I am not a singer. Sometimes, I’ll sing in my car, but only if I’m alone, and only if the windows are rolled up. At parties I’ve been known to lip-sync the words to “Happy Birthday” so as to avoid humiliating myself. And, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing more horrifying than the prospect of speaking in front of a large crowd. And yet : Somehow, last Friday night, I found myself-along with two very brave girlfriends and one guy who has a successful career as a Neil Diamond impersonator in his future if his other plans don’t pan out-singing “Sweet Caroline” (bom bom bom) into a microphone, at the top of my lungs, in front of a packed house. And rarely have I had so much fun.
Karaoke culture has long held a certain fascination for me: albeit, a fascination that’s not entirely benevolent. I’d imagined something painfully akin to the American Idol auditions, but I knew there had to be some appeal; after all, there’s a huge following in town, and all those devotees couldn’t be wrong : could they? The mysterious subculture had me intrigued, and so, Friday night, I decided to infiltrate the world of karaoke at the Tiburon Tavern and promised myself that no way, no how, would I be doing any singing.
We arrived around the 8 p.m. kickoff to find a decent-sized crowd of daring souls, busily perusing the Karaoke Book’s infinite lists of songs. We chatted with some regulars while “Oh, Darling!” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Lights” got the treatment. The bartender sang while pouring drinks, and, not much later, we began singing along, following the words as they appeared on the TV screens, doing back-up, and-in my girlfriend’s case-acting out the lyrics in a fashion reminiscent of Romper Room. By the time our other friends arrived, the Tib-Tav was packed. One after another, people got up and sang-channeling everyone from Slayer to Johnny Cash to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Some sucked, some did not, but it didn’t matter in the slightest. We’d drunk the Kool-Aid, and we were loving it. And then, perhaps inevitably, sometime between “Baby Got Back” and “Day-O,” we found ourselves huddled over the Book, searching for the perfect tune for our turn at the mike.
We turned in our slip, and then I began to panic. What had I done? Half of me was scanning the room for an escape hatch, but the other half of me was having too much fun to leave. When the DJ called us up, I said a silent prayer for a disaster-earthquake, flood, locusts-that might deliver me from this self-imposed, real-life nightmare, but nothing did. We took our places, and the lyrics started to scroll. “Where it began,” we sang, cautiously, “I can’t begin to knowin’ : “
Where it began, I can’t begin to knowin’ either, but by the song’s end, we were having the time of our lives, and by the night’s end, we were karaoke converts. And good times never seemed so good. (So good, so good, so good!)