Karaoke Korrespondent Impresses Daddy & a Beyoncé Wannabe at The Dungeon in the Philippines"/>
Things settled down during my second and final week in the Philippines. One big Sunday of brandy, Red Horse, and Johnnie Walker Blue with my cousin stopped us dead in our tracks. We spent the next day at his cousin's house in Parañaque. I didn't want to get off the couch, but his cousin had just hooked up some weed and I needed it badly.
Even Filipinas want to be her.
It was a great mellow night. His cousin had a stack of pirated movies. We watched The Town and he made a bong from a plastic bottle, a pen, and that foil-type paper you find in cigarette hard packs. The pot was just like that dirt weed you find in Mexico (skinny dry buds with seeds and not much of an aroma). It wasn't remotely as potent as the stuff in the bag I left at home, but it definitely did the trick. I went from constantly fighting off the urge to throw up to all smiles craving something to eat. We had dinner in the neighbors' garage that was converted into a barbecue stand. The food was delicious. They had all kinds of cuts of pork, chicken, and grilled tilapia. We ate it all, but the one thing missing was rice. They ran out earlier in the night and decided not to cook any more. It was ridiculous. I was in a country where people eat rice with spaghetti and found the one place that didn't have it on hand. We probably would have ordered three times the food we did if they'd just taken the 20 minutes to make some. It still wound up being one of my favorite nights of my trip.The next day I left the comfort of my cousin's condo in "The Fort" (that's what I learned they call his part of town) and checked myself into the Camelot Hotel in Quezon City. The place was built to resemble a medieval castle. My dad and I had spent 10 nights there back in '06, and I was in heaven. It's located in a part of town where there's tons of action. The rooms are decent, and like everything else in the Philippines, ridiculously cheap, but that's not why I came back. This place offers the one-two punch of live entertainment (two different cover bands a night, seven nights a week) in their lounge, The Dungeon, and a public karaoke bar on the other end of the castle. If I hadn't had my cousin to show me around, I would have stayed at this place my entire trip. I booked a single room for 1800 pesos (that's less than $40). As I watched TV in my room waiting for the first act to start (at 8 p.m.), my dad called to let me know he and my Uncle Henry would be eating at a place nearby and said they'd meet up after. I was happy to have them there for the karaoke just in case it was dead.
I hit the Dungeon at 8:15. It's a nice dark bar with a beautiful mahogany feel all around. There were about eight total people in the audience. The first group was called Music Network. They were made up of two male singers and a female singer and had a full band backing them up. The singers looked to be in their 30s. Some of the band looked a little older. The girl singer was pretty hot in a skimpy outfit and the dudes had the buff, shaved-head, horn-rimmed glasses look going. They were still warming up this first set not performing anything that memorable, but the singers all had great voices and the band was tight as a drum.
My dad and uncle showed up as the second act, Movado, took the stage. This group got it rolling right away. They had three female singers (all equally hot in body and face), a dude singer (with a spiky, frosted 6" fauxhawk), and their band was absolute nails. Unlike my first time there, the artists delivered a lot more current stuff this time around. The first girl did Beyoncé songs, the second sang Rihanna, and the third gal handled all the tough Mariah and Whitney stuff. Between their three voices they had everything covered. The dude had an awesome voice as well, but this group was all about those chicks.
After their set, we moved it to the karaoke room. I was happy to see there were two other tables of singers there. The room was pretty dark and it was tough to read the book. Within two minutes of my song search, a server came up, stood over me, and flashed a small blue light on the pages so I could read them. Normally, I'd feel pressure to find my song so I could relieve this guy from having to do that, but it's what he was there for and he would have stood there all night if I wanted him to.
There were a lot of songs to choose from, but just like the KTV place with the strippers, they were listed in total random order. You'd think that would make it even harder to find a song that way, but I found it to be a lot easier to focus. Reading through an alphabetized list of songs has gotten so tedious and boring for me at this point that I prefer the element of surprise that comes with searching through a random list. I was able to find three songs immediately. "Pretty Maids All in a Row" by the Eagles, "Anna (Go With Him)" by the Beatles, and "Against the Wind" by Bob Seger.
The person running the KJ booth stayed pretty quiet all night. She took the song requests and plugged them into the machine, but she didn't announce singers. When a person's song was up, the microphone was delivered to their table and they sang from where they sat. I sent all three of my selections in. I wanted to start off with the Eagles song, but it was the Beatles number that came up first. I'm glad it worked out that way because opening up trying to do Joe Walsh would have sounded like shit. I'd actually never sung this early Lennon song, but have loved it since I was 7 years old. As soon as it started I knew I would nail it. It was perfect for my range, I sang with power, and mimicked exactly the way he delivered it in the album. My dad was seriously impressed. He thought it was one of my standards, and when I told him it was my first time singing it, he couldn't believe it. My dad is the singer of our family, and I could practice every day and never reach his level. I always thought he felt I had a decent voice, but that was the first time I ever felt like I blew him away.
We spent an hour in the karaoke room. I started getting drunk on Colt 45 and, outside of my dad singing Neil Diamond, I forgot the rest of what we sang. They wound up taking off and I caught the final sets of the cover bands in the Dungeon. I found out that first group, Music Network, was down a female vocalist that night. A lady in the audience wanted to sing and paid them a couple hundred pesos to back her up on songs she'd requested. I was happy to see that was an option.
Right before Movado hit the stage for their last set, the hottie in the group that sounded like Beyoncé came up to me and asked me who I was. At first I figured the group thought I was a talent agent or something, but realized one of those chicks might have wanted a piece of me. I tried to chat them up in the lobby after the show, but it was too tough a maneuver to isolate any of them from the group. I didn't want to come off like a drunk asshole looking to hook up. I really wished I had Buffy handy at that point.
I saw another cover band with my dad and some family the next night at this place called RJ Bistro in Makati. My dad's childhood buddy played lead guitar and they called themselves The Rockin' 60s (because they performed only songs from the 60s, and they're all over 60). I was able to get up and sing with them at the end of the night. I sang another Beatles song, "I Feel Fine," and brought the house down. It was the perfect way to end my trip.