After a couple failed attempts, I finally got to sing at Tiki's Bar & Grill in downtown Kirkland. This summer I went there on a Tuesday just after they moved karaoke to Mondays. If I'd shown up on the right day, I would have met their host, Tiger Budbill, before he hit the big-time. Tiger recently made it all the way to the top 32 in Simon Cowell's, X-Factor before getting eliminated a few weeks ago. On Halloween I stopped in to see if Tiger was back, but they (inexplicably) preempted the Monday show for their costume party. The bartender told me Tiger was still the man, so I went back the following week.
My buddy, Juan, and I arrived at 9 p.m. Tiki's is a small, tropical-themed venue with a horseshoe shaped bar. There were a couple girls at a table along the side wall, an old lady across the bar from us, and a group of ten seated at two tall spool-shaped tables pushed together on the floor. That group didn't sing much, but anchored the audience all night. The stage is a small platform set up against the wall to the right of the front door, and the host's station is next to it on the corner. There was a 40" plasma on the wall behind the stage and another on the opposite side.
Tiger showed up shortly after we did. There must not have been any X-Factor fans in the house that night, because no one went up to congratulate him. As he and his assistant were setting up, they played music videos to get the crowd revved up. The first was "Moves like Jagger" by Maroon 5, and that was followed by this crazy YouTube clip of a hot white chick doing an insanely awesome cover of "Look At Me Now," nailing both Chris Brown and Lil Wayne's parts. These videos anchored the light rotation that night.
The front page of Tiger's songbook is a sheet of "Karaoke Rulz." Most I'd seen before, but there were a couple that really let me know that he's not messing around. If you ask him more than once when your song is up, you're instantly knocked down to the last three spots of the rotation. If you come up to him all cocky like you think you're amazing, and you end up sucking, he will "clown you." And--this is the best--there is a list of songs he considers "overdone, irritating or lame" that you must pay for in order to sing--$2 to sing "Summer Nights" from the Grease Soundtrack all the way up to $50 to sing "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes.
A sound check of "There Goes My Hero" by Foo Fighters was performed by Tiger's sidekick to open the night. The first official performer was Kim from the big table. She delivered an entertaining rendition of the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere." The old gal sitting at the bar, Gail, followed with "Angel" by Sara McLachlan. Juan was called up next and sang a solid "Santeria" by Sublime.
Tiger ended up taking off, leaving the hosting duties to his assistant before my name was called. I was bummed at first, but it ended up being a good thing. The version of the Beatles song I chose, "Slow Down," was not good, and I would have been pissed if I bombed in front of him.
Tiki's Bar & Grill, 106 Kirkland Avenue, (425) 827-8300, KIRKLAND