The news was broken last week that Mr. B’s Goodtime Karaoke Explosion would be detonating one final time, so I would like to take this time to look back at my karaoke journey.
Back around 2008-2009 I started doing karaoke with my close circle of friends. We went to all sorts of places. From respectable karaoke establishments to flat out dives we ran the gamut of good and bad karaoke. It was also during this time that I was in a rut with my research going nowhere, and being completely devoid of any sort of artistic outlet. Making games, short films, music, and other forms of art had been my expression for a long time, and now I was stuck making simulations or arbitrary visualizations that were of no immediate benefit to me, and most of the time they were tossed in the trash. My boombox’ing had nearly stopped, since I was going crazy with work. I need a change, and I needed an outlet.
In May of 2010, I was invited via Facebook, by an old friend, to come out to this thing called Cabana Night at the Art Bar. Karaoke with swimming pools? Okay this could be interesting. It was far more than that. It was a spectacle! Something that I had never seen before. People completely pouring their all on the stage for the sake of entertaining a crowd. I had to be a part of this. My first was was, “Life During Wartimes” by The Talking Heads. I did the song as David Bryne from the “Stop Making Sense Tour” with the jogging in place, bizarre dancing, and even at one point jumping out into the audience and jogging around until my vocals came back in. It was exhilarating!
The next song I put in was “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead. I loved doing this song at karaoke because I would use my Goldar from the Power Rangers voice which actually sounds surprisingly like Lemmy’s. I got a very overwhelmingly positive reaction from the audience, and was complimented by a couple of the regulars. I had found my outlet, and I knew then that I would become a regular at Mr. B’s Goodtime Karaoke Explosion.
After some convincing, I got the rest of my close friends to come out and then our wacky antics started. I never been one to be very stationary on stage ever since being in bands, so I started off just really getting into the songs, and wearing an occasional costume. July of that year I had just so happen to start boombox’ing again, and really came back with a new fury. So when my friend, Jim Morse, did “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, I ran out to my car to grab my boombox and staged the scene from “Say Anything”. It got a ecstatic response from the audience, and I was asked by Mr. B why I just so happen to have an 80’s boombox handy. I had to reveal that I was the boombox guy! BD>
Next came the end-of-the-summer Cabana Night. There was one song I had always wanted to do, but if I was going to do it I wanted it performed right. The song was, “Lust for Life” by Iggy Pop, and I was going to rub peanut butter and other various food items thrown at me on me. Plus generally going insane on the stage. I asked my close friends if this was a good idea, and they all said something similar to, “Why the hell not”. I put some plastic sheeting on the stage, hopped up with my jar of peanut butter, and went to town on a very small confused group of people. It was incredible!
One night a few weeks later, we were going strong until the system crapped out. Everyone was depressed about karaoke ending, so early. I didn’t want it to end. There had to be something I could do. I hopped in my car and drove to my office, and grabbed my boombox. With it blaring, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey I marched into the bar and assembled everyone remaining on the stage. We had a very impromptu sing-a-long, the simplest and most raw version of karaoke. It was a very magical ending.
In the next couple of weeks I wondered how I could top something like that. To my surprise, I discovered that Mr. B had, “Pac Man Fever” by Buckner and Garcia. I knew there was a performance waiting for that song. I worked late that fateful Wednesday, and before leaving the office I went down to the ACM room and grabbed the Pac Man helmet and the Ghost costumes that we had built for Live Pac Man a few months back. After going over how it was suppose to run with my friends being the ghosts, I put in the song and waited. Emerging from the side door in full costume, I walk to the stage and anxiously waited to perform the song. However, the file was corrupted, and would not play… Disappointed but not deterred, I choose, “The Uncontrollable Urge” by Devo and put on a show regardless. After it was done, Mr. B came over bought me a shot of bourbon and apologized profusely. He said that he would get the song working the next time I wanted to do it. It was in this moment I realized the level of professionalism that he brought to karaoke. No other karaoke host that I had ever known apologized for having a broken song. He cared more about being fair to people and putting on a show than taking home a pay cheque. This was a very illuminating realization.
For the next couple of weeks, we didn’t do anything too crazy since we were preparing for October. Plus I went blind with an eye infection for a little bit (I BLAME YOU BIG MONEY RUSTLAS!). We were going to go all out every week in October, because why does Halloween have to be fall on one day? The first week, we staged a sword fight between Marques and I while Sam sang, “Prices of the Universe” by Queen. Sam had always wanted to sing that and perform a Highlander scene. The next week I revealed my Tie Fighter costume, and with my friend Paul as Boba Fett we performed, “Fett’s Vette” by MC Chris.
The following week was the sixth year anniversary of the karaoke explosion, and I was asked by Mr. B to do a repeat performance of “Pac Man Fever”. I brought all the Pac Man gear, and also some homemade buttons. Some commemorating the event and others for one of my favorite performers, Crazy Mike. After enjoying another amazing evening, I was then asked to perform the requested song before the midnight song. At last, I had did the song I had wanted to do for a while. Following the song, Mr. B asked me to stay on the stage for a minute. He gave a speech about appreciating my enthusiasm, and my crazy antics. For those reasons, he declared me 2010 entertainer of the year… It is very rare for me to be speechless, but in this moment I was. I paused, and then proceeded to thank him, my friends, and most of all the the amazing people that I had met while performing at Art Bar. This was a moment that I hope to never forget.
The following week was Halloween. We had planned to do our biggest and most elaborate performance to date. It was going to have fake blood, props, and a lot of choreography. We performed, “Welcome to my Nightmare” by Alice Cooper in which we, threw saw blades at people, stuck a cat in a blender, disemboweled an “innocent” girl (as innocent as Jonel can be), and cut off Bob’s head. It was an intense blood soaked experience, and one that we have never topped to this day.
From then on we have done many other performances: A Very Post-Apocalypse Christmas, Ms. Pac Man bikini competition, “Mr. Roboto” light show, my hedonistic birthday spectacular (thanks to everyone for all the wonderful gifts!), performing at Runaway Runway, the infamous “Dr. Feelgood” coke fest (sorry again to the Art Bar staff for the clean up after that one), revisiting “Lust for Life”, and crowning Marques as the 2011 entertainer of the year.
I am saddened to see Mr. B’s Goodtime Karaoke Explosion at Art Bar come to an end, but all great things must end one day. Many of you may think it silly to be sad over bar karaoke coming to a close. However, this was no ordinary karaoke. This was a forum for people from all walks of life to come and perform their hearts out and be supported by a very open and warm set of people. This was an event that pulled me out of my funk, and reminded me of why I do the things I do which includes boombox’ing. This was a place where I met a lot of amazing people, and we all had happy and sad times with one another. I will not forget the times that I had, and I wish Mr. B… No, I wish Chris all of the best in his future endeavors. Good journey my friend.