NIGHTS ON THE CIRCUIT: America’s Got (Some) Talent

Because 15 minutes of fame aren’t nearly enough

Xania Woodman

Sunday, July 23, 10:55 p.m. "The whole karaoke-culture thing eludes me," I grumble to's Pj Perez. We're parked on a cheetah-print couch at the Rainbow Bar & Grill, anxiously waiting for Rockstar Karaoke to commence, with the hope of watching complete strangers—and maybe a few coworkers—make complete asses out of themselves. Nothing malicious, it's just that when karaoke goes smoothly it's just plain lounge entertainment, and if I wanted that, I'd be sipping a martini at Bellagio's Fontana Bar. Instead, I'm working on a pint of Fat Tire and polishing off the last of my French fries—a food-and-beverage pairing that is surely the purest expression of self.

Here since 9 p.m., we've watched the band set up, soundcheck and soundcheck some more. Perky Rockstar hostess Heather Rae weaves through the modest crowd, encouraging heavy drinking as she recruits the brave and the drunk for their few minutes of fame. Scattered around the room are simple song sheets, not the usual bibles that accompany mechanized karaoke events. As bandmates Chris Brady, Tony Santoro and Johnny "K-Fed" Fedavich play along live with each singer—as they also do Mondays and Tuesdays at the House of Blues—the repertoire has been pared down to include just 133 songs.

They are mostly rock standards like Van Halen's "Jump." Here and there are country anomalies like George Strait's "All My Ex's Live in Texas" and Shania Twain's "You're Still the One," though I'm not really getting a country vibe from this young crowd. There are also a few glaring errors, train wrecks just waiting to happen, such as "Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca."

I've never been so anxious for amateur singing to begin, which explains my over-the-top enthusiasm when the first victim—I mean participant—takes the mic in hand and lets loose a not-too-shabby rendition of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" (Uncle Kracker version). And we're off!

A raven-haired Brit sings Alanis Morissette, her dark eyes nearly closed as she looks down at the monitor. Then an older man gives us his take on Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," forcing the band to earn their bread by turning his staccato, monotone singing into a less painful experience. Heather tells me the band is nameless but I shall call them Part-Time Alchemy for turning lead into gold three nights a week.

A handsome young man in an unevenly buttoned blue work shirt tells us about his "Sweet Home Alabama" just before someone else wrecks the Police's "Every Breath You Take," during which I audibly groan. The self-proclaimed karaoke pro in our group has disappeared by the time he's called upon for Cher's "Believe." Worse than missing a guy in a porkpie hat doing a goth version of Cher is that his absence puts the song back into the pool, available for anyone to mangle.

Even those who are supposed to be working are working it. Rainbow's promotions director Cory Nigrelli does a bit of justice to Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell," his walkie-talkie firmly attached to his belt. I'm apparently the last of our group to notice the girls from next door. Not E!'s Girls Next Door—I mean next door, as in Club Paradise. Five of them in skirts up to here and shirts not quite down to there. They're Nigrelli's fans and shower him with confetti and green glow sticks. Server Shae gets up there, too, for Free's "All Right Now."

I'm hoping for "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" from the strippers but they surprise me with The Cars' "You Might Think." It's not perfect, but with five of them hugging the mic the same way their clothes hug their curves, they're a little slice of pretty-damned-good.

The stage is only a foot off the ground, no higher than the one I fell off in first grade, and I know I can sing—I've heard me. But I don't seek out Heather and I don't take up Pj's offer for a duet on Human League's "Don't You Want Me." Instead, I get caught up in other, braver people's moments, cheering their 15 minutes. It's only a 12-inch riser, but without friends chucking glow sticks and confetti at you while you murder someone's favorite song, it's still a long way to fall.

Xania Woodman thinks globally and parties locally. And frequently. E-mail her at
[email protected] and visit to sign up for Xania’s free weekly newsletter.

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