karaoke and everybody is a star
turn is coming
paralyzed by the swirling disco ball. It disorients you; fast moving
circles of light fly by on the walls, smoke-filled shafts of light
pierce your eyes in the snug dimness.
Lots of warm, carved wood, fierce faces of idols on the walls and
strange glowing Polynesian dirigibles that hang in the spangled
upper reaches counterbalance the swill-like Budweiser pints you're
downing. Sink back into the enveloping comfort of your huge padded
banquette. Gather your chi. Your turn is coming.
on North Interstate Avenue: it doesn't get better.
If you enjoy your karaoke it really doesn't get better than The
Alibi on North Interstate Avenue.
The atmosphere is like a crazy South Pacific womb, the drinks are
strong, the KJs are nice, and everyone is a star for five minutes
usually four times a night!
Currently, young singer Windy is doing the heel-toe rocking motion
as she hits us with her best shot, Pat Benetar's "Hit Me With
Your Best Shot." Not bad; and any kind of movement is a big
plus for the adoring crowds.
You like to assess the room before you pick your songs. If it looks
like a strong crowd, you play to your strengths. The right "timeless
classic" can ignite a room, even while boring the KJs to tears.
This looks like one of those nights. Among the dozen or so guests,
a birthday party has majority rule. There is always a birthday party
doing karaoke at The Alibi. The birthday party is always good natured,
enthusiastic and predominantly trashed.
That is, the birthday parties were totally trashed in your day
(mid-'90s) when you often accompanied your half-mad-with-romantic-desperation
friend Styve on daily and weekly karaoke binges. Mostly at The Alibi.
Mostly trashed, too.
And it worked. Styve found a girl, got married and had a baby,
largely because of his unearthly versions of Bee Gees, Journey and
But nowadays singers are no longer getting so drunk that they go
vomit between songs, or simply do it at the table. Ah, those were
the days. Now, only the Birthday Girl, Mag, appears capable of going
off the deep end.
If only to keep you covertly amused.
You're not carded when you order, even though you've just shaved
and look about 16. Common Alibi wisdom holds that no one under 21
would be weird or destitute enough to go do karaoke alone on a Wednesday
ball: the notes are almost hit.
Lack of OLCC troubles aside, Mira now camps up Barry Manilow's
"Copacabana" like Amanda Lear (who, coincidentally, has
a version of the song out) and gets a nice karaoke gimmie with the
lyric "Like in Havana, have a banana."
The bonus laugh is unneeded, as this group is strictly singing
with and for itself more like their own small Japanese karaoke
room, which groups of friends rent by the hour for a private night
Leaving the kitschy, well-dressed 20-something fantasy world for
the even more exotic and cozy bar area, you get some cash. In the
glowing poker machine/ATM nook, people talk of parole. Interstate
Avenue is where one group crashes on another group's shore, and
Soon, two other parties arrive, separately; a couple and a lone
man, both current regulars, as, it seems, is the Birthday Girl,
who is flailing around bellowing Marky Mark.
You pick old songs ("Tin Man," "Let 'Em In,"
"Never My Love," etc.) that KJ Steve says he hasn't heard
in a long time (probably the last time you sang them). And that
is your triumph you haven't bored the KJ.
Because the KJs hear these songs every night. And yes, now the
partiers are singing "Birthday" by the Beatles, one of
the all-time most-ever-sung karaoke tunes. But at least it's the
other loner Jom performing and not a kick-line of drunken girls.
On second thought
Noeh boldly strides to the microphone; you're hoping he's going
to rip it because he's doing "Rio," by Duran Duran. Though
affable, he's actually a quite mild performer, hewing close to the
microphone while occasionally succumbing to the curse only the best
It's that tight-throat feeling of constricted vocal cords. Because
few people know their own registers and no one remembers exactly
how high the melody goes until they're right at that note. Your
neck muscles go for a death-grip on the trachea, and your note just
flattens right out, strangled like a wilting daisy.
It's a slow night, and soon the kids stop taping themselves with
cell phone cameras while they sing and drift out. Maybe your trenchant
version of Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby" drove the
apparently single Birthday Girl home.
Or just the fact that few others were here. A good crowd foments
the flames. On the other hand, slow nights mean you get to sing
all you want, no matter how pathetic. Now just KJ Denise and her
brother-in-law are here, so your ill-advised performance of Bowie's
"Young Americans" shuts the place down.
your alibi: the author makes the scene.
The lights are out in back. The notes are almost hit.
For good or bad, the karaoke surge in Portland is over; many years
over. But as long as there are people who just want to sing a song
or two after a long day, as long as there are drunken girls having
birthdays, as long as there are cozy caves of dim light and fuzzy
dreams like The Alibi, you can sing.
Most names have been altered by one vowel to mask the reputations
of the supposed innocent.