Day 17 – June 24th at Brigett’s Last Laugh in north Phoenix
by Rachel Enger aka Rac Hellion
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.