Karaoke Korrespondent Seeks Out Sanjaya & Attention During Federal Way Karaoke Run"/>
My buddy Gene wanted to come along for my latest karaoke mission, so I made him my driver and we ended up hitting three karaoke bars in Federal Way last Wednesday. All I really wanted to check out was this spot called Hitchin' Post. They do karaoke seven nights a week and it's so deep into town, it can almost be considered Northeast Tacoma. On the drive down, I already figured it would be rundown, but just hoped it would be one of those classic karaoke dives that had a well-established scene. Maybe we'd get lucky and run into Sanjaya.
Where are you, Sanjina?
We got there just after 10. It's a single standing one-story building in the middle of a big gravel parking lot across the street from a shopping complex. Prince's "When Doves Cry" was blasting overhead as we entered. There were a decent amount of people, but they weren't there for karaoke. The stage is in its own section to the left just as you enter, but the rest of the bar continues back to a separate area--and that's where most everyone was. It's an ideal setup when things are slammed because there's plenty of space to keep both karaoke fans and non-karaoke fans happy, but on a night like this, the singers sang for no one.Gene rounded me up an artist and song catalog as I ordered a pitcher of Coors Light from the bar. The bartender lady delivered it to our table with a couple of frosted pint glasses. As she poured our drinks, a loud blast of feedback came screaming through the speakers overhead, and she yelled out an angry "HEY!!!!" at the KJ lady who was trying to cue the next song. I was hoping the two of them would mix it u,p but the KJ didn't engage.
The first performer we saw was a burly guy in his late 30s who reminded Gene of an old WWF wrestler named Bam Bam Bigelow. He sang "Turn the Page" and did a good job, but I'm sick of everybody choosing that Metallica version. It's like nobody remembers Bob Seger did it first. I had to wait through a couple forgettable performances to let the beer kick in. Normally, I like to cater my selections to what I figure the crowd would be into, but it really didn't matter to me in this place. Nobody was paying attention. There were only three singers and they all sat at that back end of the bar. They'd go up and perform their song and disappear after it was done.
I decided to try a number that had brought the house down at Tarasco a few days before, "You Can't Do That" by the Beatles, and got nothin'. There's nothing lamer than singing in a place where nobody gives a shit whether you're good or not. It defeats the whole purpose. On top of that, the mike sound was horrible. It was hollow and super-sensitive and it made my voice sound like shit.
The one highlight of this place was a funny black dude named Skippy who sang Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl." The song kicked in too high and he told the KJ to lower the key because his balls dropped when he was 13 and he could no longer handle those notes. He also encouraged everyone to sample his famous "Blackamole," available with chips at the bar. After the KJ sang a number she had to call another intermission because there were no requests up. Gene and I grabbed the latest copy of the NW Karaoke Guide from the KJ station and found this place near the freeway called Diamond Jim's. We finished our beers and I was able to get in one last number. Seriously, that mike made my voice sound so bad it got me singing out of tune.
We pulled up to Diamond Jim's at 11. It's a tucked-away bar off 325th Street South in the middle of a bunch of business parks between I-5 and Pac Highway. The KJ, Debbie, was having a smoke outside as we were walking in. She was a real nice lady but there were only five people in the entire bar. It was an even a sadder crowd than the last place, but it was a great-looking lounge. It was nice and dim and had mirrors all around and vintage black vinyl booths. I ordered a couple beers and had my first ever shot of Tarantula Tequila. It was blue and gross but it did the trick.
Debbie opened a rotation with a nice rendition of Linda Ronstadt's cover of Smokey's "Ooh Baby Baby." I looked through their book but wasn't feeling inspired to sing anything. We sat through a couple old guys perform random Neil Diamond songs. I ended up doing "Carefree Highway." The sound was much better than Hitchin' Post's, but I'd rather not sing at all than have to sing in front of an empty room. Debbie pressured Gene into singing a song so he did "Never Let Me Down Again" by Depeche Mode. I sang one more number and we got out of there.
The Billy McHale's a half-mile away was our last hope. When we got there, I was so happy and relieved to see the place had women and a real lineup of singers. We took a table in the back corner. The book and song slips were the exact same as Diamond Jim's so the same karaoke company handles both spots. I didn't need to look for a song. After what I'd just gone through I was going straight to my big guns.
They had some fun entertainers there. This one Asian guy had the voice of a chick and sang a pretty extraordinary rendition of Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You." He was followed by a guy who changed the lyrics of "Margaritaville" to "Cocaineville" and started the song out "Nibblin' on pussy." There was one dude there with this hot brunette; Gene swore he was ex-Sonic Desmond Mason, but it wasn't even close.
When I was called up I sang what has now become my "need to deliver" number, "Lady" by the Little River Band. In the six months since stealing this song from my friend Cary, it has never let me down. Even before I sang a single verse, the intro alone started turning heads around the room--and as soon as I started in I had everybody's attention. That's what I'm talkin' about!
We wound up sticking around for another round and got to chat with the KJ a bit. His name was Stevin and he was a great guy. He told us the guy who sang the "Cocaineville" song actually has Tourette's syndrome, and sometimes has a hard time holding in "N-bombs" when he's on the mike. Stevin said it can get pretty hairy because there are a pretty decent amount of black singers who come in. One bummer about his night is that someone stole a five out of his tip jar. KJs barely get tipped shit and for some lowlife to do that for a measly five bucks is pretty fucked up.
At 1:30 I finished things off with "Thunder Road" and got a great round of applause. I learned a great lesson that night. Just because a place has karaoke seven nights a week doesn't mean it's better than places that don't. I always used to believe that, but now I believe the opposite is true. Having karaoke every night can actually work against a place.