People routinely ask me how I can stand working karaoke night. To these skeptics I reply with the same patented answer, which is “Are you kidding me? It was my IDEA to host this karaoke night.”
They roll their eyes and go about their business, only because they don’t understand. Until they do.
As pablum as it might sound, I love music. I also enjoy watching other people’s appreciation of music. I’ve been tending bar on a karaoke night for the better part of twelve years. Rarely do they disappoint. Every so often, you’ll get an insanely talented person belting out a version of their favorite tune. And yes, every so often, you’ll encounter an unknowingly tone-deaf person doing the same thing. Either way, it’s enjoyable. When you see someone grab a microphone and take to the karaoke stage, you are witnessing, for better or for worse, their own personal take on another person’s poetry.
Occasionally, you will encounter the unlikeliest of performances, like the night I saw a French technical death metal band swing by my bar to perform karaoke love songs.
To call last Tuesday unintentionally magical would be underselling the experience.
The French heavy metal band Gorod is currently touring the U.S. with other metal acts named Cognitive (New Jersey), Killitorous (Ottawa), Flub (Sacramento) and Corrupted Saint (Florida). This is not the type of music I listen to. Even in high school, the heaviest I got is not what would be currently considered metal.
Prior to their show at a bar around the corner, the good lads behind Gorod, who have now been recording music together for 25 years, stopped by our Irish pub for a warm-cooked meal and a few pre-show pints. We befriended them, played their music over our sound system, and even bought some concert t-shirts to support the band. We invited them to return after their show for another likely well-deserved round of drinks.
Little did we know they’d bring their entire ticket of performers, who meshed unexpectedly well with our already busy karaoke night. One couple, admittedly super fans of the main act, came along with them.
That’s when I saw one of the most unlikely and downright hysterical things I’d ever seen. Death metal band members, and their fans, singing sappy karaoke love songs as the entire bar sang along in unison, which only proves that no matter how you dress, black cut-off shirts, jeans, perhaps a chain or two, no matter how you look, some piercings, ink, long hair or shaved head, we all share a love for music and happily embrace our inner music geek.
The members of the four metal bands gathered round as on one Gorod superfan hit the stage to sing none other than Vanessa Carlton’s “Thousand Miles.” If there were ever a song that could be considered the antithesis of death metal, Carlton’s “Thousand Miles” fits the bill. Her song about not having the nerve to talk to someone she has a crush on is a cheery, positive, toe-tapping, piano and string-driven tune that garnered her three Grammy nominations. It reached top five on the Billboard charts and number one on both Adult Contemporary and Mainstream charts in the early 2000s.
Gorod has never had a song sniff the Billboard charts, nor have any of the bands they’re currently touring with. But that didn’t stop them from singing along to Vanessa Carlton’s love ballad at the top of their lungs as one of their fans belted out the karaoke version of the song. It was one of the most incredulous moments you’ll ever see.
It wasn’t long after that the one of the members of the other bands sang “Never Gonna Give You Up” and yes, you have been Rick-rolled.
The musicians were all incredibly gracious and thanked us for the opportunity to blow off some steam, something they admittedly rarely got to do while on tour. Who ever knew Rick Astley was the cure to heavy metal angst?
And so, when people ask me why I enjoy working karaoke nights, it is for exactly that reason. Because music of all genres can bring us together in the most unexpected ways. Often imperfect, sometimes atonal, always heartfelt.
Cheers to the boys in the bands who swung by, sang along, and shared their tour stories with us. Safe travels, keep rockin’ and thanks for letting us… just… see you… smile.
Oh how fun! My stepson was in a couple heavy metal bands (which we know is not my wheelhouse) but we would go to some of the seediest dives to “support” the bands. I came away from these gatherings blown away with the unifying spirit of music
Me standing in my jeans and cowboy boots next to leather miniskirts and ripped fishnets, talking about music. Everyone was friendly and pleasant to the parentals.
LOVE this post! What a great, great story. Thx SC. Yr most amazing.
Great article, Chump! Miss those karaoke days singing along side ya 😜
Aime, What you wanna do? 🍻🍻
No one was disqualified on this night! People tend to forget Karaoke is about having fun! You lose the whole point of it if you think you are a rock star or Mariah Carey. If You’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!
Only in Ybor. God I love that town. Cheers!
We have another customer these days who really kneels into the music. Definitely not the greatest singer by any stretch, but he’s into it, I’ll give him that.
It was a pretty damn night.
You and the councilman are due for a visit soon.
I’ll never forget the day the group of us went to Good Time Charlie’s after some Bucs game. Toasty, I think we all got up there and sang. I think that was the night Tarty snuck Amstel Light bottles into the bar.
The rest, as they say, is history.
You helped kick this thing off.
You should see what Tuesday nights have become now.
You helped lay the foundation, brother.
We host a wild one on Tuesdays, as you can see…. and hear.