My buddy Riggins, while making his way home through the side streets near University Village last week, spotted a sign advertising "Sat. Nite Karaoke" outside Village Wine Bar & Bistro. When he mentioned it, my gut told me this place was probably going to be dead as shit. A new karaoke night in a non-traditional setting means there could conceivably be zero people there. But this actually appealed to me: I've been in desperate need lately of a slow night that would allow me to test much-needed new material in private.
When we showed up on the last Saturday of July, the sign said karaoke would run from 8-12 p.m. Riggins and I spent most of Saturday afternoon drinking beer nearby at his house in Bryant. Then we moved it to a block party in Wedgwood to see if we could recruit some singers. By the time we arrived at the spot with a couple friends at 9, I had the perfect summer buzz rolling. Four tokes off a one-hitter after three hours of Rainiers in the sun made everything feel beautiful in my brain.
Just as I'd figured, there was nobody there when we rolled in. The owner was sitting in the back reading a book, and the KJ was organizing the discs at his station, waiting to get things started. The wide-open room was brightly lit, tables filled the entire area, and artwork covered every wall. It wasn't the most inviting of karaoke atmospheres; dimming the lights and adding a basic light show or a spotlight onstage is all they would need to improve this element.
I got acquainted with the KJ, Gary, when I went up to grab a book. He's a super-friendly guy who looked to be in his mid-50s. Gary was dressed in business-casual attire and sported a mustache and semi-feathered hair. His enthusiasm for singing struck me immediately. I told him I loved to sing the oldies, and he said this was the place for me. He was right: His catalog contained all the essential artists to satisfy an older crowd.
The night started with Gary and one of my friends, Mochi, doing back-to-back Neil Diamond numbers. I followed with the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." The performance was fine, but it wasn't as fun to sing as I'd always imagined it would be. Despite the letdown from the song choice, the sound coming out of the microphone was fantastic.
Gary started the next rotation with "Hypnotized" by Jefferson Starship. He has a deep and commanding voice. Mochi's second and final performance was Steve Miller's "The Joker." Then, for the next hour, Gary and I traded off singing Beatles songs, interspersed with a handful of duets. Even though we were the only ones singing, he made things so fun. I felt like I was hanging out with my dad.
This place has serious potential to draw baby boomers once the neighborhood finds out about how awesome Gary is. Right now, however, it's the perfect time to rally big groups of people to dominate the stage.
Village Wine Bar & Bistro, 5000 30th Ave. N.E., Suite 100, 257-5458, RAVENNA