As every crooner knows by now, the Rickshaw Restaurant and Lounge, arguably the most beloved karaoke bar in Seattle, reopened a month ago. A couple Fridays back, my buddy Riggins invited me to meet up there with him and the Surly Gourmand. The night began as a casual return to one of my all-time favorite spots to sing but soon turned into a five-hour, five bar karaoke odyssey through Greenwood.
We arrived at the Rickshaw at 8:30 to grab some dinner before the show started. The place was already pretty packed, but we were able to grab an open table at the entrance right in front of the stage. Surly made some fun observations about the diverse menu. The cuisine ranges from Chinese to Mexican and everything in between. My favorite was his suggestion that they should change the name mozzarella sticks to "mozzarella dicks," and form the tips to resemble the head of a shlong that diners can enjoy biting it off. Joel Harvey was the KJ, and I am happy to report he's growing his D'Artagnan mustache back. My friend Juan joined us just before show time, and when we turned in our first slips the singer-ticker on the TVs showed we were already 15 back in the rotation. Joel opened with a sound check song, "Big Ten Inch" by Aerosmith, and then a steady string of performances started to roll.It was a typical Rickshaw night. The older performers sang classic rock and the younger ones delivered show tunes. And then there was that guy in gelled-up hair wearing a sport coat and scarf who thought he was Michael Buble and hammed up a rendition of "Fever" that made everyone want to sock him in the gut. I sang "I'm Goin' Down" by Bruce Springsteen. The venue itself doesn't look much different, but one thing that has improved dramatically is the quality of sound from the speakers overhead and the microphones.
After submitting our next selections, the ticker showed we were 41 singers away. Riggins and Surly took off, so Juan and I decided to kill time three blocks down the street at Tim's Tavern. It was around 10:00 and their KJ, Katy, was managing a 20 singer rotation. Tim's recently doubled its size. They bought the old barber shop next door, knocked out the wall between them, and now have a really nice stage in the back corner. Juan sang Lenny Kravitz's cover of "American Woman," and somehow I got the inspiration to do "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers, which I discovered is the ultimate sing-along number.
At 11:30, after dousing my liver in Bombay Sapphire, we returned to the Rickshaw just in time to hear an inspired rendition of Patrick Swayze's "She's Like the Wind." The place was a madhouse. All three sections were overflowing with people and the rotation was now at 56, but we timed it perfectly because our names were coming right up. Juan sang a Coldplay number, then I did "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel. There was no chance to get called up there again, so we moved onto The Ould Triangle on Greenwood Avenue five blocks away where Joel's lady, Jen was hosting. The Irish pub was busy but nowhere near as crowded as Rickshaw or Tim's. There was about a five singer rotation that nobody was paying much attention to. I sang some Eagles and Juan did U2. We could easily have closed the place down but I wanted to see what was doing at Baranof, just a few more blocks down the street.
We walked in at 1 a.m. as things were dying down and I was happy to see Patty from the Rickshaw was hosting. I told her about how much of a madhouse it was at Rickshaw and she told me they decided not to bring her back, which I was sad to hear because to me, she is the Rickshaw. My earliest memories of that place all involve her.
I don't remember what I sang at Baranof, but I have a few seconds of shaky video on my phone of Juan singing the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down." We closed things down across the street at Yen Wor Garden where their rotation was still going strong. I delivered an encore performance of "The Gambler," and once again it got everybody singing. That's how we do it in Greenwood on Friday nights.
THE RICKSHAW, 322 N. 105th St., 789-0120, GREENWOOD