DAY 11 – June 18, 2013 at THREE Places!

DAY 11 – June 18, 2013 at THREE Places!

I visited three separate places on this date:

Toby Keith’s I love this Bar (in Mesa),

Goat Head Saloon (in Mesa), and

Iguana Mack’s (in Chandler). 

This is PART ONE telling of the short time spent at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar! 

So…you may be wondering how we chose which places to go for karaoke. So many places – at last count over 170 in the valley of the sun – and only 22 days!

I was the decider, which is not to say that Suze didn’t wield some influence – she most certainly did. I favored diversity, and others’ recommendations. Let’s go to different kinds of places, let’s try places we’ve heard about. Let’s try something new!

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar! 

Right. Suze chose a country bar: Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar! Why? It doesn’t just have karaoke, but something called “rock-aroke”. This is a version of karaoke with a live band. It’s something we’d both wanted to try. I wondered how much it differs to an open jam or open mic situation. I’ve done that before, “sat in” with a band or an artist. It can be fun, and sometimes a little nerve-wracking. You may not know exactly how they’re going to do the song, and you have to just go with it, be flexible. Presumably that spontaneity is taken out of the equation with “rock-aroke”, because you’re following the song “in the style of the artist”. So, no problem, right?

And it certainly will be a unique – and diverse – experience, n’est-ce-que pas? 

There are only a few places I know of that have rock-aroke. One, I had completely forgotten about – at the Sail Inn. Now that I’ve been reminded, we’ll have to check it out (post-karaoke-dokey project). Another is at the Tonic, but we had found out they’re suspending any karaoke until the fall. The third is Toby Keith’s place. And yes, his name is in the title of the bar.

Suze thought – correctly, as it turns out – that the music would be only country. But I thought, no way. Lots of country music these days is cross-over, the bands often sound kind of rock ‘n roll. I’ll bet they have some rock tunes available to sing. I started to rack my brains for songs I might do – beforehand. Rolling Stones? CCR?  

I was so wrong. No rock. Only country.  All right, mostly country. 98%. And I must admit that there are two genres I’m a bit inexperienced with – one of them is country. Admittedly, I could learn some more country songs, and I have throughout this project. It’s just – full disclosure here – I don’t listen to much country. Like, at all. So when I perused the song list – all of 125 songs – I only recognized about 14 songs. Many of the artists I hadn’t even heard of. Boy, am I out of my element! 

There were a few songs I might have been able to muster through: Black Horse and a Cherry Tree (a kind of bluesy song I do like, but haven’t really learned yet); I Love Rock ‘n Roll (very familiar, but honestly, I don’t care for the song, and wouldn’t enjoy singing it); Black Velvet (I like the song and could do it justice, if only I had practiced).

There really is more pressure performing a song with a band. On a legitimate stage. For patrons dancing and such.  

I know, I know. Picky, picky, picky. Yes, I can be.

The Set-up: 

The place is very large. The signage is large. The entrance is large. The lobby is large. The bar itself, straight ahead as you enter past the bouncer/ID guy is hella large. There is an area to the right of the bar that I didn’t explore. It may have been the restaurant. It too was expansive. There was a riding bull on the other side of the long, oval shaped bar. On the southeast end of the bar was a separate room, a VIP room. The walls were windows, so the VIPs could look out while in their secluded area, with fancy furniture. Everything in Toby Keith’s bar looked fancy, and the décor reminiscent of old westerns. They spared no expense.  A large, well-appointed, fancy saloon. 

The stage was also large. Especially compared to the stages that we’ve seen for karaoke, that is when there even is a stage. It was five feet off the ground, big enough to house an entire band, and then some. The KJ was on-stage, located off to one side. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet her. She stayed on stage, announcing which singer was up next, and watching over the proceedings. The people in the audience there to sing seemed to know what to do. They checked the song list, filled out their song request, and handed it to the KJ. The KJ was equipped with a laptop set up in the corner of the stage. The laptop monitor served as the karaoke monitor with the lyrics displayed. There was a microphone on a stand next to the KJ’s station and seat. The singer would stand at the mic, looking at the monitor, while the band off to the far right of the stage played the music. The band played well, and they seemed genuinely supportive of and encouraging to the singers.

Directly below the stage was the dance floor. A sizable dance floor. The whole place may have seemed larger, because there were few patrons there on a Tuesday night. Some were there to sing, certainly. And the singers’ friends there to enjoy and lend support. A few couples ventured onto the dance floor during the performances. A small, but content little crowd, in a very large and overwhelming place.

The Cop Out

Well, I had arrived before Suze, who was on her way from someplace in Phoenix. I had a chance to look over the place and the song list prior to her arrival. And, instead of kicking back and ordering a beverage, I texted her suggesting we move on to another place. Yep, I copped out.

Of course, Suze had to get there and see for herself. And note details for her karaoke database once she arrived. I went to the parking lot to get my list of other Tuesday night venues, and there were a couple in Mesa that weren’t too far away. Suze agreed that we would leave without singing. The only place we’ve done that. Turned tail and sauntered out. Not proud of it, but there it is. 

My apologies to those who like this kind of place. It’s not for me, but no judgment implied. Please, if you favor country music, I do recommend this gorgeous, large country bar in east Mesa. Enjoy!

We decided next to go visit Goat Head Saloon.

You’ll have to read Part II of Day 11 to find out more about our adventures that night!

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