The Big Easy (Singing Louisiana, #36)

The Cats Meow (no apostrophe) is on Bourbon Street. I thought there was no way we were going to get me in there, but it happened. I guess showing up before 8 and in New Orleans’ off-season helps. So does the fact that there was a Saints game on. That’s why our first karaoke choice, Kajun Club, wasn’t having its usual early show. Still, the place was packed with tourists and wedding parties and smelled of vomit and bleach.

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Inside the Cats Meow

Three people ran the show. A young woman in ripped jean shorts and metal cat ears managed the list, writing the names of singers and those on deck on a glow-in-the-dark board. An older man in a Superman T-shirt and bandanna entertained the crowd, getting people to dance on stage to videos between singers (he would sometimes sing to the videos as well). Then there was a mystery person, in a booth up above, choosing the tracks and keeping the music going.

We made it 10 minutes before the happy hour ended, which advertised “3 for 1” drinks, which we assumed meant we would get three drinks for the price of one. Ha. It meant you would get three (watered down) shots in your drink. Such is Bourbon Street.

There is a very limited song list, but in a way that’s not why you come here. You come here because of the location, whether intentionally or not. You come here for a crowd. You come here because they live stream your performance. You come here because it’s karaoke on Bourbon Street on a Saturday night.

After the Cats Meow, we explored the area, took a lot of pictures, and ordered drinks at a walk-up window. We paused to see if a clown and drunk guy were going to come to blows, and I bought a souvenir.  Music poured out from the bars – jazz, blues, rock , mariachi. Then, it was time for bar #2, or the first one we tried, depending on how you want to look at it.

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Walk up drink window, next to some great jazz.

Kajun’s was off the main drag, but the area was still packed thanks to assortment of bars and an art show; we park on the median. A poster of Orlando’s victims is displayed in the front window. The KJ here also has cat ears, though hers are fuzzy green. The game that drove us away a few hours ago was ending as we got there (the home team lost), so the group of old men sitting at a table in front of the big screen got up, bringing their bags of chips and salsa with them. Within minutes, the place fills up with singers. I signed up for my song using a kiosk by the KJ booth, managing to be second on the list.

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Kajuns, showing off Louisiana architecture.

As I’m singing, the bar fills and many stand in line at the kiosk. We hang around to hear a few more songs, but our night has been full enough. We leave for our long drive back over the Causeway – but not before a quick stop to grab some Cajun egg rolls for the ride back.

The next day, I got this cool print in the Garden District, because my friend Larissa has some by this artist, too (Hi Larissa!).

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My new artwork.

 

The Basics:

  • Locations: Cats Meow, Kajuns Pub (New Orleans, LA)
  • Miles traveled: 237
  • Songs sung: Heartache Tonight (The Eagles), Hungry Like the Wolf (Duran Duran)

Data analysis (Singing Massachusetts, #22)

I’m going to talk shop here for a minute. As I approach the halfway mark on my trip, I’m starting to think about what makes an ideal karaoke experience, at least for me. The Deuce was a lot of fun, and I would love to go back there again, but possible not for karaoke. The bar itself was originally established as a WWII Club (complete with functioning periscope!), but now leaned toward being a lesbian bar. When we arrived about an hour before the singing was to begin, we were the only ones in there, save for the staff. There was also a regular, Carl, in there. An older man who was there for the third time that day, drinking a ginger ale. A bachelorette party then came in, surprised by the lack of crowd; then Carl said something offensive to the woman  wearing an actual wedding dress, and they took off before the first song the group put into the jukebox was over. The slight bartender told Carl off for chasing customers away:

“They were customers?” He truly looked confused.

“All people who come into this bar are customers, Carl,” sighed the bartender. She told him never to do that again, but I personally have my doubts. Later she told us that he had had a stroke not too long ago, and his filter was more than a little off. She still needed him to stay in line, she said — especially after the last time when he told her and his partner to fuck off for no reason other than they were having a simple conversation.

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The bartender spent the next hour or so chatting us up and helping us order Chinese food for delivery, since her kitchen flooded in January and they hadn’t fixed it yet. We drank local beers and got sucked into watching You, Me, and Dupree. Not a typical evening for sure.

Between 10 and 10:30 the place went from dormant to packed. Another bachelorette party that stayed, some smaller groups, and a birthday where everyone wore tiny hats – chef’s, pink western, sombreros, and fez all worn at a slight angle high upon their heads. The pool tables filled up, as did all the tables. The wait for a drink was three deep. I had put in my first song choice when the place was empty and regretted the selection when the KJ called my name to get the place going; somehow old Chicago didn’t really fit the vibe, but some of the bachelorette group seemed to be listening actively and that was encouraging. However, this was the sort of place where people were more interested in socializing and occasionally singing.

The speaker system was so loud, blaring right behind the singers. I screamed my second song more than sang it. It was a better choice at least (who doesn’t go for 80s Pat Benatar?), and I saw people bobbing up and down to the music as they chatted with their friends. Supportive crowd, but not like Otters where there was high participation. I thought there would be more dancing. Maybe there was later.

My gut says there weren’t a lot of regulars there – just one wearing a white cowboy hat and a Hawaiian shirt. His slow song selections were well done, but completely drowned out by the din of people shooting pool, celebrating birthdays and love, and just generally doing their own thing. People were having a great time, and it was apparent that the karaoke was the big draw to a place like this, but at the same time the karaoke wasn’t the main event. Lots of singers waiting to sing, but no one seeming to want to be there to listen. The system too loud to have a conversation with a friend, but no one seemed to be into dancing – and some song selections were quite conducive to that. One of the highlights was a guy who did his own twisting dance moves as he sang a mean Kiss in true Prince falsetto.

I’ll continue to ponder the factors that create the ideal karaoke experience for me; the social scientist in me compels me to. It also gets amazing reviews on Yelp for its karaoke, crowd, and vibe, so I will also appreciate that my experience was a sample size of one. In the meantime, I’ll remember The Deuce as a bar with a friendly staff, strange history, and a man named Carl who may or may not learn to keep his thoughts to himself.

The basics:

  • Location: The Deuce WWII Club, Northampton, MA
  • Miles traveled: 256
  • Songs sung: Saturday in the Park (Chicago), Love is a Battlefield (Pat Benatar)

All for show (Singing New York, #18)

My friend and I arrived a bit early on purpose; the singing didn’t start until 10, but we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose momentum after dinner in her backyard. Sometimes the late-night-starts make me feel old. The street entrance to the bar told us to use the other entrance, so we headed to the well-lit back alley and went in. A few couples sat at the bar, and a gender-fluid pair occupied the dance floor, twerking and grinding. The bartender wore a t-shirt that read, “Tell me I’m pretty” (he was).

In the back of the bar there’s a machine with free popcorn; somehow the smell doesn’t dominate the bar in the way one bag of microwave popcorn will make a whole office salivate. Behind that, there’s a case of sex toys. An array of dildos of all different shapes and sizes – one brand offers a 5 ½-inch cock, a 7-inch cock, and an 8-inch dong. I guess I now know the difference between a cock and a dong: one crucial inch. There’s also a harness and a pair of leather cuffs.

A voice-over announced we were going to be treated to “The best karaoke in the Capitol District.” As the show gets underway, one woman makes a dramatic entrance by belting along with the song being sung to the point of dominating the performance. She covers her left ear to tune herself better. When it’s her turn, she sings a passionate version of Radiohead’s Creep, keeping her hand on that ear the entire time.

By 11, the list of singers scrolling on the bottom of the monitor grew. Craiggers, Barbie, Jamroc, Mystery, and LD all waited for their turns to sing on the stage with an elaborate light show and fog machine. After each performance, an applause track encouraged the crowd’s response.

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Fancy set up!

Everyone brings it here to the fullest – good voices, good stage presence. One woman in particular was a delight to watch. She was tall and beautifully casual in a striped summer dress, black ballcap and Keds. She comes over to our table to steal a song slip and we chat. She says she comes here to “practice” – her goal is to be a songwriter, but doesn’t feel she has the talent to sing her own stuff. She’s wrong. Her energy, style, and vocal abilities were top-notch. I have no idea what she sung, but it was good. When it was my turn to sing, she cheered loudly in between sips of red wine. Then, after her second number, she went back to the bar, gulped down the rest of her glass, and waved goodbye, leaving out the front door.

The basics:

  • Location: Waterworks Pub, Albany, NY
  • Miles traveled: 377
  • Songs sung: Heart of Glass (Blondie), Like a Prayer (Madonna)