Monday, March 7, 2011

The Karaoke Chronicles: O'Kelley's

originally published in an issue of "Tempe Starving Artist"

On Guadalupe and Dobson in westernmost Mesa, O'Kelley's is just far enough from the ASU campus to get away from all those Mill Avenue-oriented, amateur freshmen bar-hoppers*, but just close enough to offer more experienced drinkers a chance to enjoy a good dive bar in their own backyard. As the name implies, O'Kelley's is an Irish pub, with all the typical bar food trimmings and drink specials that would make St. Patrick forget about those pesky snakes – but most importantly, on Mondays and Thursdays, karaoke starts at 9 p.m.

I've been to O'Kelley's a few times, but only the latest visit was with the intention of writing a review, so I was particularly cognizant of the elements that would make for a great night of karaoke. Firstly, the song selection is tops, with a wide variety of rock classics, country (if you're into that), and some contemporary hits. (My date was impressed to find HIM, a Finnish goth band, in the folder, so I guess we should be, too!) The K.J. seems genuinely excited when you perform, and she plays an applause track that sounds like a hailstorm, sure to boost even the most timid performer's ego. The sound system is great, as well, but the bar divides the joint into two rooms, with one half dedicated to pool and darts, and venturing anywhere into that area is a karaoke black hole. Nobody over there is interested in hearing your rendition of Weezer's “Say It Ain't So,” and we both know that's their loss.

Be warned, though, that the distance from ASU is as much a blessing as it is a curse. On the right night, O'Kelley's is the kind of place that, if you bump into a tough guy's girlfriend during your, uhm, enthusiastic interpretation of Tenacious D's “Wonderboy,” said tough guy will shake your hand with a death grip and offer to “put you down” if you do it again. It's the kind of place that, if you offer the tough guy's girlfriend a drink to apologize for the accident, she will quickly and knowingly ask for a shot of Patron Silver, chilled, which is no cheap peace offering. Fortunately, it's the kind of place where such a gesture is well received, where the tough guy will shake your hand again afterward, calling your apology a “class move,” adding, “I like you now.” I'm not saying this happened to me or anything. O'Kelley's just strikes me as that kind of place.

If you get to O'Kelley's early, you'll sing all three of the songs you listed on your request slip, so I highly recommend this bar to karaoke enthusiasts interested in singing for fellow karaoke enthusiasts. It's a respite on the fringes of a college town, with all the implications that come with the territory.

*The kind that somehow puts a “w” in “shots,” i.e. “Let's do shawts!”

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