Day 21 – June 28, 2013 at Jaxon’s in Scottsdale, (plus Pho Cao)

Day 21 – June 28th at Jaxon’s in south Scottsdale, plus a repeat visit to Pho Cao

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Teresa, Andrea, and the Suze!

We’re getting close to the end of our journey! Day 22 – of 22 days of consecutive karaoke – is tomorrow. We began and will end our adventures at our regular karaoke venue, Boston’s ASU in Tempe.

Day 21 is our last night sampling different karaoke places. What am I saying? We’ll still do that. Especially now that we’ve acquired a taste for what’s out there. To be sure, it’s difficult to abandon our regular haunts, if just for a week or a night. And it’s so tempting to return to all the sumptuous KJs we’ve come to know during our travels. I cannot be in more than one place at a time, and I can’t continue my run, after completing my task. It’s exhausting going out EVERY night!

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The long nights are taking their toll.
Me and Teresa

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As I said, the long nights are taking their toll!
Me, and Teresa, with Earl singing in the background.

Still I know that I’ll keep expanding my horizons, well beyond 22 days. Karaoke-dokey USA!

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But that’s looking to the future, let me get back to tonight…

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In the karaoke pit

Tonight we go to Jaxon’s. It’s a hotel bar, adjacent to the lobby and restaurant of a Radisson Resort Hotel in south Scottsdale. It’s a new bar experience for us on our karaoke quest. We’ve been to dive bars, rock ‘n roll bars, gay bars, restaurant bars, sports bars, and of course, Pho Cao.  Most of you, no doubt, have been in or seen hotel bars before. And like most bars, this one comes with its own set of regulars drinking the night away.

This karaoke spot was like a sunken living room, surrounded by the rest of the bar. On three sides above the sunken area were tables and booths – a part of the restaurant. The restaurant didn’t seem to be in use or open at the time. There were hallways and doorways that led to the lobby on one side, and restrooms on the other. The bar itself is outside the sunken area, all along one side of the main room. It is filled with the regulars, who can watch the karaoke singers carry on a few feet below. It’s an odd scenario, but then maybe not, considering all the other places we’ve been to.

After entering the door to Jaxon’s from the street, there are a few steps to the left. Take them down into the room, and now you are in a fish bowl. There is a pool table on one side of the small room. KJ Kiki and her console were centered on the other side, with the monitor perched right above. As you face the monitor from the center of the room, in front of the pool table, you are also facing the bar full of patrons. Down in this karaoke area, there are a half-dozen tall tables with bar stools, and there we sat. I was joined by Teresa, Suze, her niece Andrea (who also joined us on Day 9), and my cousin Earl.

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Cousin Earl singing

A word or two about Earl

My cousin Earl had been following the karaoke-dokey journey via my intermittent posts on FaceBook. I had taken to checking in occasionally and posting a quick something about the night’s adventures. I had also been posting invites and announcing where we would be, so friends could come join us.

Then one day Earl commented that he might do just that.  Well, my cousin Earl lives in northern California, in Stockton. I thought at first his comment was made just as a gesture of support for my quest. ThoughI knew he also enjoyed karaoke. And then it became clear to me that he indeed was going to travel out to Phoenix, and join us when we went out to sing. I’d like to take it as a compliment, although I’m not certain at all that’s how he intended it. It was special, in any case. He drove the long distance, and stayed with me and my sons for a few days. It was nice to have the extra support and company, especially during our final two days. Way to go, Earl!

The songs:

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Me and Teresa

It isn’t but moments after we arrive and find our seats that the KJ Kiki puts on Journey’s The City. She asks if anyone wants to sing it with her. Well, of course! Not a huge Journey fan, but it’s a song I haven’t sung before, and it’s a chance to do a duet. So I do. Then I decide to sing Train’s Drops of Jupiter, and finally, Teresa and I sing Gimme Shelter (by the Rolling Stones). A second duet. Nice. Everyone is singing and having a good time. The KJ is friendly and competent. It’s an easy-going place. But…

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Me and Teresa strike a pose

The heat

Okay, we weren’t loving Jaxon’s, I’m sorry to say. It was the heat. Late June and it felt as if their air conditioner had ceased to work. Only nobody said anything. None of the patrons, nor the employees. No one was working on fixing the A/C, not even a “sorry, bear with us”. After a bit, I was ready to pack it in. We had gone to a new place, and I had sung. Oh, but I wasn’t ready to call it quits for karaoke that night. No way!

I had met all the requirements; I had sung my duet, and danced, of course. I also had had a drink, and enjoyed spending time with good company. Trouble was we were still waiting for Suze to show up. I had let her know we didn’t want to stay much longer, but she had to do her part of the project too.  

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Andrea and the Suze

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The Suze et moi – all smiles

Suze had been taking notes of her own at each karaoke venue, and logging data into a massive spreadsheet about all the karaoke offerings in the valley. We had but scratched the surface. So much more to explore.

After Suze arrived and completed her task, we were off. The night awaits!

Next!

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Whoo! Sing it girl!

On to Pho Cao – just down the street really. South Scottsdale and north Tempe are adjacent, blend together, and have about the same flavor. Let me put it this way – south Scottsdale is nothing like north Scottsdale.

Due to the heat – A/C on the fritz and it’s deep June in the Sonoran desert – we made our way to Pho Cao, less than a mile away. We kind of love Pho Cao (see Day 13), and are glad to be back. The same resplendent sofas, the same commanding stage, and the wonderful KJ Emma. We settle in, and start adding songs to the list.

More songs! More singing!

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Groovin’ with Emma

Amazing though it seems, I’m able to sing another four songs. I sang My Man (the Barbra Streisand version) and Holiday (Madonna). I also sang a duet with Teresa, Under Pressure (David Bowie and Queen). Then Teresa, Suze and I sang our Andrews Sisters trio Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Whoo! That was a hoot! So much fun.

By the end of the night, I am up to 95 songs! And have become determined to hit 100 songs by the end of Day 22. It’s now so do-able. Thanks, Emma. Thanks Pho Cao, and thanks too to Jaxon’s.

Day 20 – June 27, 2013 at Gilligan’s in Scottsdale

Day 20 – June 27th at Gilligan’s in Scottsdale

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This night we’re in old town Scottsdale at Gilligan’s with our KJ host Dan Dan, accompanied and assisted by his partner/girlfriend Priscilla. We’re familiar with Dan Dan from Day 11at the Goat Head. Of course, there is the same massive binder of songs, the same crazy slides and videos we’ve come to expect from a Dan Dan show, in all, the same great entertainment. Priscilla and Dan Dan are cool folks to hang out with. We’re looking forward to a fun night.

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Gilligan’s Island

Gilligan’s is named for the TV show Gilligan’s Island, and the place is decked with party décor. There is a large patio that you pass through to enter the front door. Inside they are going for a kind of island-y feel, as in lost-at-sea trying-to-get-off-this-island ambiance.  There is a full bar alongside the entire back wall of the medium-sized room, equipped with sixteen bar stools, and one swing (why, I don’t know, but I was sure to try it out).

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There is another short bar directly to the right as you enter. It is purportedly a “midget bar”.  This bar is lower and shorter than most, with six bar stools a couple feet off the ground. It is also tended by an honest-to-god “midget” – I of course mean “little person”, but this place is in no way attempting to be PC, so we’d better lay it out there.  It fits Dan Dan the karaoke man, cause his show gets wild. Offensive? Maybe to some…but that doesn’t seem to worry him none.

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Karaoke time

There are lots of monitors placed about the bar, making the lyrics easily visible. Dan Dan is set up with his laptop and console in the corner by a large screen across from the long bar. Close to the screen are nine tables with seats in the center of the room. Bar food is served until 1:30 am, and “midnight specials” kick in at 11 pm.

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It was sparse when we got there. There were two or three others sitting at the bar, when Suze and I arrived. We took a seat near the front – toward the KJ set up and large screen. Then we looked through the binders, and chatted with Priscilla for a bit. Karaoke was off to a late start that night, and didn’t begin until after 10 pm. It was understandable as Suze and I were the only singers there at first. Then one other person showed up, so it was the three of us, plus Dan Dan and Priscilla in rotation. Just before 11 pm, a group of three or four guys showed up to sing too.

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As the rotation was light, Dan Dan put in filler music and videos. But then he usually does this.  This night it was XTC (yay!), ZZ Top, and an awesome R&B song by Raphael Saadiq. Very entertaining. These music – and occasional comedic – videos provide a brief respite from all the singing. However, when there’s a long list of singers, it does add to the wait. Just sayin’, Dan Dan. Happily, not that night, though. Turns out there was plenty of time to get our sing on.

The songs:

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I was so thrilled to discover that Dan Dan had found a few songs that I love to sing, that no one else has available for karaoke. Sade’s Is it a Crime? and Maria McKee’s If Love is a Red Dress. So excited! Awesome. I’ve also been on the lookout for Leela James’ version of A Change is Gonna Come.  Dan Dan had Sam Cooke’s version, so I made do. Very nice. I also sang Express Yourself (Madonna), and Cry Me a River (Barbra Streisand’s version).  The requisite duet I sang with the Suze :You’re So Vain (Carly Simon). Of course, there was dancing throughout the night. That is just how we do it, people.

Scottsdale “babies”

Suze and I were almost ready to call it a night after a couple hours or so. Toward midnight, in walked a drunken wedding reception party of about thirty 20-somethings (“babies”). Suze and I each had a song or two left in the rotation, so we planned to stay to finish up. The large group of drunks filled up the place with their revelry. The mood changed from intimate and cozy, to irreverent and boisterous. No worries. We are comfortable either way. The wedding singers started putting their own songs onto the list, and taking the stage (really just an open area near the big screen).  The list suddenly got really long, and the joint got very lively. When Suze sang Wildest Dreams, one young guy danced with her as she sang. He was acting a bit wild, as Suze kept singing, keeping her composure all along.  This kind of abandon can be very enjoyable, but…we were on our way out. And the wedding party was already drunk before they got there. Inebriated Scottsdale “babies” – draw your own conclusions.

It was a successful night of much singing and good times. There’s always seems to be something unusual to make the night special. Onward to Day 21!

Day 19 – June 26, 2013 at Rum Runners in Phoenix

Day 19 – June 26th at Rum Runners in north Phoenix

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That is 19 fingers, Nora’s thumb is sort of bent down…?

Rum Runners – Pirate Bar

Okay, so maybe you’ve read about our visit to the Gypsy Bar (Day 18) where we met the memorable Mystic Molly.

Tonight, we’re off to Rum Runners – which just happens to be Molly’s regular off-duty bar. I had of course told her of my quest (the 22 days of karaoke). She knew I’d be at her hang out – Rum Runners, a pirate bar – the next day. So Yay! I was welcomed warmly when I arrived.

Yet, the reason we had selected Rum Runners is because an old high school chum of Suze’s, Nora, had invited us. It is her regular karaoke bar too. Yay! More people to welcome me! Thanks, Nora.

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Nora and me

I say welcome me, because it turns out that Suze was tied up that night, very busy until late. A story in itself. Unfortunately, she never made it to join me at Rum Runners that night. Boo! So ended her karaoke-dokey adventure with 16 days of successful successive karaoke. Oh, she joins me on the last few days of my 22, but her streak was interrupted on this night.

Red carpet welcome

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Owner Debbie with a happy customer

When I arrived, I saw Molly outside smoking, with a few friends. In fact, just about all present at this small dive bar are friends of Molly. She introduced me to everyone including owner Debbie, and showed me to a table, where she had saved a spot for me. I am touched, and want to join them. However, I had to find Nora, as she was also waiting for me. I located her shortly, and we took our seats near Molly and company. Everyone is friendly, and I feel right at home.

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Jackie, Heidi and Molly

Nora wondered, “How do you know everyone?” I can’t really explain it. I had only met Molly yesterday, but apparently we had both made an impression on one another (see Day 18!). I was glad to be welcomed to her bar, her neighborhood, and into her entourage, if even for one night.  I must say too that Nora was sweet to look after me, and though we missed having Suze with us, had a good time hanging out.

Signage!

Okay, as far as décor this bar is pretty typical of the dive bar variety. There is a pool table near the front door. There is a long bar along one side of the room lined with fifteen tall stools. As the bar fills up, so do these seats, with almost a dozen regulars. There are about five tall round tables in the center of the room. Along the other side of the room is a shuffle board. And the restrooms are in the back. It’s a small, narrow space, filled with friendly patrons who mostly know each other.

One notable distinction. Rum Runners is crazy for signage. On every wall, in the bathrooms, and even the ceiling. Some are informative and some are humorous. Some advertise and some warn: for example, no drama will be tolerated. And they serve all customers, but will choose which of us are customers, and which are not. Okay. I will be on my best behavior.

KJ and Set-Up:

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Thom and Nora

The KJ is a lovely gentleman named Thom. He is the second person I know personally to use the “h” in his nickname. He has a resonant and robust baritone voice, and specializes in Neil Diamond songs. Sounds great singing other selections too.

Thom has binders like most KJs, and singers write their selections onto slips of paper. He also doesn’t mind if you ask him directly, as he looks up your songs on his laptop. His console is set up in the corner, beyond the tables, and across from the bar. One monitor is perched above the KJ area,  another one above the bar, and a third above the shuffleboard. No worries – you can pretty much see a monitor from almost anywhere in the bar. It’s compact in there, so find a spot to sing, plant yourself, and hold your ground.

Singers and Songs

At first there are only about six or seven singers in rotation. As it got later, a few more singers showed up. However, I was able to sing an unprecedented seven songs that night, including two duets. Whoo-hoo!

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Nora had been following my blog, and was aware of the karaoke-dokey rules I’ve imposed upon myself. She was determined to follow the rules along with me. So we danced, and we sang a duet together: The Beat Goes On (Sonny and Cher).  I got to sing Sonny’s part. Both parts are in a low range, so it hardly mattered. Plus I can be flexible. Why not?

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Dancing! Yeah, I’m sure that’s what I’m doing here (with Nora).

I also sang several new songs (for me): Wild Horses (the Rolling Stones), Take a Bow (Madonna), and New York State of Mind (Billy Joel). I wasn’t wild about my rendition of Wild Horses, but Take a Bow has become one of my favorites. I also love New York State of Mind, but it is rather long.

I started off with one of my clinchers, I’ll Stand by You (Chrissie Hynde), and sang another later, Ooh Baby Baby (Smokey Robinson). There was so much opportunity to sing that I couldn’t resist. I also got the chance to sing a duet with KJ Thom! – You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. That was fun.

New voices and new faces

Molly and her friends all sing well, and that just made the night more engaging. A really friendly and fun group of people. Of course, we cheer everyone who’s taking the microphone. That is after paying attention in the usual looking-as-if-you’re-doing-something-else-entirely karaoke crowd style. And this being a bar, drinking was also on the agenda. I can’t say I indulged much that night, but let me put this another way: this is a fun group of people.

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Nora singing

I also had a good time getting to know Nora. She’s another one with a nice voice, both sweet and powerful. But it was weird with no Suze. She was definitely missed. Suze and I would have to come back another time, together. During my stay at the pirate bar, my BFF Teresa stopped by to give me support in my on-going karaoke ventures. However, she stayed only a short while, and left without singing or drinking. ‘Tis a shame.

I suppose this will be a night of making new friends. I’m fine with that.

Arrrrr!

Rum Runners is a cool place, if you give it a chance, and leave your drama at the door. There is much good karaoke fun to be had, and a lively crowd to share good times with. As I left, I said good-bye to a small group of drunken smokers outside on a bench. Molly was there amongst them. It was where I first encountered her that night, although she was closer to sober earlier. It is a bit of a drive for me, but I vowed to return. There are many dive bars, and many offer karaoke. Some other bars may have a group of people who like to party on a Wednesday night. At Rum Runners, they took me in and made me feel welcome. A pirate’s life for me!

DAY 18 – June 25, 2013 at Gypsy Bar in Phoenix

Day 18 – June 25th at Gypsy Bar in downtown Phoenix

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Irony at the Gypsy

The first time I went to the Gypsy Bar in central Phoenix, I pictured an arty bohemian hole-in-the-wall with lots of character and kitsch. The kind of place you see along Roosevelt during the First Friday Art Walks – independently-owned converted houses, transformed into an eclectic dream, unique and bursting with flavor. 

This is not what I found.

There is nothing whatsoever gypsy-like about the Gypsy Bar. In fact, the “Gypsy Bar” is but one feature of a corporate monstrosity also housing an upscale bowling alley (the Lucky Strike), an arcade, and various other bar-like rooms linking it all together. This establishment is over 10,000 square feet of corporate funded fun.

There is definitely a lot of money sunk into this place. Everything is a little posh here at the “gypsy” and its sister attractions.

The business is also not anywhere near the Roosevelt district of Phoenix, but located near the ballpark. In fact, it’s difficult to find, unless you walk down Central Avenue between Washington and Jefferson, or manage to park under the structure. Its address is on Jefferson, but if you look there, you will not find it. MapQuest, nor Google Maps, nor your GPS will help you. Mark my words.

Once you find the building that houses the “Gypsy Bar”, you’ll climb to the second floor, and enter by the plush bowling alley. You’ll traverse through various rooms, until you find a large oval well-appointed bar. A few steps down, and you’ve entered the dance arena. A number of leather couches encircle a rather large dance floor.  

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The Set-up & KJ:

One length of the dance floor sports the stage, a few feet off the ground. This is where the KJ sets up and conducts her show. Singers are also free to take the stage, or the floor, or navigate the large room.

Since I had been to the Gypsy once before (albeit not for karaoke), I knew what to expect. Well, sort of. Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer mad energy and spectacle of a Mystic Molly karaoke show.

The provider for the karaoke shows at the Gypsy Bar on Tuesdays is Starz Karaoke. We are familiar with their book, as it’s available online, sporting the same song list as a couple of our regular haunts.

Assisting Molly that night was her friend and follow KJ Frankthatank, also with Starz. They are both friendly and capable KJs.

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Time to sing!

I had parked and found the place with no trouble at all (this time). I found a good spot in the center leather sofa, facing the large dance floor, and large stage.  My friends began to show up and joined me on the sofa. Teresa, Suze, and Bosco. We all sang, and the drinks (though expensive) were good, and the crowd lively.

Karaoke starts and ends early, from 8 pm to midnight. We arrived closer to nine, and left just before the end, in all about three hours.

Although the rotation was light at first – only 5-6 singers on the list – it grew as the place filled up closer to ten. That’s pretty typical of a lot of places. If you want to sing more, arrive early. Most people don’t go out earlier than ten.

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The songs:

First I sang Gypsy – duh! It’s a gypsy bar! Right…? – by Fleetwood Mac, and it went okay. I sang a duet with Teresa, Time of the Season by The Zombies. We’ve sung this song tons of times over decades, always a cappella. We were well pleased with how it went. I sang So in Love (from the musical Kiss Me Kate), and had a little unexpected assist. A young woman from the crowd had glommed on to me after some of us had been dancing. I was handed the microphone, then climbed up to perch upon the wooden room divider just above our seats. As I sat there, this young woman leaned toward the microphone, very close to my face, and began to sing along. It didn’t matter much that she didn’t know the melody. It’s a slow song, so she’d find a pitch and an approximate vowel, and chime in. I thought it was rather charming at the time. Not something I’m usually very patient with, however.

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Team building

At first the crowd consisted of a mob of corporate types, literally being stand-off-ish. They wouldn’t enter the dance area, and instead hovered about behind the sofas, blocking the way. I tried to talk to them, and gave them a friendly greeting that went unacknowledged.

Maybe they were there on a company team-building evening out. In any case, they were an insular group. They had on corporate name tags, and had wandered down to the karaoke area in order to humiliate one of their own into singing a Celine Dion song.

Karaoke slumming. 

Turns out their chosen victim wasn’t shy about it at all, and did a fine job with the power ballad. Another one of the company men sang Sweet Caroline, which they all enjoyed immensely. That song for whatever reason is always a crowd pleaser. Then the whole group of twenty or thirty people took off. 

Babies

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Many of the other patrons that night were young – in their 20s – babies. There was one guy who, while singing Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell, climbed over all the furniture and really put on a show. Very entertaining. The crowd went wild. There were also a cluster of Christmas elves and a Santa. This was in June. This place was slightly crazy.

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The ambiance, the music, the singing, the energy…off-kilter and alive. There was a growing buzz, leading to something wild and profane.  

One of the babies was turning 21, and had her birthday party with her. They were youthful, joyful and spontaneous. I joined them on the dance floor. Often when the music takes over, and the crowd goes a bit crazy, I prefer to be a participant. I don’t stay too long on the sidelines.

Mystic Molly

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The coup de grace however was dealt by the amazing KJ Mystic Molly. The centerpiece of the night was her celebration of the 21-year-old’s birthday. Mystic Molly gave our young friend Megan a lap dance that will live in infamy. A couple things you should know. 1) Molly must be known for these displays of debauchery, because 2) it seemed clear the birthday girl came here that night especially for this treatment. And 3) the lap dance is not a traditional lap dance, i.e. it is not in the least erotic.

Now Molly says there is a clear divide when it comes to her shows: there are those who love her, and those who…umless than like this sort of thing. This show is not something you take lightly, and it’s not something you stay ambivalent about.

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The birthday girl was put through the motions, positioned every which way, whilst Molly simulated sex acts with her. They were, of course, fully clothed. Sometimes the nasty bits didn’t quite match up, but you know that’s not really the point. No one was getting off, not the participants, and probably not the spectators. What made it particularly entertaining for me was the nonchalant look on Molly’s face. She looked completely disinterested while she manipulated this sweet young thing – as she gyrated above her, from behind her, and underneath her. This was not a chair dance. I would say they laid upon the dance floor, except they kept moving into new positions. The young gal seemed completely passive and willing to be put through all this. It was a rite of passage. For her, it was a marvelous birthday. And for her friends a wonderful show. The crowd hooted and hollered, took photos and video. Appreciative and a bit stunned too.

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More Irony

Much of what we witnessed that night was not entirely expected. Unless you’re familiar with a Mystic Molly show. I hope she doesn’t take any offense, because none is intended, but I’d have to say there wasn’t  much that was mystical about it.

Just as there were no gypsies there either.

It was a night of contradictions.

As I left, my brain was filled with epiphanies. Was it the lights and music and entertainment that left me feeling intoxicated and full of life? Was it those Bloody Marys?  (I swear I only drank two!)

While I drove home that night, I longed to pull over and write in my journal. I looked for an open coffee shop, one with a hipster vibe, no, make that a gypsy feel to it. I wanted to sit in a corner, drink some tea, and capture all the thoughts bouncing around in my head. I tried to do just that, in incoherent script. The next day much of the mystical magic was lost to me.

Another loss: Mystic Molly of outrageous KJ fame is no longer a staple of the Phoenix karaoke scene. She is taking a lengthy hiatus, and even hints that she’ll be but an occasional visitor to this world. We may never see a Mystic Molly lap dance show again.  I’ll count myself as lucky to have been there at the Gypsy Bar that night.

Day 17 – June 24, 2013 at Bridgett’s Last Laugh

Day 17 – June 24th at Brigett’s Last Laugh in north Phoenix

by Rachel Enger aka Rac Hellion

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I have heard others mention Brigett’s Last Laugh off and on for a number of years now. Way before I took karaoke too seriously. It had always been lauded as the best place for karaoke in the valley. Followed quickly with the caveat that it’s always crowded too. I’m told it’s difficult to get a chance to sing.

I had never been there before. Mostly because it seemed like quite a drive. Also, it seemed like a lot of trouble for a place – though reputably awesome – where you may not get to sing.  So I had never gone out of my way to check it out for myself. Whenever seeking a karaoke experience, I looked for places closer to home. However, since the karaoke-dokey project took shape – and consequently I’ve taken karaoke much more seriously – we needed to include the famed Bridgett’s.

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Five Star Dive Bar

Bridgett’s claims to be your “5 Star Dive Bar” and “Karaoke Kapital”, boasting karaoke seven days a week, plus on some nights they offer comedy shows, or team trivia. They also serve food, and the kitchen is open until 10 pm (on weekdays).

Bridgett’s looks good from the outside, and doesn’t not really appear to be a dive bar. But perhaps as they claim, it’s a Five Star Dive Bar. From the entrance – which is in the center of the building – you can turn to the right into the karaoke section, or go to the left and find yourself some pool tables. In between these two areas is the horseshoe bar with stools about. The karaoke area – where we spent most of our time that night – had twenty or so tables and seats. On the other side of the bar with the pool tables were more tables and some booths, for those less interested in all the singing. Although it’s difficult for me to imagine how that could be.

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Karaoke Every Night

Karaoke starts at 9 pm every night. Suze and I anticipated it would be crowded, so we went on a Monday, hoping it wasn’t so bad. We arrived at about 9:30 and stayed a few hours. There were already plenty of singers there, about twelve on the list. By 11:30 pm it was back down to 15 singers, after peaking at 24 in the rotation. The bar area set up for karaoke had plenty of patrons. It started with about a dozen people and grew. By midnight, it was crowded and noisy. This is on a Monday night.

I was told by people there that it gets really busy on weekends. With many singers waiting a long time to sing. So the rumor was true. I was glad to be there with a lively group of karaoke-positive people. Suze and I were able to sing a lot, mingle a bit, and hang out in a party atmosphere rich with camaraderie.

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The Songs:

I was able to sing five songs that night.  I sang Adia (Sarah Mclaughlin), Ready to Go (Republica), and Rock Steady (Aretha Franklin) – all of which went pretty well. Then came the duet, with Suze. We chose Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart (the Elton John and Kiki Dee song from the 70s), mostly because we both knew it. Or so we thought.

The track sounded like an extended disco version of the song. Right from the start, the intro had a crazy synthesizer beat, instead of the familiar strings and keyboard. It was difficult for either of us to find a starting pitch. But we forged ahead, and jumped in with some kind of notes. I struggled with trying to stay in tune with the very strange accompanying music track. I thought about picking notes that sounded right with what Suze was singing. And I probably employed a little of both strategies, never feeling entirely successful. By the end, I thought I was singing correctly, but it still didn’t match Suze. I believe we both thought it was the other who was off-key at times, or at least not singing the melody correctly. It’s possible neither of us was doing it right. It was something of a train wreck. If we had a recording of it, perhaps we would be able to go back and figure it out. Thankfully no recording of our failed attempt at singing this mediocre song exists.

I also sang a fifth song, a request from someone in the crowd. She was there with a friend – who had been singing all night – but she herself wasn’t singing. She asked me to sing a Barbra Streisand song. So I agreed. I know a few of Streisand’s songs pretty well. We checked the list, and I suggested a couple. No, it has to be Don’t Rain on my Parade. This is a very challenging song. Okay, I’ll try it. Sure, I’ve sung it at home. But never at karaoke. It was a show stopper! I’m not sure I can duplicate the experience, but I know I’d like to try.

The KJ & Set up:

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The KJ was a guy named Crooks (his last name), who was filling in for the regular KJ (Terry AKA Papa T). There was a good selection of songs, in large binders. The regular KJ (Papa T) is an independent, with his own karaoke service, Papa T’s Darkside. 

The sound system was good, and there were four monitors placed strategically throughout the karaoke area, so a singer could see the words from many different vantage points. There was also an ominous neon sign proclaiming “Darkside”.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet Papa T that night.

Still Crooks took good care of us. He took slips of paper for song requests, or you could write them down on a list he kept near his laptop. There were also those mysterious – to me, anyway – black cartridges that contain songs, apparently. Many of them. How they were used in conjunction with the laptop technology I’m really not sure at all. But I’m happy to say Crooks played the music tracks, and kept everyone singing throughout the night.

Many of the regulars knew Crooks, who apparently is a regular himself. Unlike all the other KJs we’ve met, Crooks doesn’t take his turn in the rotation singing. I don’t know why.

Party People

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There were a lot of fun people there at Bridgett’s. I met another blogger, named El, and traded information with her. El was at Bridgett’s that night with a friend, to celebrate her birthday. They joined a group of people at a table near ours. This group had been singing and dancing most of the night. A couple sitting nearby at the bar got up to dance several times during all the singing. There were a few other small groups of cheerful party people seated at tables in the karaoke area. Crooks too joined in the dancing as he mingled about the crowd. It’s not uncommon during karaoke to see some dancing, to hear a fair amount of cheering, and seeing smiling faces. However, it was refreshing that Suze and I weren’t the only dancing people in the place. This was a fun group.  The camaraderie that’s a common feature in karaoke crowds was in abundance at Bridgett’s. This may be why so many have recommended coming here. Although through my karaoke-dokey experiences, I have grown certain there is a fair amount of revelry and karaoke inspired fun in almost any neighborhood.  

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Manic Monday

After a long day at work, and facing down the rest of the week, it’s nice to go someplace that has a relaxed atmosphere, or even a party atmosphere, to chase all the stress away. This night we enjoyed the company of many boisterous, fun-loving party-types. We all were having a blast singing, dancing, cheering, and yes, drinking. Some were seeing old friends, some were making new ones. This was a festive time, even on the most mundane day of the week.

Maybe it’s not unusual in the karaoke world to carry on as if nothing is too serious to get you down. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Music is joyful. You always hear how music can bring us together. And despite what some may believe, karaoke is joyous musical expression.

There’s a whole world out here. A whole beautiful, carefree world. Yours for the taking. Every night of the week.

Day 16 – June 23, 2013 at Plazma Video Bar in Phoenix

Day 16 – June 23rd at Plazma Video Bar in Phoenix

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Suze and I set out on Sunday for Plazma Video Bar in central Phoenix. This is a gay bar that had been recommended by several of Suze’s theater friends. We wanted to include a variety of places, and there are many to choose from, but we tend to value others’ input on where to go. So Plazma was it.

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I had wondered at the name…but after you get a thorough look around the place, it is clear. There are monitors displayed everywhere! You can see the screens elevated throughout the bar, at every turn. There are several on the patio, and even in the bathrooms. I don’t know if they are all actually “plasma” (or plazma) tv monitors, but you know what, who cares? That’s commitment!

Another dive bar:

So these dive bars start to look kind of the same after a while. The parking is in the rear, and so is the entrance to the bar. As you enter, one end of the bar is right there in front of you and continues along the wall. As you pass the bar, to the right, there is a pool table, almost directly in the center of the medium-sized room. Beyond the pool table there are a dozen bar stools and round “bar” tables filling up the rest of the space. 

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In the far corner to the right, there is a little elevated area, not quite large enough to be a stage. This is where the KJ has his immense black box of songs – sound equipment of some sort. Ironically, standing upon this “stage” seems to be the only spot from which one can’t see any of the monitors clearly. Believe me, I tried. If there’s a stage, I’m climbing up onto it. But there was little room, and it’s difficult to read the lyrics, so…not so much.  

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There is also a door exiting to the patio, which was walled in. In addition to another dozen tables, there were of course more monitors. You could literally sing from the patio – with the door closed – isolated from all the bar activity inside. While those inside the bar could still hear you singing. Interesting arrangement. Good for the nicotine-addicted and the shy as well.

The KJ and set-up:

The KJ at Plazma is Stephen. His is a pretty arcane system. I didn’t recognize the console he worked with. To me it just resembled a big black box, which the songs dwell within. (I’m not a sound engineer myself, can you tell?) Beyond that I don’t recall much, except that I didn’t understand it.

To get on the list, singers write down the song title from the binder and its corresponding number. You hand it to Stephen and he punches in the number. There is no laptop, and no database of selections, no downloads. It must be difficult to add new songs.  Suze suggested that perhaps KJ Stephen may have inherited this system from someone who compiled all the music long ago. Maybe he has neither the funds or desire to upgrade. Maybe. But I’m just reporting what is. There are obvious advantages to going with a more modern system.  

The Songs:

We arrived at this dive bar at about 9:30 pm, and as usual stayed late. There weren’t many others in the joint. Maybe a dozen total, half of us singing karaoke that night. With only 5-6 singers in rotation, it was possible to sing a lot. I sang six songs total, including a duet.

I sang Clocks (Coldplay), We Belong (Pat Benatar), Killing me Softly (Roberta Flack), Chuck E’s in Love (Riki Lee Jones), This Love (Maroon 5), and for the duet You’re the One that I Want (Olivia Newton John & John Travolta).

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New pals

I had been peering over the pretty meager binders, trying to find selections from my list (of 70-80 songs that I bring with me every night). However, I don’t bring reading glasses in to these dark haunts, though I know I should. So I seek out pockets of light. The best one here was over the pool table. I placed the binder on the pool table, and leaned over straining to read the normal-sized print on the pages.   A drunken man took an interest in my frustrations, and kept passing by and teasing me, “Haven’t you found anything to sing, yet?” Yes, I had. I just kept putting more songs in to the KJ, and needed more.

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Plus I had to sing a duet. Despite the variety in KJ delivery systems and styles, every book has You’re the one that I want (from Grease). Almost every night at karaoke, someone(s) sings that song. I might as well join them. It’s fun to vamp it up like Olivia Newton John. So I asked drunken David, and his pal Brian, if either would sing with me. Brian said he would, and we settled on the Grease tune.

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The binders didn’t have a lot of the more common karaoke songs (e.g. past hits, and current pop hits). However, there were a lot of selections from musicals, which was great for Suze. Her forte is showtunes, and her knowledge of such is abundant. They had quite a few songs she had been seeking, for example, tunes from Spring Awakening. Suze had been in a recent production of the show locally, in addition to other local theater shows. She is making a bit of a name for herself, and is often recognizable to those in the know.  And lo and behold, there were theater people in the place, who had seen the show, and had heard of her involvement in other productions as well. They all exchanged credentials – who knows whom, and who’s in which show currently, or up for a part, etc.

It’s a wrap!

Like many nights out enjoying karaoke, we met up with some friendly people, and had fun singing, and schmoozing. Onward to Day 17!

The Karaoke-dokey Song List ‘o songs

Some have expressed an interest in seeing the list of songs that I sang during the entire 22 Days of the Karaoke-dokey project – from Day 1 (June 8) – Day 22 (June 29).

In no particular order…I am providing the list (below).

  • There were only three songs that I repeated in the first few days. I’ll put these in blue.
  • I’m noting the duets with an asterisk.
  • At some point I started adding the latest songs sung to the bottom of the list, so I left it that way. I have not tried to group them in any way – by artist, alphabetical, etc.

There are 102 songs on the list!

You know I’m no good (Amy Winehouse)

Jar of Hearts (Christina Perri)

*Lady Marmalade (LaBelle)

Baby I love you (Aretha Franklin)

Hopelessly Devoted to you (Olivia Newton John)

Uninvited  (Alanis Morrisette)

Rolling in the Deep (Adele)

*Try (Pink)

At last (Etta James)

Like a Stone (Audioslave)

Mercy (Duffy)

We’re all alone  (Rita Coolidge)

What’s Up  (4 Non Blondes)

Look what they’ve done to my song, ma (Melanie)

Born on a bayou (CCR)

Zombie (the Cranberries)

Borderline (Madonna)

Since I fell for you (Lenny Welch)

Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead)

50 ways to say goodbye (Train)

Sara (Fleetwood Mac)

Evergreen (Barbra Streisand)

Just Give me a Reason (Pink)

*Love Shack (the B-52s)

*The Rose (Bette Midler)

Give it away (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Blue Bayou (Linda Ronstadt)

*Dream a little Dream (Mama Cass)

Gloria (Laura Branigan)

*Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)

Harden My Heart (Quarterflash)

*Mocking Bird (Carly Simon & James Taylor)

*Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty)

Mean to me (Linda Ronstadt)

Like a Prayer (Madonna)

Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney)

Mama’s broken heart (Miranda Lambert)

Maybe This Time (Liza Minnelli)

*Sentimental Journey (Doris Day)

White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)

True (Spandau Ballet)

Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield)

Oh, Darling! (the Beatles)

What I Did for Love (from A Chorus Line)

*Unforgettable (Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole)

*Satellite of Love (Lou Reed)

Torn (Natalie Imbruglia)

Wild is the Wind (David Bowie)

*Sorrow (David Bowie)

I never loved a man (Aretha Franklin)

First Cut is the Deepest (Rod Stewart)

*Help! (the Beatles)

Starlight (Muse)

Back to Black (Amy Winehouse)

*Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (Elton John & George Michael)

I Put a Spell on You (Creedence Clearwater Revival version)

*The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel)

Nothing Compares 2 U (Sinead O’Connor)

*Everybody Hurts (REM)

Atomic (Blondie)

This Love (Maroon 5)

*You’re the one that I want (Olivia Newton John & John Travolta)

Chuck E’s in Love (Riki Lee Jones)

Clocks (Coldplay)

We Belong  (Pat Benatar)

Killing Me Softly (Roberta Flack)

*Don’t go breakin’ my heart (Elton John & Kiki Dee)

Don’t rain on my parade  (Barbra Streisand)

Adia (Sarah McLachlan)

Ready to go (Republica)

Rock Steady (Aretha Franklin)

Gypsy (Fleetwood Mac)

So in Love (from Kiss Me Kate)

*Time of the Season (Zombies)

Ruby Tuesday (Melanie version)

New York State of Mind (Billy Joel)

Take a Bow (Madonna)

Wild Horses (Rolling Stones)

I’ll Stand by You (Pretenders)

Ooh Baby Baby (Linda Ronstadt)

*The Beat Goes On (Sonny & Cher)

*You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand)

Express Yourself (Madonna)

A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)

Cry Me a River (Barbra Streisand)

*You’re so vain (Carly Simon)

Is it a Crime? (Sade)

If love is a red dress (Maria McKee)

*The City (Journey)

Drops of Jupiter (Train)

*Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones)

My Man (Barbra Streisand)

*Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (Andrew Sisters)

Holiday (Madonna)

*Under Pressure (David Bowie & Queen)

Joey (Concrete Blonde)

Hallelujah (Alexandra Burke)

*Emotion (BeeGees)

Get into the Groove (Madonna)

Song #100    Dr. Feelgood (Aretha Franklin)

*Shiny Happy People (B-52s & REM)

*Islands in the Stream (Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers)