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Sing Your Life at the Black Forest

Dinsmore's Eye of the Tiger

BY STEVEN SAWADA

Karaoke Mondays at the Black Forest have come a long way from the days when my friends Jimbo and Casey from the CD Game Exchange used to sing their hearts out there. Back then, Mike B. from the Courtesy Clerks would stop in on occasion and belt out his best Rick Astley impression. He made the ladies swoon as he strutted around the room, pointing at every one of them singing, "Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you!"

There was a core Monday night following of hip kids, rockers and the occasional Black Forest regular. Rarely did I ever notice anyone that was serious about ka-(roll the r)ra-o-kay. It's not Carry-okay … OK?

So I had my reservations when I walked into the Black Forest for the first week of their official karaoke competition. But things change, and the old must make way for the new. Plus, a $1,000 grand prize is enough to make anybody pick up a beer bottle and start practicing.

"There's $1,000 on the line!" exclaimed Shalena Rasmussen, a 22- year-old student who has sung karaoke for five years and belted out an excellent rendition of "Thank You" by Alanis Morissette.

Karaoke Mondays at the Black Forest are now a battleground for aspiring American Idol wannabes. From 8:30 to 10 pm anyone can sign up to sing or to "warm-up" before the competition. The contest for the $1,000 grand prize starts every Monday at 10pm, and only the first 20 contestants signed up can compete. The eight-week contest culminates in a final competition where the highest scoring contestants from each week go toe-to-toe.

Jared Ritzer, an independent but very loyal Black Forest karaoke jockey, hosts the night. The KJ is the person in charge of witty banter and supplying the karaoke versions of people's favorite sing-a-longs. Ritzer's introductions and impromptu country solos during contest intermissions are a welcome distraction from the sometimes stomach-churning performances.

I wouldn't call anyone a horrible karaoke singer. It is, as competitor number nine Matt Dinsmore said, an impressive feat for someone to get up on stage and sing for an audience. "I say, God love 'em," he said. "The fact that they got up there says something."

Dinsmore belted out a hyper-dramatic version of Billy Idol's "White Wedding." Unshaven and dressed in his best 1977 Lou Reed throwback leather jacket and driver's cap, Dinsmore won over the audience as he stepped down from the stage and addressed the ladies, "Hey little sister, who's the only one?" He kind of mumbled through the verses, but really belted out in true Idol fashion, "It's a nice day to START AGAIN!"

But I can't lie … there were a few unfavorable performances that night. The same woman that flashed a couple guys at the bar earlier in the evening sang a really piss-poor version of a Guns 'n' Roses song.

On the other end of the spectrum, Edward Crockett delivered an honest, heartfelt cover of Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife." Crockett, a soft-spoken man who cites cross-stitching as one of his hobbies, took the stage with the confidence and poise of a veteran performer. "I'm getting more and more comfortable," he said. "I love to sing."

When I asked him what he thought about bad karaoke singers, he just scrunched up his face into a funny, prune-like expression. The highlight of the night had to be architecture graduate student Dan Safarik. I quickly picked Safarik out of the Black Forest crowd because of his unusually cool fashion sense (you don't see too many Eugeneans in slim-fitting corduroy suits and slicked-down hair). He looked like a lost New York hipster amongst a sea of tired logger and A&F collegiate types.

Safarik bounced around onstage like a manic, pseudoephedrine-ized Elvis Presley. With his wide, psychotic eyes and sinister vocal inflection, he delivered the hottest performance of the night.

Gone are the days when my buddy Casey used to literally stop the crowd as he writhed and convulsed on the ground singing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." But then I must say this new crowd of competitors is very entertaining and more diverse than ever. Everyone is welcome to watch or sing on Mondays at the Black Forest, whether or not you're competing in the karaoke contest.

2ND ANNUAL Karaoke Competition. Mondays, 3/14 & Finals 3/21 8:30 pm warm ups, sign ups. 10 pm contest start.

 

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