Go easy on the inflatable guitar
When I arrive at the Elbow Room, Stevie Wonder is pumping through the dark, dingy space. It's wonderfully funky. The husband-wife team that runs MoFo Karaoke is setting up, but I don't see any bubbles. That's what I came here for. The website promised bubbles and blow-up instruments.
My friend Pete shows up, puts his keys down, and ducks into the men's room. When he returns, moments later, he says an aging hippie at the urinal told him, "I was wondering when you were going to come in." According to Pete, the man then opened his fly, leaned one hand against the wall without assisting himself, if you know what I mean, and asked, "So, what do you think about life?"
I accuse Pete of messing with me. "I didn't have time to make that up, Charmie," he says. He's right. "Well," I tell him, "welcome to Ypsilanti."
We look over the list of songs available, but I don't recognize any of them. It's not the lineup of Glen Campbell and Top 40 I was anticipating. Maybe the Observer should have sent someone more hip on this assignment.
The first singer takes the stage, and surprise-it's the aging hippie from the bathroom. He performs "Yellow Submarine" (yes, I do recognize that one), shifting from one foot to the other and shrugging his shoulders while singing horribly off key. About halfway through, we notice that his fly is still open. Man, do we laugh.
Other singers are called up by name. "Roz" sings Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good." She and the singers who follow her are all good or better, except for the two skinny white guys who bend far backward while shouting "Come on, Eileen." They may be off key, but they're having a blast.
People are dancing, and the place is jumping. A kid with green hair wearing a bandolier-complete with long, shiny, pointy bullets-sings a song I don't recognize; it's something from the 1980s, I think.
The woman makes
an announcement: "MoFo Karaoke loves you, but you don't get a second song, so pick your favorite."
The next guy performs a Devo song. He's a big fella wearing a Viking helmet and looks just as if he came from a science fiction convention. I ask where he got his hat and he shows me a big box offstage, but when I dig around in it, I find no inflatable instruments. So I go ask the woman where they are.
"Fuckers keep breaking them," she says. "Do you know how hard you have to whack an inflatable guitar to pop it?"
MoFo Karaoke is at the Elbow Room every Thursday except Christmas.
[Originally published in December, 2008.]