Karaoke-dokey Day 4
by Rachel Enger
It’s a Monday, and we’re heading to Rip’s in Phoenix. It’s a dive bar, and like a lot of dive bars, it has character. In fact, Rip’s is more of a rock n’ roll bar. It has a elevated area, kind of like a stage, and has live acts perform (rock n’ roll of some variety). Plus there’s a large area near the stage, for people to dance or gather while enjoying the band. There are a few tables to the side and at the back of the open area. Further back there is a bar, and beyond the bar some pinball machines, and I think a pool table. There are not a lot of places to sit inside, but there is a well frequented patio with more tables, where the smokers – and the singers in between songs – congregate.
Having an Audience
One of the things I favor about karaoke – though it’s not always possible – is to sing to and for others. Even if there are people about having their own good time, I still like to play to the audience. Once in a while, they may notice or acknowledge, or even clap and cheer me on. I like the interaction, and act accordingly when I’m the one listening or watching my fellow singers. It’s not set-up for that too well at Rip’s. It’s difficult to make a connection with the few people who may be sitting at the tables or at the bar, because they’re further away, and it’s pretty dark inside. Not entirely impossible, but difficult.
The set-up and the KJ
There is a mic stand with a microphone on a cord set up in the open area near the stage. However, if you prefer, the KJ may hand you a cordless mic. Just need to ask.There is a huge screen at Rip’s for everyone to see the lyrics and song information. As you probably already know, the singer views the lyrics while singing karaoke. If you know a song very well, this may not be necessary, but nonetheless, it’s there. It’s pretty much the main feature of karaoke singing. Canned music, in a similar style to which you’re accustomed (just like the artist does it). And the lyrics on a screen or monitor. No surprises. There is also other information on screen. The title, of course, and usually the artist, and the songwriters are credited. Often the song length and even the key are displayed prior to the song starting. And very useful is the countdown to when the vocals enter, plus the length of the instrumental interludes. These might be the intro, the outro, but also occur during a song. It can be very helpful to know whether you have time to swig a beverage, make an aside to a pal, or use the time for dancing.
Our KJ that night was Jenn. Jenn is very personable and welcoming. A gracious host. She also has an awesome voice, and seems to really connect with the bluesy songs. I like those too, and found we shared in interest in a number of songs. One thing that Suze and I noticed was that a venue (like Rip’s and some others) may have several nights designated for karaoke, but have different karaoke providers for each one. Jenn is with Paradigm.
We really liked the Paradigm system for several reasons. One, you can search the database of songs by artist or title at a laptop station. Then, after finding a song, you can select it, thereby adding yourself onto the list. You can do this with several songs, and then the KJ has them at her console, and will maintain the rotation. Two, you can see the rotation up on the big screen – who is next, second and third – so you can anticipate your turn. The singers were all introduced on screen with something friendly. The system was efficient, and the tone felt warm.
We have become pretty familiar with the various competing karaoke companies in the Phoenix area. There are also KJs who are independent, and these independent providers vary greatly among themselves as well. It’s fascinating to see the variety. I’ll mention some of that in this blog, about the providers, and the features we liked, etc.
However, I will mention now that my co-conspirator in this adventure – the Suzer – is gathering all sorts of information into a database. Eventually, all of that and more will be compiled onto a website, for anyone seeking reliable, up-to-date, comprehensive information about karaoke opportunities throughout Maricopa county. It may take us a year to visit all the locations, as there are over 140 listed already in her database. But No, no, no. I will not go for 140 consecutive days of karaoke. We’ll have to spread it out over a year, or recruit. Yes, that’s the ticket. Any takers?
Good times at Rip’s
At Rip’s, we sat at the one table near the front, also near the KJ station. It was well-lit, and we could get a good view of the performers. Suze and I were joined this night by Bosco, who not only frequents karaoke, but has taken an interest in this project. He – and his karaoke legacy – is after all the inspiration for this crazy undertaking. Also there that night were Alyssa (KJ at Boston’s) and her friend David. There were a number of regulars in the place, who did an amazing job entertaining us with their stage antics and great song choices. A highlight for me was when Adam sang A Perfect Day (a Lou Reed song I just LOVE). He sang his own rendition and so sincerely, it brought a tear to my eye. After emoting and cheering throughout the song, I ran over to give him a hug. Really great moments at Rip’s that Monday.
For those who know me, I am pretty well known for my unabashed nature, and chatting up strangers. Even giving random hugs is not really abhorrent behavior, for me anyway. It is noted by Suzer, however, as she’s on a personal quest during these outings to speak to strangers more easily and more often. You might think a drama teacher like Suze would be at ease in these social situations, but it’s often those who are most comfortable on stage who can feel the most shy at times. Me, I’m okay either way. Just don’t ask me to act!
Sing, yes. So I did. I sang a number of songs that night, as we stayed a while, and it wasn’t that crowded. I sang Like a Stone (by Audioslave), Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney), This aint your Mama’s Broken Heart (Miranda Lambert), and You Know I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse). Did I do a duet? Hm. I don’t have it written down. I must not have. But I guarantee you there was dancing. Definitely. was. dancing. Singing, karaoke, good friends, good times.
Stay tuned for Day 4, and Day 14 –
What? Why? – as I skip ahead and continue on, both! You’ll see.
Also, I will post a list of all the songs I’ve sung so far (as of Day 14, I’ve sung 55 different songs. Yep. It’s true. C’est vrai. Es verdad. Honest.)