Can Karaoke Korrespondent Get His Mojo Back at Claire's Pantry?

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Every other Friday in the heart of Lake City, the lounge at Claire's Pantry hosts the best karaoke party on the northeast side. I use the term "party" because when I checked things out for the first time last week, I felt like I was crashing one. Of the 25 or so who were there (a low turnout by their standards), everyone seemed to know each other. People were mingling from table to table, hugging and high-fiving, cheering as familiar faces walked in and joining together to sing duets. This was exactly the crowd I'd been needing to get my confidence back on track.

You see, early last month while riding a high from being a part of my first band ever, I proclaimed how much singing covers with them was better than karaoke, essentially shitting on this pastime that's provided me so much joy and fulfillment throughout my entire adult life. But now, after having felt the the douche chills at these open mics from the sparse crowds looking at up at us like we were a bunch of dried-up chodes on stage, I realized that even during my worst performances on the most lethargic of karaoke nights, I've never felt as dismissed or discounted. It's the first time I ever thought I wasn't any good.

But getting back to Claire's: It's an awesome venue. The intimately lit, rectangular-shaped lounge is the perfect size: not too big, not too small. The bar is to the immediate left as you enter, and the stage and KJ station are set up in the far back right in front of these greenhouse-style windows that look out at the cars passing along Lake City Way. The host that night was a guy named Eric. He was a good guy who was a friend to everyone there.

The scene was both young and old, some in their 20s and 30s and others were deep into their 60s and 70s. I loved seeing the older crowd, because my most proven numbers are hits from the golden age of rock 'n' roll, and I was chomping at the bit to deliver.

Overall, the performances were solid. Everyone sang to their strengths and came through with some great numbers I hadn't heard a million times before that covered the entire gamut of the songbook: "Emotion" by the Bee Gees, "Why Don't We Get Drunk" by Jimmy Buffett, "Three Times a Lady" by the Commodores, and "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top, to name a few.

I didn't even have to think about my first pick; I knew exactly what I wanted to perform, and it's what I had been denied throughout this so-called "collaboration" I've been involved with these past few months. I went straight for the Beatles, early John Lennon, a rockin' number from 1963 called "I Call Your Name," and I delivered it masterfully. Within the first ten seconds, this lady named Hoagie, 75 years young, grabbed her friends, rushed the stage and started dancing. And I looked out to the rest of the audience and saw nothing but smiling faces, people bobbing their heads and pumping their fists in approval. When the song was done the crowd erupted in applause, and Hoagie gave me a big hug and thanked me for choosing such a great song.

Hopefully this band will answer my plea to learn some of the songs I've asked them to play, but until then nothing makes a normal guy like me feel more like a rock star than karaoke.

CLAIRE'S PANTRY, 12360 Lake City Way NE, 365-4542, LAKE CITY

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