Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quest for Karaoke—Chapter Eight: The 44 Club

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Since I began this karaoke quest, one suggestion has been mentioned more than any other: The 44 Club.

And as a "typical communist/socialist" I wanted to spend the evening of Boise State's game against Virginia Tech a few weeks back in a place where the television would be otherwise occupied and The 44 Club, several times voted Boise's best karaoke, seemed like just the place.

How sad then to walk in the door and be told that karaoke was on hold until the game finished.

To pass the time, I ordered a can of Guinness—no taps—and picked up the book.

It was thickish and had a good selection, but not a great one. Really just the standard amount any establishment should have before offering karaoke. Yes, it had Guns N' Roses beyond "Sweet Child O' Mine," and it even had a Rosemary Clooney tune, but it didn't have Baba O' Reilly "Baba O'Riley" by The Who or anything by Jefferson Starship. Unsurprisingly, it did have a healthy selection of Jimmy Buffet. Normally, this is the kind of setting in which I like to sing "Gay Bar" by Electric Six, but it wasn't in the book either. However, it did have "Bring On the Dancing Horses" by Echo and the Bunnymen, a song that I've never seen in any book before and that is one of my all-time faves. I scribbled it down along with Matthew Sweet's "Sick of Myself" and felt good about my choices.

Post-game, the goateed and camo-clad shuffled into the karaoke pen to sing victory songs: "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse and "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals. Considering the low-brow setting, these seemed like somewhat ironic choices, but they were clearly amusing themselves and that's what karaoke is all about. One guy did a strutting, sneering AC/DC so true-to-form that had he asphyxiated on his own vomit like Bon Scott, I'm sure he would have considered it part of the show. I appreciate that level of dedication.

When my name was called by the KJ, I picked up the mic and was pleasantly surprised: a wireless Shure SM-58; a professional stage mic not being held together with duct tape.

As I started singing my throat started to hurt. By the time I sat down, my chest hurt, too. Even with only a few patrons inside, the smoke was unbearable. But still having a few ounces of Guinness left, I decided to capitalize on my hoarseness with "Three Little Pigs" by Green Jello.

While I was waiting, Bon Scott snatched the mic away from a guy singing Stevie Ray Vaughn and playing live harmonica to make up his own lyrics. That's when I realized the antics didn't feel mirthful so much as exclusionary.

Back home in Ashland, Ore., I frequented The Wild Goose, where the carpet was pure cigarette ash and the walls sweated broken dreams. Like The 44 Club, it was a shithole, but it was my shithole. The 44 Club isn't, as was evidenced by the stinkeye I caught from Bon Scott on the way out of the bathroom.

And so the quest continues...

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