On Thursday nights at Felicita’s, you can either find your own voice or enjoy a dose of schadenfreude when karaoke takes over the UVSS pub after 9 p.m. While enjoying a plate of decent wings and a discount bottle of domestic, it is a toss up whether a Journey cover will keep you believing, or not.
That said, some singers are quite good, and they have their signature tunes. One off-campus joker, Jason, enjoys a bit of irony and frequently covers Lady Gaga or LMFAO’s, “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” Another regular, Sean, does a screamingly good rendition of James Brown’s, “I Feel Good.” Usually the fare is sillier, with groups singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” or “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” with the audience often joining in with silly dancing or jig-cutting. Once, an audience member decided the instrumentation lacked a didgeridoo part and happily provided one.
While karaoke nights prove quite popular with the ESL programs over the summer, Karaoke Thursdays have provided a staple of on-campus entertainment for quite some time. Stacey Holloway, the host behind the DJ booth for “probably more than 15 years,” just likes seeing people have a good time singing. “It’s a good way for students to blow off steam,” she observes.
Holloway usually cuts out for a smoke when crowds want to sing the Wayne’s World theme song or “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Indeed, poor classics renditions, as well as rude performers and deliberate mic drops, can certainly be a stressor while on the job.
Ethics and good behaviour are more than token platitudes here. Everybody gets a turn, and it’s first come, first served. The first position is designated to roadie and mic checker, Adrian, who does some “Pretty Amazing” Neil Diamond.
Holloway’s own company, Stepping Stone Entertainment, also hosts the karaoke nights at Paparazzi on Monday nights and at My Bar at the Howard Johnson Hotel on Tuesdays and Saturdays. She recalls, “David Tilson hired me. A lot of managers have come and gone since.” How did she get started? She picked up another DJ’s mobile kit “a good long time ago, now,” and hasn’t looked back.
Since then karaoke clubs have come and gone, most notably Soprano’s which closed this past New Year’s Eve. “There’s still a lot of karaoke still going on in town,” says Holloway, even though she recently lost her weekly Wednesday and Friday gigs when the Army Navy Veterans’ Association closed their View St. location. The Britannia Legion on Summit has her host biweekly on Fridays, “because that’s where the Army Navy folks ended up.”
Lotteria (on Yates and Douglas) and TT Lounge (on Shelbourne) offer booth-style karaoke, but both are unlicensed and charge for the rooms— Lotteria per room per hour, and TT Mix per person per hour. The advantage for their market is that they keep up on the international scene. Holloway admits that she would like more international stuff in her collection, but it’s just a lack of familiarity and requests that make it tough to put together.
“If people request it in advance, I can usually get it, and even better, if they can get the files, I can put it together for them,” Holloway says. One of the best things about Holloway’s set-up, however, is the encyclopedic collection of classics and hits from days gone by. Expertly put together and supported by a database on a “craptop” it’s easy to spend a while pondering what to sing.
It takes a special sort of person to put up with college shenanigans week after week for a very reasonable booking fee. It doesn’t take many mic replacements to get into the red. My advice to the would-be idols out there: practice in advance—these days you’ll likely only get one shot on stage, so be the best you can be; show appreciation for the brave souls who dare to challenge a song that stretches their abilities; and most of all, be respectful. There doesn’t have to be a karaoke night, but by helping make it fun, safe and enjoyable for all, there can be, maybe even for another 15 years.