Lazy Sunday (Singing Colorado, #43)

We went on an urban hike to get to the karaoke venue, making sure to stop at a different watering hole every mile to break up the exercise with decadence — not a bad way to get a 4.5-mile stroll in on a Sunday. I need to figure out how to incorporate these sorts of outings when I return to Portland (who’s in?).

By the time we arrived in downtown Denver, the lines to the clubs were long and the roof-top bars were packed. But as luck would have it, our destination was the emptiest place around. Apparently karaoke isn’t a huge draw around these parts.

It’s hopping in here!

The lack of crowd suits us just fine, and we continue our conversations and laid-back evening in the comfort of a cheesy faux-leather banquette. The karaoke set-up, however, implied that there are nights when things get a little crazy here. First, when I got on stage to sing my first song, I found the microphone firmly taped to the stand. Therefore, I sung with a fixed mic for the first time ever. It wasn’t as hard as I imagined; in fact I liked it quite a bit. I’ll probably give it a go again if I can figure out how to raise and lower the thing; it just happened to be at a great height here :-).

Second, there was a a commercially printed sign listing all the rules of karaoke here, including: (1) Don’t drop the mic (pretty damn difficult to do now); (2) Only put in one song at a time (the KJ said this quite a bit while we were there); (3) Duets count as a solo, and; (4) No line cuts for anyone for any reason (among those listed: showing body parts, having a great personality, a birthday, and, my personal favorite, going through a divorce). I’ve seen rule signs before, and have heard KJs run through their rules before, but this was the most extensive list I’ve witnessed.

Dig the artwork in this place!

Then one guy complained about his place in the rotation and the KJ basically called him out on it and threatened to get him tossed if he didn’t shut it; it didn’t seem like this was the first time she needed to give that lecture (He stayed). After a couple of hours the crowd grew, which was our cue to leave. Maybe the rule sheet would need to be busted out more as the night continued into a true “scene”. No matter — an evening with a childhood friend and her husband is the perfect way to experience a state; karaoke was just a bonus.

The basics:

  • Location: El Charrito, Denver, CO
  • Miles traveled: 523 (including the walk!)
  • Songs sung: Heaven Knows (Donna Summer), Wonder (Natalie Merchant), Edge of Seventeen (Stevie Nicks)
Seriously, the artwork in here is amazing.



Rules and Regulations (Singing Pennsylvania, #25)

There are rules in karaoke, but usually they are unspoken; to me they seem obvious, but the KJ in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania made sure everyone was on the same page. He introduced the evening by telling us to respect the equipment, singers, audience, and world at large. Don’t bang on the microphones, clap near them, or swing them by the cord. Don’t heckle singers, or give them a hard time; support everyone who gets up on stage by clapping. Don’t use your time to sing to make fun of your friends, or heckle anyone in the audience. Don’t change the lyrics to songs to make fun of or disrespect people because of their nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. I wondered who comes to this bar that such an elaborate spiel was necessary. The way he rolled off the list of restrictions reflected that he did this every week.

Random house in Bloomsburg that used roof tiles for siding.

Singers were ready right at the 10pm start, the list scrolling at the bottom of the six monitors distributed across the bar as soon as the first name was called. A handful of performers in, the KJ got back on the mic to tell us how to put a song in, either via a smartphone app, or at the kiosk to his left. He announced that new singers got added to the next rotation; old ones kept their spot, and could fill in their song at any time before their name was called. I’m finding myself both liking the computer sign up strategy for its fairness, but hating it because of its depersonalization. Appreciating the transparency of the way the KJ ran his show, but feeling wary of all the rules, and hesitant to act in case I did something wrong. In my world, more instructions bring up more questions.

The bar the next morning, after 11. Sundays are completely dead in this part of PA. Disturbingly so.

I didn’t feel like downloading the app, so I went to the kiosk; I had to press on the touchscreen quite firmly to get it to work, and even then needed to blow on my fingers to make them warm enough to register my choice. The screen told me to put my first name and last initial into the monitor or I wouldn’t be called up. I obeyed and typed in “Kristi G;” as I watched other names go by I saw I was the only one with a last initial. The regulars knew which rules were and weren’t OK to break.

When Pinky Sue was called up, no one moved. Then, her partner walked up to the KJ and whispered into the host’s ear. As he pulled away, bringing the mic back to the bar table, the KJ told the audience that normally people aren’t allowed to sit and sing, but since Pinky is still recovering from surgery, he was making an exception. I guess he didn’t want anyone else to get ideas about wandering around the bar while singing – a shame, because I enjoy a performer who can work a crowd like a lounge singer from time to time.

The first time I got on stage, the KJ reminded me about handling the equipment properly – not to bang on it, how to sing into the microphone. I think he did this to anyone who was new to him, as I saw him go through the motions with others as they got on stage, but it wasn’t universal. For the most part, everyone at the bar behaved, except for a pair of young men who did their best to get through Sweet Caroline; those two clearly forgot about the “no clapping on the mic” rule, and as they finished the KJ snatched the mics away from them as quickly as possible. The singers didn’t seem to notice as they stumbled back to their table and back to their beers.

The basics:

  • Location: Good Old Days, Bloomsburg, PA
  • Miles traveled: 633 from Toronto (We also drove around Canada for 765 mi/1231 km)
  • Songs sung: Voices Carry (‘Til Tuesday), Cough Syrup (Young the Giant), 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)