One increasingly popular variant of karaoke is “live band” karaoke. As its name suggests, the instrumental accompaniment in this version is supplied by actual band members rather than CD’s or MP3’s. (A scene from a typical night of live band karaoke, at some random bar in North Carolina that I’ve never been to, is shown in the photo on the left.) I’m not generally a fan of live band karaoke, for a couple of reasons. First, the song list is limited to the repertoire of the band. Typically this results in a choice from among a mere several hundred tunes, rather than the tens of thousands of song offerings at the best venues for “traditional” karaoke. Second, because the song isn’t coming from a pre-recorded medium, there’s no source of data to feed the lyrics to a video monitor. Thus, in the live-band karaoke format, you either must have the words memorized, or must supply your own copy of them. (To meet that need, you might end up referring to the lyrics in the form of a printout you made from the internet, or on the screen of your smartphone. This creates an additional drawback: reading from an elevated screen, as you would do at an ordinary karaoke venue, can be like reading a speech from a teleprompter, in that it allows you to still engage with the audience. In contrast, repeatedly staring down at a cheat-sheet that you’re holding in your hands is much more likely to get in the way of your making eye contact with the crowd.) Relatedly, you’re largely on your own for synchronizing the vocals with the instrumental backing. While the band will provide you with some cues, you can’t rely on every single word of the song changing colour at the appropriate time to prompt you throughout the song.
For some people, these disadvantages of live-band karaoke are outweighed by the benefits of an experience that simulates fronting for a rock band. I have to say, I have an enormous amount of respect for lead singers of real bands, who are required to memorize the words to dozens of songs at any given time, and who need to have perfect timing as well as superior vocal abilities.
Despite my general disdain for live-band karaoke, one night each year I participate in an activity that closely resembles it. One of the attorneys at my firm, Charles Soule, has an eponymous band. He’s the lead singer as well as guitarist; but at my firm’s annual summer outing, Charles invites other employees of the firm to sing with the band. My firm’s most recent summer outing was held this past Monday, at the Elmwood Country Club in Westchester County (the county immediately to the north of New York City); and as I’ve done at every summer outing since joining the firm in 2005, I sang a couple of songs with the Charles Soule Band. Below you can watch me singing my first entry of the evening, the theme song to The Facts of Life (specifically, the version that opened the show from seasons 2 through 5):
My selection of this particular song proved unexpectedly timely; I later learned that just hours before I belted it out, CBS had announced that former Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel will be a contestant on the upcoming season of Survivor: Philippines. (On The Facts of Life, Ms. Whelchel played Blair Warner.)
Monday night marked the first time I’d ever performed the Facts of Life theme in public; that explains my frequent glances at a printout of the lyrics while I was singing. (My decision to go with that particular song was actually made all the way back in February, and fulfilled a promise I’d made at that time to my work colleague Dan.) Additionally, my appearance at the summer outing this week marked my Westchester County singing debut. While that milestone is not quite as meaningful to me as certain others (such as my Egyptian karaoke debut that will occur next month), it’s still something. 🙂
I mentioned above that I sang not one, but two songs with the Charles Soule band on Monday. The second number on my set list was “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” originally recorded by noted incestophile Jerry Lee Lewis. You can check out a portion of my rendition here:
My overall favourite song of the evening was my colleague Erik’s haunting and pitch-perfect performance of Jonathan Coulton’s zombie anthem, “Re: Your Brains”. Seriously, if you’ve not yet heard Mr. Coulton’s apocalyptic masterpiece, you’re missing out. Here’s Erik’s version of “Re: Your Brains” from the summer outing:
I’m impressed that Erik knew all the words! By the way, if you were wondering, there were other, non-musical components of the summer outing on Monday. For example, I played some vigorous matches of ping-pong; colleagues of mine played tennis or golf, or went swimming, or attended a yoga class. But, this blog being what it is, my emphasis is obviously going to be on the singing. 🙂
I’ll be in touch with you soon, as I prepare for my Labor Day weekend trip to Los Angeles! I’ve got some exciting adventures lined up for that excursion, including but not limited to some West Coast karaoke. 🙂
I look forward to keeping you posted on what I see and do during my fifth visit to La-La Land.