Last week I enjoyed an enormous slice of pepperoni & mushroom at Talarico's Pizzeria in West Seattle. I was only stopping in, but the place was so cozy I looked forward to a time I could dig in for a few pops. The huge dark wood room and full wrap-around bar totally reminded me of Cheers. As soon as I learned they had karaoke, I was back on Monday.
Roman-slayer Seger kicks it backstage with Roman-idol Springsteen.
The place was pretty busy when I arrived at 9:30. The Chiefs/Chargers game was just going into the 4th quarter. That told me I could probably get down two, maybe three beers and a shot before karaoke started. The KJ started setting out books at 9:45; a pretty thick catalog. The black books were organized by title and the white, by artist. Naturally I grabbed the artist catalog. I never start from "A" anymore. I just cover my eyes, pick a spot in the book, and that's where the search begins. After a couple pages I was in the "M's" and came across that Van Morrison song, "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)." It's pretty much my favorite song of his. I've seen it in books two times before, but both places mysteriously didn't wind up having it. I wrote the song & number down on the slip, specified it was by Van Morrison, turned it into the KJ, and had Huey Lewis ready in case he couldn't find it.
Monday Night Football ended around 10:15 and a friendly looking guy who looke dto be in his eighties named Big Al got up and sang "When I Fall in Love." He was a crowd favorite--people were smiling & clapping as he took the mic. But if I'm being honest, he sang like a basset hound howling at the moon. I remembered I turned in my slip right after him so I thought to myself, "easiest act to follow ever."
But the KJ, in a strange move, decided to put himself up next and sang "Moondance" -- a Van Morrison song. I thought it was a really odd thing to do to snake in and sing the artist I was just about to sing. He's lucky I'm a karaoke pro, and there's no way he'll ever outdo me, but what if I wasn't? What if I was a person who has to muster up courage to sing in front of people? Why would he, as the host who is supposed to think on behalf of the singers, want to take away someone's thunder like that? It made me really want to come through on this performance, but it was the first time I had ever done the song, and I was not nearly lubed up enough.
I took the stage. There were still a lot of people in the bar. I looked up to the prompter, saw a full screen of "Da da da dat DAT da-da da-da-da, Da da da dat DAT da-da da-da-da" and went for it. In retrospect I must have been crazy to lead in with this one. My voice was not loose at all and my timing was way off. On top of that - I did not know this song as well as I thought I did. Van Morrison kind of has that same thing going that Mick Jagger does where you don't understand half the lyrics he's singing. The key is to not read the words verbatim on the screen but to just pronounce them the way it's sung in the song. A gal walked by as I was singing and told me "great song," but she was hammered. When it was over I felt that roughed-up feeling I get in my gut get whenever I bomb. I could tell by looking at the crowd they were embarrassed for me. When I got back to my stool the dude to the left of me didn't even want to look at me.
The first rotation had only one female performer, but the male singers delivered some pretty good moments. We got an inspired "Coming to America" and this one guy's rendition of Jim Croce's "I've Got a Name" made me put that at the top of my next-to-sing list.
My favorite part of the night was after this guy did a really solid Chili Peppers' "Soul to Squeeze." He invited all the ladies in the house to come check out his buddy at the end of the bar and called him "the sexiest man in West Seattle". His buddy looked a little embarrassed, but took it in stride. The KJ decided to chime in and said over the speakers, "Whaaat?! Where? Who's the sexiest man in West Seattle? Who you talking about? Show him to me. Who - that guy? Ahhhhh, nu-uh, pssssst. He is not. I'm the sexiest man in West Seattle." Women smiled back at him from their stools with a look that said, "whatever you say, dude."
My next song up was "Night Moves." I handed it in as I took the stage for the Morrison number but was feeling self-conscious about the pick. Bog Seger songs are usually my specialty, but this one is hit or miss. I can't count on it the way I can "Main Street" or "Against the Wind." I knew I was going to be up soon because Big Al was up again, so I chugged down what was left of my final $2.50 PBR tallboy and prepared myself for redemption.
After Big Al was done, the KJ played a concert video of Stevie Ray Vaughn on the screens and stepped out for a 12-minute smoke break. I've been to over 60 different karaoke bars throughout six states and two countries in the past year and have never seen anyone stop the show to smoke a cigarette. Plenty of KJ's smoke, but they slip out during performances. My KJ buddy Josh waits for when someone picks a song he hates, then excuses himself to have a puff. Somebody has to straighten Talarico's guy out.
When the KJ returned he called me up. This version of "Night Moves" didn't give provide heads up as to when to start singing, so I came in late. Then I started to notice if I sang along to the color change on the lyrics it was totally off with the rest of the song. I've seen this with other places that still use the old laser discs--the instrumental and lyrics get out of sync. I made the adjustments, but this song kicked my ass again. It wasn't my best night, to put it mildly.