Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quest for Karaoke—Chapter Six

Posted By on Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 12:40 PM

An excellent general policy on karaoke is to paraphrase Shakespeare and, "get thee to a gay bar." However my last attempt to do so had proved less than satisfying, due to a lack of showtunes and audience enthusiasm, both staples of the gentleman's sing-along session. But that wasn't enough to shake my belief in the gays. And the combination of that lingering belief and having nothing better to do that night lead me to Sin, on a Wednesday, where the Madonna/Cher/Lady Gaga playlist is replaced with people actually singing Madonna, Cher and Lady Gaga from 9ish-late-ish.

The official times quoted to me by the bartender were, "From whenever we feel like it, until whenever we're done." Gotta love that sass.

Of course there's a lot to love at Sin's karaoke night. The bar is a multi-level make-out palace with glowing red accents and ample dance space. The stage is enormous and the lyric screens takes up most of a wall. The sound system is gargantuan and well-maintained, and though the setup lacked a monitor, it did include a stripper pole; a fair trade in my book.

To avoid any lulls, the super-friendly KJ put herself into the rotation with some serious pipes. She did "Like a Prayer" at least as well if not better than Madonna. It was probably the best karaoke vocal performance I've heard since I saw Storm Large sing "Bad Moon Rising" at Dante's karaoke in Portland, Ore. Leadership like that is how you inspire greatness.

And greatness is that much more achievable when provided with the proper tools, meaning " the book." Sin's book started out strong. Thick and well-maintained like some sort of comedic phallic reference, it fell open to Rosemary Clooney, then Weird Al and then Robert Goulet. These are the kinds of gems karaoke can bring back from the dead, part of what makes it great.

As I pushed further into it though, it became clear that while the book had a wide variety of unusual artists and groups, it got a little Swiss-cheesy on some of their more notable works. This was definitely a catalog catered to Sin's crowd. Five gazillion tracks by Madonna, and then a couple thrown in by some obscure English band called The Beatles, just to balance things out.

But what a crowd. There were more people on stage for the hourly performance of Gaga's "Bad Romance" than there were on the floor. And it only got better when someone cut into Ike and Tina. This is the sort of enthusiasm that takes a dull evening through the roof.

And even though someone jumped on-stage to sing a Meatloaf duet with me—much appreciated, Mystery Man—I started getting a bit bored. The room being impossibly huge left it with a lot of empty space that felt, well, empty. Yes, there was a lot of oddities, but there wasn't much in the way of standards. Like all things, karaoke requires balance. All Rosemary Clooney and no Garth Brooks can get just as dull as the other way around once the novelty wears off. The random and unexpected shifts from style to style, singer to singer; those are a crucial part of what keeps karaoke from getting as stale as Top 40 radio. And that joyful schizophrenia was missing.

Especially since I'm much more firmly in the Cyndi Lauper camp than Madonna.

Though these were clearly my people, it wasn't my scene. At least not that night.

Sin is everything you want in gay bar karaoke; showtunes, dance numbers, all-around fabulousness. But know that qualifier also serves as a caveat, because if it ain't what you're looking for, you'd be better off spending your Wednesday elsewhere. But if it is...

"Life is a cabaret my friend, and come to the cabaret."

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