Thursday, September 30, 2010

How it all began, Part 2

So, I worked my way up to singing at real karaoke bars but still usually on slow nights and when the majority of patrons were already my friends. I got pretty comfortable singing in front of people we knew, one time I sang a song at a party at our house and it made every hair on my body stand on end. I felt like I gave birth to that song. Jon sent me an email saying it moved him. I was on cloud nine.

So the problem was I wasn't getting the same rush when I sang at a karaoke bar. Sometimes I'd glimpse it but it almost started to feel routine. I needed to up the ante. So one night I'm in a bar having dinner with some friends and the waitress randomly says "Are ya staying for the karaoke? We were voted best in Seattle." and I what I thought she said was "A news crew is coming Saturday." so I was kind of taunting myself with the idea of going back to sing in front of a camera. I reasoned that there would be tons of footage shot but only like 30 seconds used so what were the chances it would be me? Right? Yeah, but I still didn't want to run the risk of being recognized so I decided I would need to figure out some kind of disguise. The easiest and cheapest solution was to put on one of our full face snowboarding masks and be the karaoke terrorist. I thought this was an acceptable plan and announced it on Facebook. Luckily for me, someone pointed out that the night I was planning on being the karaoke terrorist happened to be September 11th.

I needed a new plan.

So I'm digging through our stuff and I have a hat with a generous brim, big dark sunglasses, my trench coat, a scarf... I was clearly missing a mustache. I almost bought a nice expensive human hair mustache that was designed to look realistic. I needed to attach it with spirit gum and everything! I am so lucky we are poor because the $1.50 totally completely impressively fake one that has a wire running through it so that I can form it into practically any shape is the most perfect accoutrement I could have asked for.

So, Mr E was born. I had been asking Craig to come with me to the Waterwheel Tavern for karaoke and this news crew. Thankfully he agreed to join me on this wild little ride because I can't imagine trying to walk into that place dressed as I was without some backup. We got there a little early, put in our song requests, ordered some drinks, and I periodically wiggled my mustache at anyone I saw whispering, pointing, or generally staring at me. Within five minutes at least 2 strangers complimented me on my mustache. By the time I was called up to sing I'm sure they were all certain that I was hiding behind this disguise because I was going to completely bomb. I decided I was going to put it all out there, sing like I was alone in my car, nobody would ever know except craig and somehow that felt safe enough so I picked a song I knew I could nail and I nailed it. All the sudden people are starting conversations with me, somebody takes my picture, people are curious and I am elusive and it is very very fun.

It is also very very crowded. Full of people who like to sing. The rotation was more than two hours PLUS, no news crew. =( So we decided to go after we'd had a song each. I dropped him back at his place but my itch hadn't been scratched so I decided I would stop at the Rickshaw to have another quick song. I was pretty sure they'd have the Fugee's version of Killing me Softly and that was what I really wanted to sing, it was my first big karaoke win and it's been my crutch ever since. So I pause in the parking lot and try to decide if I'm walking in there as me or Mr. E. I decide he is safer, put on my sunglasses and mustache and I'm on my way in the door.

The Rickshaw is a very random place, the kind of place that could be incredibly horrible but in an alluring kind of way- but they do karaoke 7 days a week and I knew it wouldn't take long to get one song in as a new singer so I jotted it down and as I was handing it to the DJ he says "Oh, we only have the Roberta Flack version." and I'm all "No deal." because I don't have any idea what that version sounds like and I'm not in the mood to make complete ass out of myself (says the person with a false mustache wearing sunglasses after midnight). He swears it's exactly the same without the rap beat backing and I ask him how sure he is and he says he's completely sure so I say fine and go order a drink.

While I'm waiting for my drink I am simultaneously asked if I am a transvestite and flirted with. The former by a drunk 50 something and the later by a drunk 30 something. When I had been jotting down my song the drunk 30 something came up and said he had veto power over my song so I should show it to him. I figured it was easier that reasoning with a drunk person so I showed him, lucky me- he approved.

All of the sudden there is a deafening shrieking and a bunch of ruckus halfway across the restaurant. I look over to see what's going on and there is a gaggle of early 20 something girls bouncing up and down and pointing at me. They are beckoning me to them. I am absolutely baffled. I pay for my drink and wander over. They all immediately stick their index fingers out and hold them underneath their noses like they have mustaches made of fingers and giggle. I Am Absolutely Baffled. Then sobergirl realizes I don't get what's going on and says, "Look, we have mustache tattoos on our fingers!" Holy crap, that is completely hysterical. It also made me absolutely certain I was in the right place. Someone even has one that's shaped exactly like mine. Many many pictures are taken. They put one of the tiny mustache tattoos on my driver's license to make my picture look like Mr. E.

My name is called. Twice.

I'm a little extra nervous because it seems like I've already interacted with more than half the patrons in the place. I don't feel anonymous. Still, it's only karaoke and I know this song like the back of my hand. But wait! What song is playing? The words I recognize are on the screen but the time I'm supposed to start isn't clear and I'm floundering a little but then it picks up... turns out the pace is a lot faster, there's an entire extra verse, and the ohhhhhaaaahhhhhhlalalalalala part is COMPLETELY weird. Maybe it sounds the same when Roberta sings it but karaoke versions being what they are, I did not feel it was my finest moment. Never the less most of the people in there chanted "Mr. E, Mr. E" as I finished and hooted and hollered like I was a rock star.

I walked straight out, high 5ing along the way, got into the car and enjoyed the little adrenalin rush I got out of not knowing the song before heading home.

It was such a unique experience and it made me wonder where it could go. I was hungry for more so I hatched a little challenge for myself. I would go as Mr. E to a different place for karaoke every night for one week. I had to sing at least two songs at each place. I couldn't sing the same song twice in the week unless it was an extra above and beyond the first two. I was excited to get started but we had plans for the following two nights. Mr E's karaoke tour would have to wait.

Mr E's Karaoke Blogging Begins

I will tell you one thing is for sure, I like being the life of the party. There is nothing quite like walking into a bar on karaoke night in a trench coat, sunglasses, a hat, and a gratuitously false mustache. On a Tuesday night I walk in an empty place and all of the sudden something is actually happening, and it's me. It's very interesting to me to watch how people react, they can't tell if I'm looking at them because of the sunglasses but if someone is clearly staring I'll give my mustache a little wiggle and see if that will get a smile out of them. Some nights nobody says a word to me, some nights I walk out knowing everyone in the place by name, most nights something interesting happens. A few times I've taken Mr. E out with a group of friends to karaoke and it just doesn't work, I guess he's loner. I'd rather go out with my friends as me and go out as Mr. E into a group of complete strangers. For those of you that haven't heard the story half a dozen times already, here's how Mr. E came to be.

First, some back-story. Saying that I used to be afraid of singing in front of people would be a gross understatement. To explain the depth of my fear I usually tell people that I hadn't sung (outside of a choir) in front of anyone (except maybe my mom in the car) until I was about 26. Some time in my mid-twenties we had a game called "Sing Star" for the playstation (2?) and I went through the entire career mode in the brief moments of time when I was home alone. If Jon (my husband) came home while I was in the middle of a song, it didn't matter if I had the highest score or had never gotten that far or ANYTHING- the machine got shut off. Right away. It's not like I thought he would be critical, he's just not that kind of guy, I was just terrified to be heard singing. I haven't figured out what's behind it. I think I believed that I was actually quite a good singer and I was willing to do anything to hold on to that belief, like make sure nobody else had an opinion about it.

Enter Rock Band. We had been playing guitar hero for years already and I was very comfortable with the reality that I was approaching 30 and really enjoying jumping around playing plastic instruments in my pajamas with my husband on a regular basis. The addition of drums was exciting for both of us, I'm not sure how Jon felt about the singing part but I was apprehensive. It didn't take long for me to realize that if there were four of us playing and nobody wanted to sing, I could sing really quietly and hope that everyone else was too busy trying to play their part to hear me or think about it. I don't know quite when it happened but all of the sudden the microphone was the thing everyone was after. People were getting bold, actually enjoying it, putting themselves out there. I was jealous. After a year or so I was able to hold my own singing on rockband... I enjoyed it enough to want to do it on my own when nobody else was playing but that ended up being pretty boring. One day I decided to try to sing and play guitar at the same time. I was totally rocking it, I found a way to wrap the mic around a laundry basket as a make-shift stand and I was howling bon jovi at the top of my lungs when one of my mates came walking down our path and looked in the window to see me strumming a plastic guitar and wearing a laundry basket. My instinct was to shut the whole thing off before he could get in the door and pretend that he was crazy! What laundry basket?

Instead I tried not to laugh too much while I finished my song in front of him, took off my laundry basket, and pretended to be completely unfazed. "What? We don't have a mic stand." Now we have two mic stands and even though I still feel a little foolish enjoying myself quite so much, Rockband 1, 2, lego, Beatles, (and soon to be released 3!) have eaten up a LOT of the last four years.

Enter Craig. Our friend Craig has got his very own Karaoke set up. Not some little consumer party machine, like the real deal. There's a big difference between Rock Band and Karaoke. Primarily, the fact that everyone is watching you and usually you don't already know and love every single person in the room. This was so cool because my first karaoke experience got to be at a Heidi Von Haught's birthday party where I knew at least half the people and I was pretty sure nobody would boo me AND said birthday girl had recently just completely WOWed me by singing Nina Simone's Feeling Good for her first time in front of a huge audience at her burlesque show AND she was going to sing with me so that I didn't feel so alone out there.

By the end I had no idea how it went, my head was pulsing, the adrenalin had hit, I was pretty drunk before we started too. It didn't matter, I already knew I was in trouble. I *heart* fear and adrenalin. I emailed Craig to forewarn him of my impending addiction, I also encouraged him to be an enabler. He rose to the challenge.

Story's gotta stop here for now, lovelies. I have other matters to attend to. To be continued...