Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Karaoke Chronicles: The Ninth Night of Russmas

Back in March, a co-worker and I emerged from a special job-related event in Costa Mesa, California, hungry for a little local karaoke. To the amazement of a relatively techno-ignorant fella like me, she pulled out her cell phone, Googled "Costa Mesa karaoke" or some such work combination, and found Durty Nelly's practically across from the street from us. That night, we stumbled into a kind of karaoke nirvana -- a joint that, contrary to its name, was clean, offered affordable drinks, and most importantly hosted an array of curious characters all bound by a love for their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame with their favorite vocal-free song track. Best of all, at the eye of this storm is Kevin, Orange County's 2007 K.J. of the Year, an award well earned and deserved.

Yes, while Durty Nelly's isn't necessarily my favorite place to sing karaoke (I prefer the dirt), Kevin is definitely my favorite person that facilitates it, for several reasons. First of all, he usually sings only one song every night, the first, and it's usually a hilarious Weird Al tune or an obscure remix of old favorites, keeping himself out of the rest of the rotation and running as smooth a show he can. Between performances, he plays videos, including viral oddities like the recent "Take On Me" literal version that is too hilarious to be believed. (A few nights after I met Davy Jones, he followed my song with a "Daydream Believer" clip. Nice.) Further, he looks like Weird Al, so much so that he appeared on a celebrity lookalike reality show and pulled off an excellent rendition of "Eat It." While his flair for the stage may imply a right to overwhelm it, Kevin's participation in any given song is never an intrusion; in fact, his cameos as Slash in Guns 'N Roses songs, or his spot on guitar solos in "Don't Stop Believin'," enhance the experience as light-hearted entertainment, versus the ego trip oft taken by performers and K.J.s alike. In short, Kevin obviously seeks to provide an interactive, multi-media karaoke experience, one that continues even when you get home, as you can peruse the pics he captures on his comprehensive website.

Of course, Kevin is only half of the equation, the crowd making up the difference for raucous fun. Consider the birthday parties that always reserve and dominate the room's coveted center tables, and the drunk cougars that end up on stage wiggling in a way they probably regret in the morning. Consider the rockabilly waitress and her performances of "Jailhouse Rock" or "Little Red Robin Hood," or John, the regular that nails the Killers' "All These Things That I've Done," every time. (I've mentioned him a few times by now . . .!) On this special night of Russmas, a definitively white guy sang a spot-on rendition of "The Humpty Dance" (sans silver nose, unfortunately), while others engaged in "scare-aoke" (when others turn in a mystery for you) that resulted in a spirited singalong of "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." I sang another Mellancamp classic, "The Authority Song" (which has quickly become one of my personal karaoke favorites), eventually followed by Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al."*

Thankfully, a few old friends joined my usual karaoke crew this time around, and for the first time all Russmas, all five of the folks at the Russmas table sang a song! It was truly a gift, to have friends and strangers alike united by music they love. If Ebenezer Scrooge hadn't been visited by the three spirits, Bob Cratchit needed only take the old bat to a karaoke night at the local barroom. Though, I'm sure he didn't have a phone that could've helped him find one. I guess some quests are best led by spirits -- and Durty Nelly's has those in spades, not just in those low-priced brews but in that spirited fellow behind the karaoke equipment, conjuring the best of karaoke past, present, and future. It truly wouldn't have been as merry a Russmas without him.

* "You Can Call Me Al" was one of the songs on Eric's list of requests, and a tune he and I performed often back in the day. Note that I said "performed," as I did all of the singing, but he would frequently rush the stage during the musical interludes to mimic the classic Paul Simon/Chevy Chase dance from the song's otherwise uneventful video. In fact, at Durty Nelly's, another '80s aficionado shouted up at me just before I engaged in the dance solo, "Where's your Chevy Chase?!" You were there in spirit, Eric, old friend -- a conjured spirit of Russmas past, indeed!

No comments: