Singin’ in the Pain

Of all the symbiotic relationships that exist (lichen, tapeworms and those little birds that ride cattle and eat their bugs), there is none more symbiorific than the one between copious amounts of alcohol and karaoke. One just can’t exist without the other, whether you’re performing or just kicking back and listening to some caterwauled rendition of “Killing Me Softly.” So when we heard about the Monday-night karaokefest at the Brick, liquoring up was the one thing we made sure to do. Partner in crime and perennial Research Assistant David Wayne (speaking of symbiotic relationships) had been talking it up as his New Favorite Thing, so, of course, we had to go with him. “It’s the only one where people actually dance during karaoking,” he said.

It was a happy coincidence that another faction of friends was going as well, so we co-opted them as RAs and, first things first, ordered drinks. We got mojitos, which the Brick makes with club soda and rum infused with lime, sugarcane and mint. Their mojitos are normally delicious and refreshing, but the batch that we got was weirdly bitter; the drinks tasted more like gin and tonics. So we switched to the trusty orange Stoli and 7-Up, which we quaffed as we checked out the growing crowd. It was a great mix of characters — art-school types, indie rockers, burlesque chickies. Vintage was in abundance, as were wildly creative outfits, dyed-black hair, Bettie Page bangs and pluckorexic eyebrows. “It’s drunken art-school kids, for God’s sake,” commented Jeremy, a regular who was dressed in a sharp, powder-blue suede blazer.

The festivities started late that night, when karaoke DJs — KJs — Shay and Maygun, dressed as ninjas, opened with their standard, “Don’t You Want Me.” The KJs, who dress in a different costume each week, try to choose songs that tie in with the theme of their outfits. That night, their ninja song of choice was “King of Pain” (“We didn’t have ‘Kung Fu Fighting,'” Shay later explained), and throughout the night, they gave away Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles paraphernalia as prizes for particularly excellent performances or as encouragement to the shyer singers. They also ran around the bar during performances, mock-stabbing the patrons and announcing their kill count into the microphone. “We operate with a great deal of irony,” Shay said. The pair have also dressed as construction workers and yelled derogatory comments to the ladies in the crowd; when they wore NASCAR jumpsuits, they sang “Against All Odds” in memory of Dale Earnhardt. “We try to take stereotypes and poke fun at them to devalue them,” Shay said.

On ninja night, though, such goofiness made it awesome, and the performances were just as vastly entertaining. They ranged from the frighteningly good to the softly sung mediocre, but the common leitmotif was Just Have Fun. David channeled Axl Rose for a flawless rendition of “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” complete with frenetic air-guitaring and microphone-stand humping during the instrumental breaks. And even though RA Kym was grumpy because of the late start, she cheered up once her vanilla Stoli and Coke kicked in and she got her chance to belt out “Me and Bobby McGee.” New friend Jeremy did shots of Jaeger between swigs from his can of PBR (“That’ll help you do karaoke,” he said of the shots. “It’s like suckin’ on mama’s teat”), then got up to sing “Creep.” That’s when we were inspired to get up and dance, seventh-grade style (with arms rigidly reaching out to our partner) with RA Joe. We had been eyeing each other from across the gym, you know.

Giddy on our Stolis, we were also inspired to perform — something we had never done before. So we signed up with David to do “Bust a Move.” Unfortunately, the KJs were missing the disc with that song, so we had to settle for “Funky Cold Medina.” Frankly, the popping of the NR’s karaoke cherry was somewhat ignoble; she devolved into a Stage Giggler while David carried the team. Later on, the NR joined Jeremy in a duet of that quintessential karaoke classic, “Summer Nights.” The same thing happened, and NR tried to compensate for her lack of singing skills by dancing. Sadly, we were at the precipice of being just lit enough to believe that we could sing and dance in front of people, yet we were not drunk enough to really let go, a state we dearly wanted to be in.

Others in the bar had no such problems. We witnessed one chick flashing a singer, we saw a makeout couple in the bathroom, and we noted lots of risque dancing, including one guy onstage picking up the flasher like a guitar and strumming her crotch.

“Everyone comes to this in packs, and you see crossover between social groups,” Shay said. “It’s fodder for conversations, with names being called off or people complimenting each other’s performance, so you have to wonder how many people in the room totally hooked up because of karaoke. I’ve seen pairings walk off that I’d never have suspected.” To us, that’s symbiosis at its finest.

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