A night of karaoke on the Avenue

ON NIGHTLIFE

May 17, 2007|By SAM SESSA

Frazier's on the Avenue wasn't ready for my falsetto.

To be honest, I wasn't ready to unleash my full vocal onslaught at the bar's famous karaoke night, either. My buddies Evan and Jeremy and I went a couple of weeks ago with the best intentions. Even so, Evan and I ended up making fools out of ourselves.

Frazier's has hosted karaoke every Tuesday night for several years now. Over time, it has built up a reputation as one of the city's best spots for self-inflicted embarrassment.

The bar, which occupies two adjacent buildings, is split into two sections. One side is a regular pub with a pool table in the back and a bar in the front. You have to walk through a set of double doors in the back to get to the larger karaoke section. It has a bar and a couple of pool tables in the back and a few tables in the front. This setup keeps the crooning from bleeding through the walls -- which I'm sure the regulars appreciate.

Karaoke singers usually fall into one of three categories:

1. People with decent voices

2. People with horrible voices who know they're awful

3. People with horrible voices who have no clue

Karaoke usually features more No. 3s than the other two categories combined, and Frazier's was no exception.

When we walked into the karaoke section, a guy was warbling his way through Incubus' "Drive." We beelined to the bar near the back of the room, where three Yuenglings came to $11. I asked the bartender just how painful his job was on Tuesdays. He said that night was more painful than normal, mostly because there were fewer people in the audience to block the noise from getting to him. I was also expecting more people, given the place's reputation, but maybe we hit an off night.

Thick binders on each table contain the available songs, paper request slips and pencils. Once you've found the song you want to sing, you write the code for it and hand it to one of the hosts.

There were two hosts when we went. One of them kept quiet most of the night, but the other one occasionally made horribly awkward jokes. He said he'd eaten nothing but fried food all day and vividly described how that was about to affect his digestive system. I'm glad I wasn't eating anything at the time.

A tall, lanky guy with a budding mullet and thin mustache gave my favorite two performances of the night. First, he did an awesomely bad rendition of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey." Just seeing someone perform the song is funny, but I laughed so hard I almost cried when he would hit the chorus and scream:

"SHOCK THE MONKEY!"

About a half-hour later, the same guy snarled through Sid Vicious' version of "My Way." It wasn't as hilarious as "Shock the Monkey," but it still rocked hard.

After much cajoling, I persuaded Evan to do a song if I did a song.

First, I looked for "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley. But the karaoke list didn't seem to have any songs from the past couple of years. So I went for the next best thing: "Crazy on You" by Heart. It was a bold choice -- even for Shrieking Sam Sessa.

For me, singing in falsetto is like sitting on a galloping racehorse: I can barely steer it and certainly can't stop it. The best I can do is try to guide it or slow it down some.

I had no idea the song had so many sections. I only knew the chorus and the part about the willow and the stream, which comes somewhere in the middle. So I fudged my way through the first verse until I came to the chorus (Lemme go craaaaazy on you!).

And then, I let loose the falsetto.

My soaring, screeching voice was much like the lightning bolts that shot out of Emperor Palpatine's fingertips in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Some of the crowd might have just melted.

I'm not sure what the audience was expecting. I think I scared them at first. No one was prepared for Frankie Valli on crack. But I won them over in the end -- especially one table. They cheered me on throughout the song and gave me some loud WOOOOOs when I was finished. Maybe they were WOOOOing because I was finished. That part I'm not sure about. But I'll take what I can get.

A few songs later, Evan got up and did his best impression of Will Ferrell singing Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans." It got a bunch of applause from the crowd.

Two guys named Eduardo and Jeff sang U2's "With or Without You" to each other, which was a touching moment. One woman turned in a solid version of Blondie's "One Way or Another." But most of the singers weren't that memorable.

Later in the night, Evan and I returned to the mike to perform "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears. I think we both came across as No. 2 karaoke types, which was not the plan. Realizing that topping our earlier performances would be impossible, we headed out.

But from now on, whenever I want to free my falsetto, I know where to go.

Karaoke starts between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. every Tuesday at Frazier's on the Avenue, 919 W. 36th St. For more information, call 410-662-4914.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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