Last Friday I was a judge for the final qualifier of the "Karaoke Battle in Seattle" at Tech City Bowl (on 130th & NE 70th Place) in Kirkland. This is the third year my buddy Josh, who also organized the Washington State tournament for the Karaoke World Championships this summer, put this contest together. I tried out last year with some friends at Wingmasters in Ballard, but choked miserably, and we all wound up losing to some chick who over-sang "All That Jazz" --a.k.a. the worst karaoke song ever. It's a bad memory, but I've witnessed many contests since and know I have what it takes to qualify if I wanted to.
Let's go bowling!
Steven, the karaoke host, was warming up the crowd with "Longview" by Green Day as I walked in the bar. I met him while covering the K.W.C. and will never forget how determined he was to make the state qualifier. As I recall, it took him four tries (at different venues) and he had to strip down to his underwear to finally get in. This guy really loves karaoke.
At ten o'clock there was only one contestant signed up. Josh was the other judge and told me there was another person they were expecting, so at the very least they'd have the two people needed to advance to the big event the following night at the Columbia City Theater. As I settled in at the judges table, this guy was up (looked a couple years older than me with a shaved head) singing "Creep" by Radiohead. I figured he was the lone contestant. He had a high voice and a really good range. I thought to myself, if I were in this contest, I wouldn't be able to outscore him on the technical side, but, with the right number, could probably even things out with overall entertainment value. After his song was over I found out he was Josh's friend, Ben. He was already sitting at the table with Josh and his lady before I got there. The other contestant still hadn't showed up so Ben agreed to enter.
This is a great spot for karaoke, but I'm a little biased. I love singing in bowling alley lounges. They bring me back to all the fun times I had singing at the Sunset Bowl. The stage and KJ station are set up in the back corner and can easily be seen from every spot in the bar. The crowd was a good mix of young and old, and Steven is as nice a host as they come.
Liquid courage finally kicked throughout the bar and a six people signed up just before the contest started. The singers were good overall; the male contestants especially. Ben sang "One More Try" by George Michael. There was a malfunction and the song froze up a quarter of the way through, so he had to sing it over and that's always a momentum killer. I still scored him high because it's a tough song, and his voice was in total control throughout, but Josh wished he would have sung something more entertaining.
David, one of two black contestants, went festive and sang "The Christmas Song" (chestnuts roasting on an open fire...). He may have had the best voice of all the guys, but this song did not demonstrate it, so he lost points. I gave this guy, Matt, the highest men's score for his rendition of John Mayer's "Gravity." He's a pro at these contests and delivered what needed to be done to advance.
My favorite performer of the night was by our other black contestant, Bree. She was the last person to enter the contest and I just fell in love with her rendition of Destiny's Child's version of The Bee Gees' "Emotion." I love that song and am a total sucker for a genuine R&B vocalist. Her runs were so pretty and smooth. I gave her nines for all three vocal categories. She wound up advancing along with Matt (who finished third overall). Ben finished tied for second. A guy named Johnny Gray that placed at Tech City a week before won the whole thing.
There was a short rotation on deck after the contest ended. I was able to show my stuff and came through solid with some Huey Lewis, and really knocked it out of the park with one of my standards, "At This Moment" by Billy Vera & the Beaters, so I walked out of there feeling like a winner too.