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Karaoke Memoirs - It's Karaoke Night!
Around 6:30 in the evening, my friend, Spinner, came knocking. I knew it was him from the corny "shave-and-a-haircut" knock he always used. It was the only reason I got up from reading my comic books and answered the door.
Spinner was a good guy who I'd known since arriving at Fort Meade about three months prior. He knew I was still feeling low about a romantic failure I'd experienced before coming to Meade, and had been "enthusiastically encouraging" me to go out with him and some friends to, if anything, at least take my mind off of things. I say "enthusiastically encouraging"; what I really mean is "bugging the hell out of me".
I opened the door, and sure enough, there he was, with his usual goofy-looking grin. Facially, he wasn't what a person would call "handsome", and you'd think that he would have a hard time with the ladies. However, the guy could sell snow cones in the Arctic, and he put these particular skills to good use when it came to the dating game. I'm not saying he was a lady killer with notches on his bedpost, but he seemed to be doing a lot better than me.
"What's going on, dude?", I said. "You look like you have something big to tell me."
"Doug, you need to come out with me and Steve tonight. We're going to go do karaoke."
"Really? So where's this going on at?", I said, with a little trepidation. "Not in Baltimore. I'm not going to friggin' Baltimore."
"No! No, it's over in Laurel, at a small tavern. I've been going every now and then for a few weeks now. It's pretty cool with a good crowd."
"So I'm going to go sing with a bunch of drunk idiots."
"Yeah! But they're a fun bunch of drunk idiots!"
"What time do I need to be ready?"
"Be ready by 7:30. Dude, it'll be fun. Trust me. You need to get out more."
"Okay. But if it sucks, I'll punch you in the face. Deal?"
We rolled into the tavern at around 8:00, just so Spinner could get a good parking spot. We sat down at a booth, and ordered our drinks. Spinner wasn't a drinker anymore, so he just had a diet Coke. I had a Killian's, and wondered how the guy actually sings without any type of "liquid courage". Spinner came up to me with a song book and some slips of paper to write down my song choices.
"So how's this work?", I asked.
"Easy. You just write your name, the name of the song and the song number on it, and take it up to Mattie. She'll intro you, you sing, people clap and you sit down."
"Okay. I hope I don't suck too bad."
"Don't worry about it. Even the people that suck still get a good reception. The majority of the people here probably won't get up there, even drunk," Spinner replied with a laugh, as Mattie approached the mic and started the show.
"Hey! Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Karaoke Night!", Mattie called out. The hoots, hollers, whistles and random catcalls made it seem like a bigger event. An outside passerby would think that a big-name band was playing. Mattie ate up the crowd reaction and continued. "For some of you first-timers to karaoke, I'm gong to show you how it's done, and then we'll get you guys up here!"
The first chords of "Zombie" by The Cranberries began to fill the room. Mattie gently swayed to the music and began to sing in the same subdued manner as Dolores O'Riordan did. Mattie was beautiful. Thin, blonde, and all the right curves in all the right places. Add her personality and voice to the mix, and she was someone I would have liked to have gotten to know better. Spinner saw what I was looking at, and half-talked/half-yelled into my ear.
"She's pretty hot, huh? Too bad she has a boyfriend and a coke habit, or so I hear."
Well, scratch the getting to know her better, then. Still, great voice.
Mattie finished her song to the cheers of the bar patrons. She smiled, thanked them, and called up the next singer. "Okay, everyone, let's give it up for Dawn Marie!"
Spinner groaned a bit, "Oh, god..."
"What's that all about? Is she hot?", I asked, with some hope. Yes, I was kind of looking. That goes without saying.
"Uh, no. You'll see," Spinner replied, with a bit of a smirk.
A more-than-slightly overweight woman approached the mic area. Too much makeup, too much red clothing, to include a jaunty red boater's hat, and a bad hairstyle instantly negated any hotness that Mattie was exuding. Kind of a yin-yang thing.
"Here it comes," Spinner said.
"I'm going to be disappointed, aren't I?", I asked.
"Brother, you have no idea," Spinner replied, when "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin opened up.
"Watching every motion in my foolish lover's game...," Dawn Marie began. It wasn't a total train wreck. Rather it was more of a derailment. But, hell, she sang her heart out on it, so you had to give her credit for that, though I'd almost think that the applause at the end was just out of thanks that it was over.
The evening progressed, and there were more singers. Good singers, bad singers, first-timers, veterans, what have you. There were people from all walks of life doing this; singing their hearts out to please the crowd, or please themselves. Having a good time was what was important.
After some time, Mattie grabbed the mic and hammed it up like she did for all the first-timers. "Ladies and gentlemen, here he is for the first time! Put your hands together for Doug!"
Even with a beer under my belt, I was still pretty nervous. I'd never tried to sing in front of people before. Well, there was church, but that didn't count. I was in front of a room full of decidedly non-church-going people. What if I didn't sound as good as I thought I did? What if the room didn't like my song choice? Would I get the polite applause that implies, "Hmm. Yes. Very nice. Now please sit down and stop your caterwauling."?
I remembered what Spinner had said about people sucking, but still getting a good reception. Then I remembered Dawn Marie, which countered Spinner's claim. As I was thinking of just sitting back down and forgetting about it, Mattie walked over and grabbed me by the arm.
"Doug," she said with a smile and batting of her eyelashes, "If you don't get up there and sing, it's going to throw my whole song queue off. You wouldn't want that to happen to me, would you?"
"No. I would hate that. I would hate that a lot," I replied, rather sheepishly.
"Okay! So go kill it!", Mattie exclaimed, giving me a pat/shove on the back, toward the mic stand.
I picked up the microphone, and the intro to "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple began. As soon as the room heard it, I heard people shouting, "Wooooo!", "Yeah!", and one "Deep Purplllllle!".
Then it hit me. I was the center of attention. I was the star. I was, for this song, even though it was only karaoke in a small tavern, a rock god. I filled my lungs with air, and started belting it out, trying my best to channel Ian Gillan. I had to do it justice; for myself, the room, and Deep Purple.
The patrons clapped in rhythm, and sang along with the chorus. They were joining me in that moment, keeping me energized. I didn't suck, and that thought propelled me through the rest of the song, as well as the other songs I did that night.
As the evening ended, Spinner and I made our way out the door and back to the car. He slapped me on the back a few times, with a huge grin on his face.
"I told you! I told you you'd have fun! Damn, dude, you can actually sing!", he said.
"I didn't know I had it in me. Thanks, dude. So this goes on every weekend?", I replied.
"Well, I guess I know what I'm doing on the weekends, then. I mean, unless I have a hot date."
"Really? Hot date?"