A couple weeks ago, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of my first 15 minutes of fame, I posted on Facebook the superhero likeness of me on the cover of Seattle Weekly. As was the goal, a bunch of friends responded, and I was able to stir up a nice little love-fest for myself--but an hour after I threw that picture up, I received a message on my wall from a very distant karaoke acquaintance named Korby Sears. He informed me that his "Frances Farmer Organ Karaoke" show at the Vermillion Gallery & Bar landed on St. Patrick's Day this year.
KK could've used some of them Lucky Charms.
I've been getting updates on my news feed from the FFOK fan page for almost a year now. Everything I'd read made it sound like a wild time, but for some reason I never thought seriously about checking it out until Korby's invite. He pressed the right button. The St. Patty's Day angle put it over the top. I knew I wanted to drink and sing somewhere, but the last place I wanted to be was in an overpacked Irish bar waiting out a two-hour rotation. Plus, I finally wanted to see what this was all about. The concept of karaoke backed by a guy playing a Hammond M3 Organ sounded fun enough, but at the very least, I would finally be breaking my Cap Hill karaoke cherry (last week at Rock Box was my first time ever singing on the Hill but private karaoke rooms never count).
Usually when I hit a new karaoke spot I prefer to do it alone, but I had a good feeling this was going to be some spectacle so I wanted friends along to experience it with. My newest good buddy and former roommate Curtis Cartier had been entertaining a bunch of his friends who were in from out of town that day. We'd talked about meeting up a couple days before, so I texted him that night I'd be at Vermillion by ten. Things were in full swing by the time I got there. We caught a good night because the crowd was fully engaged but it wasn't too packed.
There weren't any singers up when I first walked in. It was just Korby playing a carnival-like tune on his Hammond M3 organ. This happy sound that filled every corner of the room could not be denied, but I soon came to learn the real attention-grabber was the host, Lucky "the Leprechaun Messiah." He was a tall skinny guy dressed in an ass-tight leprechaun outfit who cursed up a storm in an Irish accent and made constant references to a box of Lucky Charms he carried with him all night. This guy was as big a part of the show as Korby and the organ. He made hilarious cracks between songs, announced and recruited singers, and sang a bunch as well. There was also this gal who looked and behaved almost as loony as he did. She was dressed like a hot savage and had on a monkey-face mask under a furry hat and a pair of white padded Mickey Mouse gloves. I never got to see what was doin' under that mask but I wanted her. Watching her dance and mime around the room made me feel like an animal.
Curtis and his crew had already been there for an hour, and they were all torqued up and loving the show. He said I missed Lucky open with an insanely awesome rendition of House of Pain's "Jump Around." There wasn't an angle of the Irish theme they didn't work that night. The first singers I got to see sang a duet of the Smiths' classic "Ask." It was clear they were no strangers to this form of karaoke because their performance was flawless. They sang from behind a podium and had a lyrics sheet to read from, but didn't refer to it much.
The song catalog was about an inch thick and contained selections from a wide array of genres. There was plenty of great stuff to choose from. I found the song I wanted right away, but didn't want to turn it in until I had a few more drinks in me. Curtis' buddy Matt bought our table a round of Cazadores Blanco shots and it hit me right away. Lucky came around to solicit requests. They had a pad of paper attached to a clipboard for the singers' requests, and Matt and I signed up. Every singer who took the mike made it look easy. We heard everything from Cheap Trick to Frankie Valli. Korby is a master of that organ. Every song sounded just like the original, but they also reminded me of being at the ballpark.
Just before Matt's name was called, someone at our table spilled a drink and our server decided it was time for them to go. They did allow them to stick around long enough for Matt to perform his number, and I couldn't believe what Lucky announced he was about to sing. Out of every song in the book he chose to perform the Beatles' "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)." As someone who loves to hear obscure Beatles cuts, I was thoroughly impressed. And on the karaoke stage, that is about as random as it gets--and Matt nailed it. I couldn't wait to do my number.
When Lucky called me up to sing Van Halen's "Panama," there wasn't a doubt in my mind I would deliver. I found the lyrics page and turned to Korby to let him know I was ready to rock it. The song has a long intro and Korby was tearing it up. I knew my cue, got the first verse, then the second verse down--then got completely lost. I tried to jump back in but I was way off. I was frozen up there. I caught back up after the chorus and immediately got lost again. Lucky had to come to my rescue. He stood beside me and put his finger on the words and guided me back in. I looked out at the crowd and a few people cringed in embarrassment for me. Curtis filmed the whole thing, and I'm glad he did because that was without a doubt the most horrific karaoke experience of my life. I'll need to refer to that next time I'm feeling too big for my britches. For my trouble, they awarded me a half T-shirt for giving it my best try. I put it on over my shirt as a badge of shame.
I wound up sticking around after Curtis and his buddies left. I needed to redeem myself, so I signed up to sing "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS. That performance was better, I didn't get lost, but it still wasn't great. I wanted to sing something that would make me forget about that first disaster. I decided to do a Beatles number of my own--"I Dig a Pony" from Let it Be. I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to let Korby roll with it without cuing up the lyrics in that book. I realized after the first line I had no idea how the song went and completely clammed up through the entire number. They were trying to get me to ad lib and make up lyrics, but I was a total deer in the headlights.
All I've thought about since that night is my next chance at redemption. Thursday, April 7 at the Vermillion will be the one-year anniversary of "Frances Farmer Organ Karaoke." Come see if I can figure out a way to get my head out of my ass.