Friday, April 4, 2008

Karaoke in the Big City

I was in New York City late last month on a Monday night. To my delight the Tonic Bar, just four short blocks from my hotel, offered Karaoke from 10 ‘til 2:30 a.m on Sunday and Monday nights. I showed up at the crack of ten and made my first request.

Unlike Daiquiri CafĂ© in Baton Rouge, Tonic’s show did not have a regular crowd. Maybe that’s the nature of Times Square. It also didn’t have a cloud of smoke, thanks to NYC’s “no smoking in public buildings” law. It did, however, have a talented host (other than his annoying habit of playing "tasty videos" between songs), extremely talented bartender/singer Toni Dolce (see picture) and another waitress/singer who was also very good.

With such a limited cast of singers, I got a personal record number of NINE singing opportunities. I fought the urge to sing ten-minute anthems such as “Like a Rolling Stone” or “American Pie”, figuring I’d be better off to limit my exposure to three or four minutes at a time.

Below is my “set list”. Order is approximate, except for first and last.

Ballad of Curtis Loew, Lynyrd Skynyrd – I had a hard time finding the quiet opening, but otherwise good – one of the band’s lesser known gems

Paperback Writer, The Beatles – repetitive, high ending difficult – I wanted to do Dear Prudence, but the DJ didn’t have it, despite it being in the book.

And It Stoned Me, Van Morrison – host liked it – “oh the water” is pretty high, but I think I survived

House of the Rising Sun, The Animals – got a “high five” on this one – I chose this one because of the vocal range—plenty low, unlike the previous two.

Joy to the World, Three Dog Night – the ending is longer and more repetitive than I remember—though I recall it fondly as one of my first onstage triumphs at a company Christmas party.

Come Monday, Jimmy Buffett – overall good effort – another great song that’s hard to screw up. One of my top two of the night along with House of the Rising Sun.

Cover of the Rolling Stone, Dr. Hook – maybe my weakest number—I was lost on the spoken parts.

Birdhouse in Your Soul, They Might Be Giants – fun song; did better with verses than choruses; the opening segment was also too tricky – I’ll try this one the next time in Baton Rouge. I tried to catch the locals' attention by calling this song a "tribute to Brooklyn", but apparently no one in Manhattan Karaoke bars cares about Brooklyn.

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Elton John – not bad for singing at about 2:25 a.m. – I waited a long time to sing this one—went better than my Baton Rouge version—still a little high for my voice.

Crowd response was modest at best. Another patron/singer and her boyfriend were very nice. He gave me a muted high five after Rising Sun. A crew of the young and drunk that showed up later on cheered for each other, but for no one else. The bartender always got a nice hand because she was so good.

Drink service was strange. No one offered me anything for a good 15 minutes after I sat down. Finally I got a coke, but no one collected for it. Later when a spot opened at the bar I moved there and got served another coke. For awhile I thought it was gratis, but eventually the male bartender collected $3. I tried to strike up conversations with the bartenders with no success--maybe I wasn't drinking enough to be worth their time, though I was contributing heavily to the evening's entertainment. Maybe it was their unspoken assessment of my singing, which I didn't think was too bad--not up to the level of the staff, but still equal to or better than the other amateur performers.

Tonic serves as a sports bar the other five nights of the week. It was replete with big TVs on which I watched the end of one NBA game and an entire game from the West Coast, including the postgame show.

Still, in Karaoke what counts is being able to sing and to breathe. For nine songs and no smoke, Tonic Bar Karaoke at 7th Ave. and 49th St. in Manhattan gets high marks.


Frank said...

I liked this blog better when one was not greeted by a giant picture of the LSU court on it.

dadlak said...

Thanks for reading and thanks for the feedback, Frank. I put the basketball court on top for March Madness. Am going to a Zephyrs game this evening and will try to take a good enough picture to replace the PMAC shot at the top of dadlak.

Toni Dolce said...

Hi! It's Toni, the girl you mentioned in your blog. Thanks for the compliments- I remember you singing- you're right- you were able to sing a lot! Send me your contact info at and I will make sure to give you the heads up when my website comes out next month and when my new single is released. Thanks again and I read through your blog- it sounds like you had a great time in NYC!