Solo (Singing Wyoming, #44)

I wear my jacket to go out to sing; it’s the first time I’ve needed it since I was in the Dakotas. I had looked up the laws in Rock Springs, WY, and it seemed as though smoking was illegal in bars, but one step inside, and I knew that wasn’t the case. Before getting there, I texted a friend to express fear of going out on my own again, of being harassed, of not being physically safe. I went anyway, but took note to honor those feelings should they have any evidence behind them.

I took a seat at the bar, where the owner, a female, was running the show; there were a fair number of people inside, but they were all shooting pool so I had the long bar to myself. I already felt better. Technically, this place calls itself a “nightclub,” with its black velour-backed bar stools and red velvety chairs on wheels by the tables. It’s clearly a pool hall first, though, with all four tables in use. It was too dark outside to get a good picture of the establishment; I should have taken one of the inside but didn’t want to stick out. This was clearly a place full of regulars.

Nightclub in Rock Springs, WY

The karaoke set up here is strange – you can either stand on a huge stage (probably set up more for bands than hack singers) or face a monitor on the dance floor such that your back is to the rest of the bar. Neither seems like a good option since being on the stage would feel awkward to me, especially since no one was paying much attention, instead more focused on their pool games.

While others sing, the bartender and I talk about the hunting season (the reason why the place is relatively empty), cold weather, and the kitchen that’s opening up next week while I sip a gin and tonic. She asked me if I wanted one or two limes, and I opted for two to mask the well liquor taste. One of the aforementioned regulars was singing I Wanna Be Like You from the Jungle Book while simultaneously shooting pool; he ends up doing both ineffectively.

I sing my first song to a quiet audience – they are more concerned with practicing for the big tournament this weekend. When I get back to my seat and drink (bartender said she’d watch the drink, I took my purse up – gotta remember these new habits now that I’m on my own again), two women had taken up residence just next to me. One was making goo-goo noises and rubbing the belly of the other, who was just starting to show the signs of pregnancy. The pregnant lady laughed about being 50 when the kid would be born, then lit a cigarette and ordered a Sprite. A young man walks over and the conversation quickly jumps to a debate over oral sex; the young man claims he prefers dick because pussies smell like fish and look like cottage cheese. The older women let him know that if it does look like cottage cheese down there, then something is seriously wrong. He isn’t buying it. My company leaves for a bit, but their phones and keys remain on the bar. I guess this place is safe after all.

As the evening goes on, the KJ calls out the names of patrons and asks if they are ready to sing. Some ask for more time, and others wander over and choose a tune, interrupting their games. Everyone chooses a slow song. Not what I would have expected here – was thinking upbeat modern country, one of the first times I wasn’t able to peg the song style to the crowd. The guy who likes dick (who turns out to be the pregnant lady’s step son), takes a turn and sings Stand By Me – not bad, but nothing inspiring — unless you’re his step-mom: “He has a beautiful voice. He’s just not competent (sic instead of “confident;” I thought I misheard her at first, but she repeated the mistake often enough that I’m sure that’s what she said). Such a lovely tone; I wish he’d sing louder. Dammit all to hell shit.” Step-mom is clearly an avid supporter, and refers to his “beautiful tone” about twenty times during our conversations; I try to avoid the smoke she blows in my face.

After she’s heard both me and her step-son sing, it becomes her mission to figure out a duet for the us to perform. He says he can harmonize “real good,” but we can’t find a song we both know, even though he only sings oldies. I threw out a few ideas and so did step-mom from the earlier eras to no avail; he kept going to the modern stuff where I’m useless. One of his suggestions was Concrete Blonde by “Martin McBride” (instead of “Martina”), sounding out the words slowly off his phone. I gave up finding a song for us after a while, so no duet; step-mom was clearly disappointed, but he didn’t seem to care much.

Later, her husband came up and asked “Why does Wyoming have wind? Because Utah blows and Nebraska sucks.” He also referred to Wyoming as “God’s perfect square” then a “shit hole” soon after. The bartender asks him how his granddaughter is doing, as she’s in a cast after a mishap on the jungle gym. He would rather talk about how he dislocated his ankle several years ago and, after he had it in a cast for eight weeks, had to scrape the dead skin off his heel with a butter knife. His wife wailed Lita Ford in the background.

I said goodbye to the bartender, and tipped her a buck for the club soda she gave me on the house; I don’t say anything to the strange family next to me and they don’t seem to notice me leave. A police car pulled over some folks across the street and arrests were being made as I headed back to the hotel.

The next morning, my jacket still smells like smoke, but I put it on anyway. There’s a Starbucks across the street; I think about treating myself to a pumpkin latte and accept the fact that fall has come.

The basics:

  • Location: Killpepper’s Nightclub, Rock Springs, WY
  • Miles traveled: 476 ( I took the scenic route; see below for amazing evidence)
  • Songs sung: Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty), Faithfully (Journey)
Wyoming is beautiful!

Characters (Singing Illinois in two places! #13)

Pitch is a very swanky bar — who would have thought such a place would exist in Peoria, IL? I order a Pale Ale (as opposed to one of the 100 shots listed on the ceiling or any of the Mason jar drinks) from the bartender who is 2 weeks due from her fourth child. A beefy guy sings “Let it Go” — in Japanese. He follows that up by singing Belle and having a different voice for all the characters. There is serious talent here. The bartender tells a customer they need to make a drinking game for every time someone chooses to sing a musical number – but then the whole bar would be wasted and she didn’t want to deal with that.

Froofie drinks for a froofie crowd

A woman dressed in a fedora and black flowy, backless pantsuit with serious bell bottoms orders a caramel whiskey with butterscotch schnapps. One half of a cute couple who has spent the night taking selfies says to her, “You’re a strong woman,” which seems to please her quite a bit. I’m not sure drinking sweet flavored booze mixes makes one strong, but I’m old. The crowd here is too young and hip for me. I never would have fit into a group like this, and yet I find myself trying anyway. Song selections are impossible to figure out. Actually, that’s not entirely true; I was going to sing Mr. Brightside, but someone beat me to it. Oh well – at least I called that right.

There is no way to tell who lurks behind this bar…

The next bar the next night in the next city was completely different. Here, a gangly young man in a baseball cap and basketball shorts sings a mean Josh Groban. A morbidly obese woman sings rock songs poorly, but with enthusiasm. A tiny white woman sings about “the good old days” when “daddy’s came home.” A large African-American man brings me to tears with his rendition of Purple Rain. Later he sings a song called “I Love You” (?) and during the instrumental asks the audience, “You know what I really love? This beer.” The bottle he picks up is Redd’s, that nasty shit.

…or this one.

Then there is the short young man with the pencil mustache. I don’t really know how to capture him. He doesn’t sing into the mic at all, so from an audience perspective, all we’re hearing is the instrumental of Freebird, Jethro Tull, and other classic rock standards. He serenades his stuffed animals when he sings: Mau Mau and Mau Mau II are two black cats and then there is a cougar, Tucker. The man would walk up to various patrons (I assume he knew them as none of them looked phased when this happened) and rested the animals he brought on their shoulders. The critters hadn’t seen a washing machine in years; I wonder how long he’s had them. Though he did wander around the bar a little, his home base was always standing next to the KJ.

Strange to see a man clutching a stuffed kitten ordering Jack & Cokes from the bar. No stranger than a man who sings a beautiful Purple Rain dedicating his love to a Redd’s, or a beefy guy singing Disney in multiple languages, I suppose. This happens across the country every night.

The basics:

Bar #1

  • Location: Pitch, Peoria, IL
  • Miles traveled: 426
  • Songs sung: Metro (Berlin), You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Meatloaf)

Bar #2

  • Location: Blueberry Hill, Forest Park, IL
  • Miles traveled: 178
  • Songs sung: Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac), Take My Breath Away (Berlin)