Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Karaoke Chronicles: DiVerti Bar & Grill

originally published in an issue of Tempe Starving Artist

diverti (adj.): 1. amused, entertained (French to English translation); 2. the latest bar and grill to inhabit the northeast corner of Mill Ave. and University Dr. in Tempe.

Longtime Tempe residents and ASU students on the ten-year plan might remember when 4 E. University Dr. was Ruby Tuesday's, then most recently Sucker Punch Sally's. Now, with hardly enough time to mourn these fallen comrades in Mill Avenue's war against the struggling economy (and the sneak attack by the Tempe Marketplace), DiVerti rises to defy the odds and remain a college town staple. I hope. I don't handle change well.

On Wednesday night, December 1, I was riding my bike past DiVerti from ASU's Empty Space Open Mic (on Rural and University, the first Wednesday of the month) when I saw the “Karaoke Tonight!” sandwich sign on the sidewalk. I was excited. See, growing up in Peoria, Mill Avenue was a magical, faraway place where cool college kids hung out. The few times we endured the trek to the distant East Valley, the tales we'd heard of all-night parties and sidewalk entertainment were confirmed, from drum circles to manic street preachers to the Coffee Plantation's mocha to Jack in the Box's treacherous drive-thru. Now, in adulthood, the beer goggles have been lifted and I see Mill as the desperate, strung-out whore it's always been, but, still, the thought of singing karaoke at its hub roused my inner child. If only my old chums from high school could see me now, me, well over 21 and strolling into a Mill Ave. bar on a WEEK night! Ha!

Of course, they didn't see me – and I don't know if anyone did. At 10 p.m., DiVerti was dead, and the K.J. (dubbed DJ Doubt It) was singing “Marco Polo” to just a few folks scattered around the dining room. The bartender, Eric, was hospitable, and we briefly discussed the doom and gloom of business at that corner before a large group came in and distracted his attention. A young lady among them sang Meatloaf's “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” wins the endurance award for her ten minute rendition, and was the highlight of my ninety minutes there.

So, this isn't much of a karaoke adventure. It's more of a plea. Please, go to DiVerti on Wednesday night for DJ Doubt It's karaoke time. My inner child wants to invite his friends next time and would be terribly embarrassed if the joint was closed.

You'll have an extensive song list to look forward to, and while I appreciate the KJ's attempt to lay down some ground rules at the beginning of the folder (including a rule that dissuades against depressing, broken-hearted ballads, a phenomenon easily avoided if those songs weren't options at all), the bottom line is, don't be an obnoxious mic hog. Drink specials are very affordable, too, with beers ranging from $2 to $4. All of this makes for a great midweek diversion, which may be what DiVerti means . . .

. . . Hopefully, it's not just a short phonetic jump to that bittersweet good-bye, a rivederci. I hope. I don't handle change well.

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