The Venue: Mick Kelly's Irish Pub in Kent does karaoke every Friday. It's not very inviting from the outside, and it's real easy to miss. The long, windowless building located next to the Riverbend Driving Range looks more like a banquet hall for the elderly than a place to party on a Friday night. The dark parking lot was a couple cars from vacant, and the place looked closed. But as soon as we entered, I was relieved to find a cozy, ski lodge atmosphere, with about fifteen people drinking and eating throughout the bar.
Anne Julson 2010 Karaoke champ Johnny Gray delivered the night's only knockout performance.
The Set Up: The huge interior is divided by a tall, freestanding stone fireplace wall in the middle of the room that separates the bar from the dining area. The stage and KJ station were set up in the back corner on the dance floor. My buddy and I took a seat at the table on the bar side of the fireplace. It wasn't the best angle to watch singers, but, aside from the one big table set up on the dance floor, every other spot was pretty disconnected from the show.The KJ: Josh Baron, the co-owner of Absolute Karaoke, is one of the hardest working KJs in town. His company provides karaoke for over a dozen venues in and around Seattle, and he hosts four to five shows a week. For the past two years he's coordinated the Regional Qualifiers for the Karaoke World Championships, and this is his fourth year sponsoring the Karaoke Battle in Seattle. His nights can get crazy, and I've seen him have to deal with some major douche-royales, but never once did he lose his cool. He just loves singing and providing a fun time for people who share that love.
The Book: I've sung in over a dozen states and five countries, and Absolute catalog is by far the biggest song book I've seen anywhere. Organized by both artist and song title, the selection is overwhelming.
The Performers: Last Friday was the fifth qualifier for week one of the Karaoke Battle in Seattle. I was there to watch my buddy, Juan, try to advance to the big showdown at Columbia City Theater on December 17th. Before the contest started, last year's winner (and America's Got Talent finalist), Johnny Gray, opened things up with an amazing rendition of "Free Fallin'" that blew everyone away. It pretty much took the wind out of every contestant's sails, because Tom Petty himself wouldn't have been able to outdo that performance. Juan was contestant #1 and delivered a solid, in tune performance of "Inside Out" by Eve 6 but lost a qualifying spot due to a lack of stage presence. The sixth contestant, Nick B., was the only singer who outdid Juan vocally. Everyone else sucked. Deep down I kind of wished I'd joined the contest. But as awesome as my voice rocks, my stage presence isn't that great either, and it would have messed me up for weeks if they hadn't advanced me.
The Audience: After the contest I ended up singing John Cougar's "Jack and Diane." There was a group of ten ladies sitting at the table in front of the stage, and they were the only ones I really felt like I was singing to. If I were to do one thing to improve the set up of this venue, I'd crowd more tables around that dance floor.
Mick Kelly's Irish Pub, 2019 W. Meeker St., 253-856-6425, KENT