Karaoke-dokey at the Mighty Cup and Spoon Coffee House in Glendale
Summer solstice found us sitting outside in the yard of a Glendale “house” converted into a coffee shop, The Mighty Cup and Spoon. Nothing too mighty about it, at first glance. The house had been there a while, perhaps built a good half century ago or more. The wooden structure not so large or mighty, was decorated with Christmas-y lights and a giant wreath hung aloft its A frame above. Inside the décor was very eclectic. It was decorated with art on the walls, and there were artists’ wares and crafts for sale and displayed in each of the small rooms. Very similar to places I’ve seen in the Roosevelt district in central Phoenix. The coffee shop toward the back of the house offered coffee, of course, also frappes, smoothies, Italian sodas, sandwiches, and cakes. The food was good, and the prices were reasonable.
The set-up and KJ
Outside, there was a porch in front of the house, which provided a stage, as well as an entrance and a small table with a couple chairs. On the stage portion of the porch were two microphones, each on mic stands for the use of the karaoke singers. Directly to the side of the porch, but on the ground, was the KJ’s console on a table. Our KJ for the night was the capable Debbie. She ran the evening’s show with a no-nonsense and matter of fact manner. She was friendly, and seemed to know most of the people there, as did the proprietor of the coffee house. We were the unfamiliar ones, but no one made us feel like outsiders.
Interestingly, Debbie didn’t have a mic herself, and when it was time for the next singer in the rotation, she would yell out the name. Debbie uses Karafun, an online provider of karaoke selections. She also has her karaoke singers put their names and the songs on tiny slips of paper, that she then attaches to a cardboard box. She keeps each singer’s selections under a pushpin on the board, and has all the singers in rotation pinned to the board. It’s a unique system that seems to work well for her. The binders of songs she has available to patrons are circulated throughout the tables around the yard. However, I discovered that Debbie has lots of songs that are not listed in the binder. She can look them up and then you write it down. Or since there is Wi-Fi available, Suze just whipped out her IPad and searched the Karafun database for songs.
Occasionally Debbie would come over to our table – especially after we had been there a while – to clarify something about the song selection or who was up next. Usually, she was interacting with the people milling about her station. Everyone seemed to know each other and/or was from the neighborhood. Round midnight, Debbie sat down with us to chat and got our story – who was whom, why didn’t all of us sing…Suze and I had, of course, introduced ourselves and our mission from the outset. Debbie was amiable, welcoming, and supportive.
My family, plus 1
Suze and I had planned this trip way out to Glendale (from Tempe), not just in the interest of experiencing the diversity of the valley of the sun, but specifically to go to a family friendly place. The Mighty Cup and Spoon was purported to be just that, open to families and had karaoke too! To visit a karaoke place that was a coffee shop, catered to families, and was definitely not a bar atmosphere added to the allure. I wanted a variety of experiences to chronicle, and this place offered that.
However, Suze and I also had a very different, and more self-serving reason as well. We have children. I have two teen-age sons, who have been very patient with all these late night activities. Yeah, sure, mom, you’re on a karaoke project, that’s why you’re out late at the bars every night. Right. Three nights a week they’re at their dad’s, but you know, I was starting to feel a bit guilty. Leaving them at home while I go out singing and dancing and drinking every night. I was also starting to miss them, and wanted them to be part of the project, somehow. I do have their support, but wanted them along for the ride, at least just this once.
Suze has a slightly older son, Alex, who is 20. He and his friend Kennedy have been able to join us at karaoke previously, at places that allow them to sit in the restaurant area, and then sing in the bar. And though they were unable to join us at The Mighty Cup and Spoon, I know they’ll come along some other night.
I was glad, however, to take my two sons, Dalen and Declan with us. I also invited their dad (my ex-husband), as we are friendly co-parents, and parents who are friends. It’s not unusual for us to have family outings together. My view is that we didn’t cease to be a family, just because we are no longer a couple. So the five of us made an interesting ensemble.
I was also glad to be able to introduce karaoke to my kids, and even sang a duet with Declan. Dalen was intent on not singing, and he was the only one at our table not to do so. I sang five songs: The Beatles’ Help! with Declan, The First Cut is the Deepest (the Rod Stewart version), the Elton John and George Michael duet version of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Back to Black (Amy Winehouse), and Startlight (Muse). Suze and Joe each sang a few songs, including one duet together (Pleasant Valley Sunday by the Monkees). And Declan sang a Red Hot Chili Peppers song by himself (Dani California). I was so proud!
There were many children about, and a number of them sang too. Strewn about the entire grassy front yard were myriad patio tables and plastic or folding chairs. When we arrived about 8 pm, there weren’t a lot of folks there yet. About ten, I noticed the yard was full, there were upwards of 70 people, of all ages. There was a girl of about 7 or 8 wearing a blue wig, who sang an impressive Black Velvet. Many other kids got up to sing, ranging in ages from 3 years old to 13. Two little girls, maybe 3 and 5, sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (yes, apparently they do have that available on karaoke) – just adorable!
As usual the singers ranged from wonderful to nice try, and as usual the crowd was supportive. This is common in the world of karaoke. We’re all there to enjoy. In fact it seemed like this was the hot spot in the neighborhood. A place where your whole family can attend, and the kids are welcome and safe. Good times and free entertainment. Hell, you can even be the entertainment. Parents doting on their kids as they sang, took photographs, and warmly gave out congratulatory hugs. Nice.
There was a tinge of irony, however. Unlike the bars I’m unable to take my kids to (nor would I want to), there was a lot of cigarette smoking. This was a huge downside to me, I like to keep my throat and lungs clear of smoke, especially when I’m singing. Also, the restaurant/bars that have karaoke sometimes lets minors in to sing, and in those cases disallow anyone selecting songs with any cussing. At least until 11 pm. At which point, I guess, prime time is over.
At The Mighty Cup and Spoon, there were many songs sung throughout the night with cussing, and no one seemed to mind, not one parent objected. I thought I discerned two of the minors – whose songs had profanity in the lyrics – self-censor themselves as they sang. I know I did on Back to Black. There is a line which references someone’s “dick”, and I changed it to the clean version I’ve heard on Pandora, using the word “lips” instead. If you’re curious, you’ll just have to look it up. However, many singers just forged ahead singing out the swear words with gusto. No one minded, so no big deal. Just ironic for a “family friendly” place.
In addition, there were several openly armed men, with guns holstered at their hips. One gentleman was openly carrying a couple of weapons on his belt, a “glock” and a knife. Again not something you’re apt to see in a bar. At least not the many bars I am known to frequent. The only really un-family thing you’ll find at a bar – that was absent from the Mighty…- is what bars are primarily known for, alcohol. Everyone seemed to do just fine without it.
All the families and friends gathered there seemed to have a pleasant time together out on the lawn of The Mighty Cup and Spoon. They seemed as loving and genuine as any family anywhere, as they enjoyed a night of singing and listening to music together. I’m glad to count my family among them. Some mighty good times.