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