For nine-to-fivers like myself, a national holiday falling on a Wednesday means we essentially get a bonus Friday night to get as loaded as we want. This notion was not lost on the regular crowd at the sports bar called Bender's in southeast Renton this past Tuesday, Fourth of July Eve. I arrived at 8 p.m., an hour before their karaoke started, and there were easily 50 people there that night.
It's a pretty decent sized venue located in a strip mall off Carr Road. The bar is at one end, the stage is on the other, and pool tables and dart boards take up the middle. The place is a real dump. It just looks beat to shit, and you can literally smell the dirt that coats the floor and walls. But the one redeeming quality amidst all the filth is this cool mural of the Seattle skyline and Mount Rainier that serves as the backdrop to their stage.
The host got there at 8:30 p.m. and began to set up for the show. A couple girls came up to chat with him right away. He was a bearded dude, looked about in his late '20s, and was dressed casually in jeans, a flannel and a black cap. He went by Chummer, and the name of his karaoke company is Bigtime Entertainment. The song books had a good selection and were very easy to read through.
For once, I knew exactly what songs I wanted to perform. It was going to be an all-American theme. The first slip I turned in was "Pink Houses" by John Cougar Mellencamp. Chummer had me open with it, and it was a great way to start the night. As busy as the place was, most of the crowd was concentrated at the pool tables and the patio, so it was necessary for someone with powerful pipes to belt one out and let everyone know the karaoke had begun. The big JBL speakers sounded super clean, and I loved the way they made my voice sound overhead as I sang. There were two monitors for lyrics mounted high on both walls, so all the singers were forced to face out to the crowd as they performed.
Overall, the singers were pretty good. This cute, short-haired, Pat Benatar-looking chick turned in a solid rendition of Katy Perry's "Waking Up in Vegas." She was followed by a girl named Erin who sang an inspired "Down Under" by Men At Work, a very fitting selection since she was moving to Australia the next day.
The two most memorable performers were an old guy in his '60s named Ed and this rocker dude named Steve. Ed sang old standards and Steve did obscure metal. Ed's best number was Sinatra's "New York, New York." He fell a bit behind at first, but his tone was just right, and he eventually pulled it together very nicely. It's always a treat to hear a classic done right. Steve's voice was totally legit and when he delivered the Queensryche song "Queen of the Reich," he sounded just like Jeff Tate.
"American Girl" by Tom Petty was my best offering, but it didn't get much of an ovation. Actually, it got a decent response from the people sitting around the stage but didn't captivate the folks in the back. The crowd wasn't very dialed in, but the quality sound more than compensated for the lack of attention.
BENDER'S, 10706 SE Carr Rd., 425-277-3307, RENTON