Last week I was out celebrating the one year anniversary of this column. Thursday night I hit Molly Maguire's and tried "Take It to the Limit" with the key turned down a click (I hit the notes, but it did not sound good). On Friday I stumbled in drunk to Yen Wor Greenwood, got into it with the KJ and spotted the dude who plays Stevie Janowski (Steve Little) from the HBO show "Eastbound & Down" hanging out (turns out it was a wrap party for a locally-filmed indie). And Saturday I hit Palmers East in Redmond. It's a seven-night a week karaoke bar that had been at the top of my list for months, but the distance prevented me from making it happen.
The voice of the Eighties, resurrected in Redmond.
I work in Redmond for a company called Play Network. We do a ton of stuff but essentially we provide music, videos, and digital signage for businesses. It's an awesome place to work, but the thing I am most grateful for about my job is the people I work with. Things get busy and stressful at times, but my days are filled with great conversations about music, movies, and TV with the people that work around me. They are the most fun group anyone could ever wish to work with, and if this job were located on the same side of the water as my home I would have a serious drinking problem from all the after-work meet-ups.
My friend Juan from our Sherman Oaks office just moved to Redmond last weekend to work up here with us. He and our buddy Cory had partied at Palmers before, and they told me it was a place I had to check out. As soon as we found out when Juan was coming to town, we set the date.
Drinking in Redmond has always scared me. The drive back to Seattle is basically the entire eastside length of 520, and I've heard too many horror stories over the years about Seahawks players getting busted on that road to not take a lesson from them. I decided to stick to only beers (no shots!) that night.
I arrived just after nine. The place was already pretty full, but I managed score parking right in front. Cory, Juan and our friend Priya claimed a great window table with a view of the sidewalk. I loved the place immediately: It's a divey looking sports bar that's one big wide open room. The KJ station and stage are set up at the far left corner in the perfect location for everyone in the bar to see.
The show was about three singers in by the time I got there. I was both nervous and excited to finally sing for my work friends. They'd read all about me for the past year and I really wanted to deliver. Both Cory and Juan had the eye of the tiger that night. I'd been so used to seeing them busy working that it's awesome to see them cut loose.
Heading over, as I was halfway across the lake, I decided to do "Free Bird" for my first number. I'd never tried it before because it's like nine minutes long, but I wanted to open with a crowd-pleaser to demonstrate that I was every bit as good as I claimed in my column.
I handed in my slip to the KJ, "Big John." His flowing black hair and mustache reminded me of someone, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. As crowded as it was in there, "Big John" was able to get me up after only two singers. From the second word of the song--that hanging "I"--I knew I had it nailed. People turned their heads my direction all across the bar as I delivered that first line. I heard my voice over the speakers, and I swear to God I sounded just like Ronnie Van Zant. I looked ahead at my table and saw our friends Sara and Rob showed up just in time for me to take it home. Outside of mistiming the beginning of the second verse, it was a perfect performance, and the version they had faded out the five minute jam to end the song, so I didn't have to stay on stage and air guitar (which I was totally prepared to do).
Feeling awesome walking back to our table, I knew this was going to be one of those special nights. The place was filled with stylin' eastside kids in their mid-20's. There was plenty of female eye candy, and I couldn't help but notice how cool some of the dudes were dressed. There was this one crew that sported (to a tee) that late 70's Brooklyn, tight leather jacket with form fitting button down shirt & slender polyester pants look seen in the movie Saturday Night Fever. The singers were solid all night. For the second week in a row I was treated to a quality performance of a random Smashing Pumpkins cut when the bartender delivered a beautiful version of "Thirty-Three."
By ten the place was slammed, but it still only took five songs to get to my second number. I picked up the pace and knocked "Footloose" right out of the bar into Marymoor Park. My voice had been failing me the past few weeks, but it was running like a thoroughbred that night.
Juan was starting to get loose enough to sing at this point. He was wearing a black Doors t-shirt and was gearing up to do "LA Woman." Big John slipped himself in and did the best rendition of Zeppelin's "Kashmir" I had ever heard. You can't cheat at that song. Either you can hit those unreachable Robert Plant notes or it's a total goof. There's no in between. Sara finally called it and said Big John looked like Ron Jeremy and that's exactly who I was thinking.
I wound up singing six total songs by the end of the night. That is unheard of in a place that busy. By my fourth number my friends started asking me to sing their requests. Cory wanted badly for me to sing Black Eyed Peas or Lady Gaga, but I politely declined. The way I saw it, I was batting 1.000 and I didn't want to break the string of show-stoppers.
Priya requested one I was happy to do: "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. I freaking love that song. Strangely enough, I'd never thought to sing this one before, but it wound up being super easy to sing--all I had to do was close my eyes and imagine hat someone in my life the song pertained to, and it translated to karaoke gold.
Juan's "LA Woman" was an inspired performance. By this time of the night he was pretty sloppy, but when he took the stage he let the Jim Morrison in him take over. Being drunk really works when singing The Doors. I don't know how much karaoke he did down in So Cal, but watching him deliver that number with all his heart and soul was something special.
The last two hours of the night was a combination of karaoke and dance party, so I wanted to make sure my last number did not break up the action. The perfect song came to me as I noticed the "Palmers" sign above the stage: "Addicted to Love." Big John called me up as he faded out his Katy Perry interlude. The song sings itself and the crowd jumped right in and sang along, just like classic scene from "Cocktail."
During the instrumental break I screamed out to the crowd, "Robert Palmer...at Palmers!!!" and got a huge cheer out of it. This is easily the best place to sing on the eastside.
The Karaoke Korrespondent will be hosting the Reverb Music Festival's karaoke stage at the Ballard Loft on Saturday at 3, 7, & 11 p.m.