During karaoke night, Mike Gentile, a vocalist for a rock band, belts out hard rock at the Broken Spoke in Laconia. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Bobby O'Neill of Meredith knows how to finish a song.
After growling out "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred, O'Neill does a little dance and wiggles his tush, just as depicted in the song's lyrics.
An appreciative crowd at the Broken Spoke howls with laughter as O'Neill returns to the bar.
Welcome to karaoke night.
The Broken Spoke, 1072 Watson Road, Laconia, hosts karaoke on Thursday nights.
The Rod and Gun Club, 358 S. Main St., Laconia, hosts karaoke on Friday nights.
For about two years, on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., the Copper Kettle Tavern at Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant in Meredith has run its version, with roughly 30 to 60 people attending.
"It's a wide range," says Sim Willey, one of the owners of Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant in Meredith (www.hartsturkeyfarm.com), about the types of people who get up and sing to recorded music. It depends on the time of year. In the summer, families will hit the floor, while in the winter, more local residents will grab the mic, he said.
Asked if he tries out his singing prowess, Willey quickly demurs.
"No, I'm terrible," he admits.
O'Neill, karaoke performer at the Broken Spoke, keeps it light when talking about his reasons for singing in front of a crowd. "I've been singing ever since my mother said I should go to Hollywood. She said the walk would do me good," he quips.
His favorite song is "Come Monday," by Jimmy Buffett.
"Sometimes when you get women that are even older than me, they'll toss me a buck or two," O'Neill says with a grin.
His standbys include "I'm Too Sexy," — "that's the only one that I have the words memorized for, other than 'Tequila.'"
Tim Parker, karaoke DJ from Laconia, has spent six to eight years running the equipment at karaoke nights at the Rod and Gun Club and the Broken Spoke.
Crowds will call for the newer music, such as "Uptown Funk," as well as the classic rock, the "new country" and the country standards that are staples of his playlist.
"I do a lot of birthday parties, weddings, company parties. I've done a lot of Christmas parties as well," he says. Alcohol is not essential to karaoke, but it helps, Parker notes.
"It helps you relax a little bit. If you're a little bit nervous about singing for the first time, you might as well have a shot and go for it," Parker says.
AC/DC ranks among the toughest bands to emulate; Aerosmith, Guns & Roses and Journey all feature lead singers with high tenors (or the screaming equivalents).
"You're only going to sing as good as you think you are, but everybody is a winner in karaoke land. No matter how good or bad you sing, everybody is number one," Parker says.
Some DJs project lyrics on the wall, while others, like Parker, scroll lyrics on a TV screen for the singer to follow. He pays for a subscription to pull down songs from the internet. His backup is a hard drive with songs on it in case the internet fails.
The venues pay for his services, and usually the nights go off without a hitch. Usually.
"Be patient with your karaoke host, sometimes things don't work," Parker says, noting that electronics can be fickle and prone to crash on the rare occasion.
Alicia Turner, bartender and manager at the Broken Spoke, says Parker draws a faithful crowd on Thursdays. Turner, herself a talented karaoke performer, says her favorite song is "I'm the Only One" by Melissa Etheridge.
"We have all sorts of variety," she says.
"Everyone has their own vocals, everyone can do different things with their voice, but we don't really have bad singers. We have a lot of really good singers. I think they're people who are in bands who are trying to practice. You're hearing a bunch of people sing for free, a bunch of really good artists," Turner says.
The feared variety of karaoke known as "scary-aoke" brings drunken, off-key singers to the forefront, but that doesn't happen often at the Broken Spoke, Turner says. But no stigmas attach to anyone who has a few drinks and butchers a song, she adds.
"We accept everyone up there," she says.
DJ Tim Parker runs the karaoke equipment and occasionally grabs a microphone to belt out a tune. Rick Reed helps Parker with set-up; he's also the drummer in a band that Parker takes to bars. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
"I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred receives an interpretation from Bobby O'Neill, karaoke performer, at the Broken Spoke in Laconia. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
Alicia Turner, bartender and manager at the Broken Spoke in Laconia, takes to the microphone while DJ Tim Parker runs the karaoke equipment. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)