Thursday, August 12, 2004
official JFW karaoke recap!
(two of sociology's karaoke stars doing Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer." I am the person to the right, conveniently cropped out of view)
A key strategy of Wisconsin Sociology Karaoke is to Get There Early--as in, right when it opens--so we can establish ourselves as the evenings alpha patrons before the place is beseiged by undergraduates and unsavory types. The Karaoke Kid, despite its posted opening sign of 8pm, does not feel obliged to open its doors promptly. Accordingly, we adjusted our planned meeting time to 8:15. However, last Monday, the Kid did not open until 8:30, by which time a rowdy crowd of sociologists had gathered outside and were, as the Dixie Chicks might sing, "ready-ready-ready, ready-to-riot."
And so, sociology stormed the karaoke barracades, putting so many songs into the queue right away as to shatter the all-time Karaoke Kid record for the quickest the guy has ever had to come around and take the books away, meaning that there were already well over hour's worth of songs in the queue. A consequence of this is that there were very few non-sociology-patrons who took a part on stage in the early part of the evening. The first such performer was this sixty-something gentleman who had signed up to do Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop." I took the opportunity to go to the bar to get something to drink, and, as I stood up there, a couple of sociologists began to chastise me shouting "Rule Two! Rule Two!" This was a reference to the second imperative of Freese-Harried general theory of karaoke audience participation, which is that you need to cheer more loudly for the people you don't know than the people you don't know.
"I read your blog sometimes," confessed one of the chastisers as I sat down, whom I wasn't actually aware knew about my weblog. "Well, pretty much just the karaoke posts. Sometimes I think you are talking about me." [She's right!]
Having the queue fill so quickly does make things more karaoke-kutthroat and so more daunting for the newbie-with-aspirations-to-sing. The general self-presentation strategy of this type of newbie--which I've witnessed upwards of a zillion times by now--is to first appear shy and unsure of whether they want to go onstage, and then later, after several rounds of cajoling from others, finally sigh and, as a magnanimous demonstration of their affability, pronounce that they might at long last allow themselves to be put in for a teensy little song. Monday night, one much-anticipated-newcomer came in late and sat at my table and began to do exactly this. I think the person was surprised by my drill-sargeant-like response: "No! You cannot play that game! You cannot act like you don't want to sing! You cannot pretend to be shy! When the books come back out, you have to put something in right away or else you're not going to get to sing at all!" My approach did work--what would have been a hour's worth of hemming-and-hawing was abridged to ninety seconds--and the person got their rightful chance to shine on stage.
There are other ways of dealing with the karaoke queue than rushing your slip of paper up to the bar. Even though none of us are willing to organize rallies to secure a significant hourly wage for The Karaoke DJs, some do feel it is wrong that the DJs generally respond to the implicit-bribery-via-the-tip-jar by putting one's song somewhere other than at the very end of the queue. As the Monday night extravaganza went on, suddenly the pressing need for a more explicit bribe arose, as it was realized that no sociologist had yet put in to do the best karaoke song ever--"Total Eclipse of the Heart"--and the queue was so full that the books had been taken away a second time and the DJ was adamantly accepting no new songs. A particularly concerned benefactor pulled out $5 (the price of a song is normally $1) and dispatched someone to the bar with instructions to get the DJ to put us in for TEotH. The DJ flatly refused. So, we added another $5 and asked a different person if she would go plead our case to the DJ for us.
Whatever the content of that interaction, all I know is we went from being nowhere in a two-hour queue to being the third in line. In karaoke math: money + marketing = the microphone. The uninitiated might, I suppose, balk at paying 10 times the going rate for "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Considering that it never-ever fails to provide a priceless karaoke moment, mathematically-hip JFW readers will note that this is still asymptotically close to being an infinitely good bargain.