Sing with the band
Live band karaoke takes off
By Dana Unger firstname.lastname@example.org
Karaoke, that nightlife activity often particpated in by the tone deaf and/or inebriated, is getting a second life with the introduction of a live band element.
Live band karaoke uses live musicians and instruments instead of prerecorded instrumentals and karaoke teleprompters. Live band karaoke starting springing up in clubs and bars in New York and Chicago, and has now made its way to New Hampshire.
The Manchester band The Free Radicals is one Granite State group getting in on the act. The Free Radicals host a live band karaoke night every Tuesday at Manchester’s Murphy’s Taproom, and saw the practice working in Boston.
“We’ve got two bands — Wize Crackaz and Free Radicals,” said vocalist-guitarist Greg Mitchell in a Jan. 13 interview. “Free Radicals is purely to cover the operating expenses for the other band. It’s something that’s taken off in Boston and we saw it and thought we could do that here.”
With an impressive repertoire of songs at their fingertips, The Free Radicals saw doing live band karaoke as a great fit for local nightlife.
“We have hundreds and hundreds of songs that we play,” Mitchell said. “We are able to do ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Godsmack, Abba. We’re originally from Manchester and are pretty well known around there so we thought we’d capitalize on that. Because we also have a keyboardist, we can do songs that other bands can’t — we just download the lyrics you need right on stage.”
Though live band karaoke participants don’t differ too greatly from traditional karaoke performers, Mitchell has seen some strong singers come to their nights.
“Some of them can sing,” Mitchell said. “We’ve gotten some that consider themselves professional karaoke singers and take it seriously — about 40 percent. The other 60 percent are just drunk and want to have fun and be silly.”
The band is also starting to see more and more people coming in specifically for the experience of performing on stage.
“There are people out there that have come in wanting to test the waters for auditioning for a band,” Mitchell said. “They can see what the response is.”
Though the band could play anything from The Beatles to Blondie on a given night, male and female performers sometimes do tend to go for certain artists and songs.
“There’s a lot of the typical stuff,” Mitchell said. “The female singers tend to go more for Pat Benatar, and the guys will do a lot of Journey. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is always a good crowd-pleaser, but every night is different.”
In live band karaoke, the performers get the rare chance to experience what it would be like to be a lead singer, which lends a more visceral experience to the typical pre-packaged karaoke nights.
“For the person on stage, it’s the chance to play with a band,” Mitchell said. “For the audience, it’s a more entertaining night. Regular karaoke nights just play CDs, and that can become pretty monotonous after a while.”
Performers for the live band karaoke nights also tend to find an entertained and responsive audience too.
“They understand the difference between the people there trying to perform and those that just want to have fun and be goofy,” Mitchell said. “There’s support for both.”
Since getting into the karaoke game, The Free Radicals also experienced their own musical education as a band, playing for the good, the bad and the just plain awful.
“I like that it’s spontaneous and challenging,” Mitchell said. “As musicians we’ve really broadened our spectrum. People come to have a good time and we’ll take them all.”