Friday, January 2, 2009

The Karaoke Chronicles: The Twelfth Night of Russmas

Eleven days after the Twelve Nights of Russmas began, my birthday actually arrived, just as I had planned. The beginning of my two week vacation from work, I could've slept in that morning, but I awoke early in anticipation of Les Stroud's Good Morning America interview. Stroud, my latest man-crush, is the host of the Discovery Channel's Survivorman, an one-man reality show in which he authentically recreates seven days' worth of survival in tumultuous terrains. While twelve consecutive nights of karaoke by no means compare to a week of endurance in places like the Kalahari Desert or Canada's Boreal forest, I can relate the concept of committing to a project that demands the kind of determination that changes one's lifestyle. On the brink of my thirties, I'm not quite a homebody, but I'm definitely not a swinging socialite, either; in other words, I enjoy staying in as much as I enjoy going out. Twelve nights in a row? Surely even Paris Hilton isn't capable of that, but with karaoke as a catalyst, the effort is truly its own reward.

So what does one learn from twelve consecutive nights of karaoke in eleven different locations throughout Orange County, you ask? That the Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow duet "Picture" quickly becomes the most annoying song in the history of music when heard all twelve of those nights, that's what. Actually, the muses spared us that final night, perhaps because the Linbrook Bowling Alley's Kopa Room was just as dead that Monday as it was the Thursday night we started. Yet, one lesson learned is the tenacity of karaoke itself, how, despite the night of the week, it's still happening anywhere, it's still demanding participation from the faithful and inexperienced alike. For some places, karaoke fills the void between weekends; for other venues, it is the weekend. For some people, it's a whim; for others, it's a must. The soundtrack of dive bars and steakhouses alike, karaoke has become a staple in American nightlife, and there's no escaping it . . . much to Kid Rock's delight, I'm sure, as it keeps his career afloat.

Further, experiencing the karaoke has only been half of the Russmas celebration; blogging about it has been the proverbial pumpkin pie to this holiday's highly anticipated turkey dinner. My aim for these twelve Karaoke Chronicles has been threefold, an effort to (1.) recount a memorable, hopefully quirky evening of karaoke with friends, (2.) review specific karaoke venues throughout Orange County, (3.) to reminisce over certain songs or musicians that have made an impact on my life, and thus that I must "pay forward" to others via karaoke. Mission accomplished, on all fronts.

The final night of Russmas was relatively uneventful by way of peculiarity. The Kopa's Monday night K.J. kept the short rotation moving, and the participants varied from the standard stiffs to the talented extroverted. I was able to sing four songs: two that I had saved for my birthday, and two that have become personal favorites. They were:

"I'm A Believer" -- The Monkees
"Careless Whisper" -- Wham
"The Authority Song" -- John Mellancamp
"Piano Man" -- Billy Joel

I've been an avid Monkees fan for as long as I can remember; since my mom had an admittedly crush on Davy Jones, I dare say my fanaticism is genetic. I have plenty of blog entries dedicated to that, so . . . After "Piano Man," "Careless Whisper" is one of the first songs I ever sang karaoke. My mom has the Wham single on its original vinyl (actually, I have it now), and I fondly remember she and my dad slow-dancing to the tune in our living room when I was a kid. The ballad has become a part of my life's soundtrack; I'm sure you have similar songs. In my opinion, these are the best to share, because your performance will be authentic and free of trepidation. With a lifetime's worth of fondness for that particular tune, who cares what anyone thinks about the way you sing it? Careless, yes, but a whisper, hardly.

In attendance for my actual birthday was my ever-faithful girlfriend, who endured every night with patience and grace, and our friend Stephanie, the runner-up for most dedicated to the cause. A few other co-workers joined us, one of whom was accompanied by an old friend that resides in Japan. Kim had been in town a few months prior and I met him at the Kopa then, too, so his participation this time 'round was darn near poetic; on that June night, he wowed the crowd with a harmonica solo that rivaled the best blues musicians. He was in similar form on my birthday, and I was thrilled when he agreed to join me for "Piano Man," blowing harp to my vocals and making for a truly memorable last performance. He answered that persistent question, "Man, what are you doing here?" with a musical poignancy.

"I'm here to conclude a dozen nights of marathon karaoke that celebrate my twenty-ninth year of life, that's what!" Sing 'em a song, I did . . . actually, thirty-two songs in all . . . and I survived.

1 comment:

Kat said...

Happy Belated Birthday! sounds like your many nights of karaoke were a success! Congrats lol