All the musicians I know despise karaoke. I love it.
Don’t get me wrong, I find drunk people in wigs annoying and a bit intimidating, and I wince then they scream down a mic. But that’s not the part of karaoke that attracts me.
The best days to go to a karaoke bar are weeknights. That’s when people tend to go on their own, or with a friend. You often get to hear people who have talent, and skill, and just pop by because they love to perform every now and again.
My favourite part of a karaoke bar are the people who come on their own as a personal challenge, cripplingly shy, who get up and sing so completely out of tune, so utterly atrociously, that it would actually be quite hard for someone to learn how to sing that badly on purpose. They sing in a serious “trying” kind of way, as if their therapist has suggested they come and do this to help them with their confidence. These individuals give me hope, as they are allowed their own 4 minutes on the stage, and no one boos them, or even cracks a smirk. They have the courage to go on a stage without talent, without skill, and they are brave enough to leave themselves incredibly vulnerable and exposed.
On my 30th birthday, I organised a picnic and a trip to the local karaoke bar. I had been stressed for weeks about the event, deciding not to rent a place out in the end as, although I could invite 100 people, I actually only actually like a much smaller number. Mixing groups of friends in the Basque Country can also be tough. There’s a lot of factions, people prefer to stay in their cuadrillas, and explosive arguments can happen over politics; as always, the trauma of the armed conflict bubbles beneath the surface here.
Only a few people came to the karaoke bar. Several people came waaaaay late, clearly out of a feeling of obligation. The bar was subterranean, with perilous stairs, ridiculously expensive drinks, and the darkest wood panelling known to man. At around 930pm, a group of down syndrome young people had come in, presumably on some sort of organised trip, and were dancing around to the pop tunes. I loved watching the beautiful human theatre; the awkward atmosphere created by people trying to hide their reaction to the down syndrome group. It was as prickly as it was exhilarating.