By Alex Distefano
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By Nate Jackson
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Photo by James BunoanThey booed me. I couldn't believe it: I had but barely stumbled onto the stage, and the people, they were booing. Certainly, this was not what I had imagined when the kind folks from Long Beach's brand-new GameWorks invited me to try out Rock N Roake, their signature Saturday-night event. No, at that time, the idea of singing karaoke while backed by a live band had sounded unbelievably appetizing—despite, even, the facts that I a) cannot sing; and b) can hardly read. Especially when I am, how you say, blotto.
But what an ingenious concept, I had thought, envisioning myself belting out Huey Lewis & the News' "I Want a New Drug" and twirling the mic stand David Lee Roth-style. Best of all, I wouldn't even need to look at the screen because I already know all the words!
I'd be the bestest rock star ever!
Except when I arrived at GameWorks last Saturday, the News was suspiciously absent from the band's song list. In fact, the supposed "list" wasn't much of a list at all, considering half the songs on it were unavailable because they had already been sung. Panicked, I looked to my pal Janine for help. She suggested we sing Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," and foolishly, I agreed.
Ten minutes and a shot of Jack Daniels later, Jessica, one of the evening's darling MCs, informed us that we were up next. As we eyed our competition—a tall, ridiculously leggy blonde singing Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" horrifically off-key, but in that cute, horrifically off-key way tall, ridiculously leggy blondes are capable of—I poked Janine and asked, "Hey, you know more than just the chorus, right?"
"Umm . . . not really," she replied, "but you do."
For the record: I sing Huey Lewis in my sleep. Twisted Sister? Never.
Fortunately, Jessica allowed us to switch to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock N Roll" just as we went on; unfortunately, I was by this time, how you say, blotto.
Stumbling onto the stage, I grabbed the mic, and—here's where Jack Daniels makes me crazy!—instead of launching into a cool, rock star-style intro—you know, "Hello, GameWorks!" or something to that effect—I blurted out, "So who here reads OC Weekly?!"
And then, rather inexplicably, from the back-left corner, "Boooo."
Now I know how Huey Lewis feels every time he plays the Kern County Fair.
Still, the show went on, as it must, and the band launched into the song's opening riffs. I glanced at Janine, who gave me a fierce, drunken Bella Karoli-style "You can do it!" nod and motioned to the screen—to the screen, where one big, long word appeared to be tickering along the bottom like a NASDAQ stock report.
". . . by the record machiiiiiine . . . about seventeeeeeeen . . ."
As I desperately tried to read just one word from the screen, the band, clearly not amused, took over singing the song entirely—helpful gents, they are!—while Janine appeared to momentarily abandon singing altogether.
By the time we reached the bridge, I was ready to stage-dive into oblivion. Only real rock stars don't do such things, now, do they? No. Real rock stars share one mic with their guitarists. And so I did—or at least thought about doing as I turned toward the guitarist, who killed my hope with a cool gaze.
The song ended, my rock-star days along with it. Janine huffily threw the mic stand down and stormed off the stage.
"Sorry, guys," I whispered to no one in particular as I followed, sheepishly exiting the spotlight.
"Are you kidding? You guys rocked!" replied Tiffany, GameWorks' very enthusiastic other MC.
And now I know how it feels to have a groupie.
Still, I've always been a better fan than a rock star, so when the next singer took the stage with a blazing rendition of ABBA's "Dancing Queen," I grabbed Janine and the rest of the Clubbed! gang and headed in front of the stage to dance. There we stayed, flailing wax-on, wax-off hand motions during Rose Royce's "Car Wash," shouting the backup vocals to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and screaming—1950s teenaged-girl flip-out style—while our recently single friend Kenneth achingly tore through Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."
By the night's end, I was wonderfully sweaty, soused and exhausted. Which is, I guess, the point of Rock N Roake: you may never be a rock star, but that doesn't mean you can't feel like one.
GameWorks, located at 10 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, (562) 308-7529, features Rock N Roake every Sat., 10 p.m. The band is really quite nice and helpful, so be sure to arrive early and select a song you actually know!
I'd be happy to be stuck with you! Invite me out! firstname.lastname@example.org