Everyone truly obsessed with karaoke shares the same fantasy: to sing lead vocals in a band. I've always suspected my voice was strong enough, but the fact I couldn't play any instruments just led me to assume nobody would be interested in me. I was wrong.
Playnetworkin' for the Weekend, live at Murphy's Pub.
Three months ago, one of my co-workers, Brian, assembled a bunch of musicians from our office to form a company band. He'd heard that my pal Zoe and I had a passion for singing, and invited us to join. After the first rehearsal, when I saw how legitimately talented everyone was, I brought my buddy Juan in to sing as well to help take the edge off my nerves.
We'd gotten together to practice every week ever since to prepare for a work event that happened last week. That ended up being a gigantic success, but it wasn't actually or first gig. A week before, we played at Murphy's Pub in Wallingford. It was there where I really got to experience the difference between karaoke and the real thing.
Murphy's usually holds an open mic on Wednesdays, but somehow we were allowed to have the stage exclusively that night. We were without our mandolin player, Gabriel. He's the one who really ties in our sound, but Brian's buddy, Rick, an accomplished keyboardist, filled in beautifully. The guys kicked things off with an instrumental jam, sounding like a cross between Booker T. & the MG's and The World's Most Dangerous Band.
Aside from the 15 or so friends who came to watch us, nobody sitting at the back end of the bar moved closer to see the show--which was fine with me. I was the first singer to perform and sang the old Box Tops number, "The Letter." We do it in the style of Joe Cocker's cover. The band sounded great, but I was nervous and my microphone wasn't turned up.
Zoe followed me with KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," a song she'd previously performed at Maple Leaf karaoke in Bellevue. She sounded better that Tunstall; our version runs circles around the original. Juan and I sang back-up vocals, and that's when I started to feel comfortable.
My next number was "Honky Tonk Women" by the Stones, and aside from a small miscue where I was late jumping in on the first chorus, I felt really good about it. Zoe's harmonies added an element to the performance that is rarely ever captured on the karaoke stage. We both went on to nail our final rehearsed numbers, Alanis Morissette's "You Outta' Know" and "One Way Out" by the Allman Brothers. Juan felt his "Red House" could have been stronger, but I felt as though he'd never sounded better.
We ended up playing until midnight. One of our guitarists, Scott, got to do a 20-minute solo set of his original material, and when we got up for our final set it was a free-for-all. Eric (another guitarist) unleashed this obscure Bay Area funk number called "Do the Dance" that was a total jam. And then we took a couple requests and pieced together pretty decent off-the-cuff renditions of Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd.
The next day our drummer Fred came up to my desk and told me if there was one thing I should learn from the night, it's that if I mess up something, I just have to power through and trust the band will make up for it. Karaoke, while much easier, isn't as forgiving once the lyrics pass you by.
Murphy's Pub, 1928 N. 45th St, 634-2110, WALLINGFORD