Sing, sing, sing
At Club Cal Neva’s karaoke, it’s all about you for three minutes
Where have you ever felt completely supported by total strangers? Did you ever think the Club Cal Neva karaoke stage might be such a place? Well, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. every night but Monday, Club Cal Neva’s karaoke jockey, Robert Medina, has microphones and a playlist of more than 30,000 songs, available for anyone wanting to share a song.
I spent a recent Thursday evening watching people croon, sway and sing themselves giddy onstage before karaoke regular Megan Kay asked me if I was going to sing.
“Tonight’s not about me,” I said.
“Karaoke’s about you for three minutes, and then it’s about the next guy,” she replied.
Bolstered by “East Side” Dave Snider, a karaoke veteran I just met, who volunteered to sing backup, I took the stage and launched into Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand,” a song I love that’s utterly out of my vocal range. It was a mix of nightmare and egotistical splendor, and when it was over, I couldn’t wait for another turn.
Why do people do this multiple nights a week, particularly at the Club Cal Neva? Snider explained the Club Cal Neva part: First, you’re up on a stage, and second, with more than five hours for performing, you can sing upwards of six songs while “you’re lucky if you get to sing three to four songs elsewhere.”
When you stand on Club Cal Neva’s stage, overlooking blackjack tables and slot machines galore, instead of some corner in a bar, you are the entertainment for the night. And man, was it entertaining.
“The average karaoke enthusiast is not a professional,” said Medina. The talent is all over the board.
I’d love to say so-and-so sounded like Frank Sinatra or Whitney Houston, but aside from one big guy who sang country ballads with a voice so sweet it could land him a spot in Nashville, everyone just does the best they can, and the Cal Neva crowd loves them for it.
I met a wonderfully positive woman named Lela Drummond, who said, “Karaoke’s not American Idol, it’s not about how good you are, but about having fun. … It’s the best thing for anyone with pain, a chance to get up there and forget about all this yuck.”
And despite Drummond’s point about the popular televised singing contest, Club Cal Neva karaoke has an event called “Karaoke Idol II” for its burgeoning amateur talent. Each Friday, the best singer of the night advances to the finals on May 29 for their shot at $1,500 in cash prizes.
Say you don’t feel like singing. No problem, if there’s anything almost as good as singing karaoke, it’s watching karaoke. There’s a bar at the foot of the stage and a number of tables around the periphery, should you need some distance from all the awesomeness. And if you want to make Drummond feel as good as when she receives “high fives or when people request songs from her,” go ahead and shake it on the dance floor in the middle of Club Cal Neva’s makeshift karaoke lounge.
I asked Kay what her favorite karaoke song is and she said, “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve sung it yet.”
And then someone got on stage, lighter in hand, and kicked off “Freebird,” which could only mean the night was winding down. It was 1:30 a.m. I’d been there for four hours, met some great people, and butchered a couple of songs. Is it safe to say I’ve got the Club Cal Neva karaoke fever? Oh, yeah.