Singing Ambrosia at Marco's Karaoke

Between soft rock and a hard place.

On a recent weeknight, I headed north to see if I could track down displaced Rickshaw KJ Joel Harvey at Marco's Lounge, a place where for many years he has also hosted karaoke. I wanted to learn more about the setbacks (burglary and vandalism) that have delayed the Rickshaw's reopening, but he wasn't there. His associate, Jen, was running the show. It was a pretty busy night, though, so I was happy to stick around.

Marco's is a big rectangular room with a long horseshoe bar at one end, an intimately lit stage at the other, and tables in between. They do karaoke from Monday to Thursday starting at 9 p.m., and have live music on the weekends. It was an older crowd—lots of regulars well into their 50s and 60s—but there were a few folks under 40 like me. Just about every seat at the bar was taken, and three groups were sitting at the tables near the stage. A tall, blonde bartender named Helen introduced herself as soon as I sat down, and made me feel at home right away.

The first three performers were middle-aged ladies. Judging by their stage presence, it was clear they had been singing horribly and loving it for a very long time. One of them delivered an excruciatingly off-key version of "The Rose" by Bette Midler, but she wasn't fazed at all by how bad she was, and everyone gave her a warm round of applause.

That gave me the courage to try something out of my natural range, so I decided to request the soft-rock classic "Biggest Part of Me" by Ambrosia. A couple singers before me, this guy in his early 30s named Justin had been called in from the smokers' patio and gave an OK performance of "Basket Case" by Green Day. After he was done, he went straight back outside. At first it annoyed me that he didn't stick around to allow other performers the opportunity to show him up, but after my offering I was relieved he hadn't seen it.

It was easily my most horrific performance since I tried to sing Van Halen's "Panama" at Frances Farmer Organ Karaoke a year and a half ago. That time I could at least blame the lack of a lyrics monitor for my failure, but on this night I made the mistake of tangling with a song that was way too much for my voice to handle. I was in trouble from the first line. The microphone was turned up really loud, so I could hear every crack as I fought to sing high. Things got even worse when I retreated to my lower register. I didn't know the song as well as I thought, so I stuttered through every other verse. I looked out at the audience and saw people wincing in embarrassment for me.

Thankfully, Helen quickly brought things back to life with an awesome rendition of the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" that got everybody singing along. Note to self: Never sing anything from Ambrosia again.

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