has a sweet, soulful voice he applies to every genre, and knows what the people like to hear. Since then I dropped in on a couple of the nights he hosted at Mr. Z, but it's been a few months since I've seen him.
I recently found out he's the Tuesday KJ at the Drift on Inn Casino in Shoreline (a.k.a. Debbie's Roadhouse Café). I've had some fun lucky nights back in my 20's at the Drift that have had nothing to do with gambling, so I was excited to check it out.
The show started at 9:30. I got there 20 minutes early to fill out my slips. I had a game plan going in to break out some stuff I'd retired for many years. It was a small crowd at first, but everyone there was looking in books. Ferhone was set up at the DJ station on the back wall. There were monitors throughout the floor with two big plasmas behind him.
He's got it set up where he plays classic music videos between performers. Christina Aguilera's "Dirty" was on right before he kicked into a spectacular performance of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke." As soon as I heard his voice it brought a huge smile to my face. Sometimes after not seeing him perform for awhile, I forget how legitimately good he is. This song is never picked by anyone because it is a solid 10 on the difficulty scale.
"What I Am" by Edie Brickell played on the monitors as an old black guy named Franklin took the stage to sing "House of the Rising Sun" by the Animals. He looked like he could be pushing 80 and hit every Eric Burdon note beautifully. It was at this point I realized this wasn't going to be some run-of-the mill dead Tuesday. I looked around and everyone on the floor had the Eye of the Tiger.
War's "Low Rider" video was on as Ferhone called me up. My opening number was "Peaceful Easy Feeling" by the Eagles. I sang this song into the ground in the 90's but haven't sung it since. As soon as I started in I realized how perfect Glenn Frey's voice is for my range. There was no strain whatsoever. It's too bad he didn't write better post-Eagles hits, because I could really do some good damage with his stuff if he did. The crowd really enjoyed it, so this one is definitely back in the mix.
The best singer of the night (aside from Ferhone) was a dude in his 20's named Robbie. Robbie was kind of a big fella, and he was there solo. The Black Crowe's "Hard to Handle" led in as he took the stage to sing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me." As far as Elton John songs go, this is one of the easier ones to cheat your way through. It's not as high as "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" or "Bennie and the Jets" so anyone that can carry a tune can make it happen but when someone with some real range does it, it takes the song to another level. Robbie had a nice Willie Nelson quality to his voice and crushed that song from beginning to end.
At the bottom of the first rotation, he performed "Walking On A Dream" by Empire of the Sun. He did a solid job but it was Ferhone backing him up with the chorus that made the performance something special. I was worried it meant he wouldn't sing again since he was at the top of the rotation, but was relieved he was still up next. He sang "You'll Never Find" by Lou Rawls, and his low voice is just as incredible as when he goes high. I would seriously pay to watch him sing.
"Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Price was playing as I began my final offering, "Fire & Rain" by James Taylor. I stopped singing this song years ago because I felt it was too much of a downer. Once again, as soon as it kicked it struck me how easy it was to sing. I guess I knew what I was doing back in my early karaoke days, because I sang songs that were right in my vocal wheelhouse. The song wasn't a bummer at all.