Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Karaoke at Old Town Tavern

{I'm posting every day this month for the 31 Days writing challenge!
Click here to see an introduction and a list of all the posts I've written so far.}

A few years ago, my friend Helly (also a 31 dayer!) got me into the local karaoke scene in Santa Barbara.  We used to go around checking out all the different places in town that do karaoke on any given day, but eventually I kind of settled on a favorite place: Old Town Tavern.

Let me first make something very clear: you don’t have to be a good singer to be a good karaoke-er.  Karaoke is much more about having FUN than it is about singing well.  Don’t get me wrong: it’s nice if you can carry a tune that sounds a little more pleasant than nails on a chalkboard.  But ultimately, if you’re up there having a blast, people will cheer you on and high five you when you’re done! 

Anyway, more about Old Town Tavern (or OTT as we call it around these parts): this place is pretty much the definition of a dive bar.  Although, I guess I don’t actually know what qualifies a place to be a “dive” – cheap drinks? dim-slash-flickering lighting? gross carpet? a couple old dudes who look like they’ve been there since 11 AM? broken bathroom stall doors?  

OTT, at one point or another, has had all of those things and more.  They’ve recently been doing a little sprucing up, so they have working doors, slightly less disgusting flooring, and of course slightly more expensive drinks (this is Santa Barbara – is anything really ever CHEAP here?), but the overall vibe is that this place is so divey, hipsters won’t even go there to be ironic or whatever.   (But don’t worry, the hipsters have the Merc just around the corner to earn their “I hang out at supposedly-uncool bars” offense to the Merc...or to hipsters.  I don’t even know what I’m saying right now.)

On karaoke nights, OTT draws in a much younger crowd – although there are still a lot of “regulars” who I would be willing to bet are there every other night of the week, too.  And the crowd gets younger and younger as the night goes on....  I usually try to get there right when karaoke starts at 7:30 so that I can sing a few songs before the college crowd descends upon the place around 10:30 and I’m suddenly overwhelmed with a case of Major Old Lady Syndrome.  This is a condition in which I immediately become persnickety and territorial, as if to say, “Harumph.  Don’t you have a trashy night club to be passed out in right now?  Leave the laid-back dive bar to the OLD folks!”

I kid, I kid.  (Kinda.)  Really, one of my favorite things about karaoke nights at OTT is that it does bring together a very interesting mix of people, both young and old, “cool” and uncool, sane and holy-moly-where-are-your-meds crazy.  There’s never a dull moment!  

OTT is a great place for a chill birthday party (I've had mine there once, and been to several other people's birthdays there), and I've ended up there the last two New Year's Eves as well.  Joe has even been known to get up and sing on occasion!

Joe likes to claim to be tone-deaf, but he really does a decent job, and he picks
fun songs that don't often get sung by other people!

Throwback to my long-red-hair-and-braces days!  (I'm singing "At Last" and
no doubt looking lovingly at Joe while I sing it.  Say it with me: "Awww!")

New Year's Eve 2013!  Good times, good times.

And lest I neglect to mention the actual important details of any good dive bar karaoke experience: the drinks are delicious and not super overpriced, the bartenders are friendly and always looking out to make sure any creepers keep their distance from the ladies, and the karaoke DJ is fair and knows how to run the system.  (That’s one reason I don’t venture out to many other karaoke spots in town: some other local KJs tend to have more technical difficulties, smaller song selections, they’re less friendly, and I’ve seen a couple take bribes to boost people to the top of the queue.)

Just for fun, here’s a video of me singing one of my go-to karaoke songs, “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick.   

And for an extra bonus! Here’s a clip of what happens when I try to sing without the lyrics right in front of my face.  This was at a jazz open mic night at SoHo, where I definitely did NOT plan on actually singing, but got talked into it and then totally butchered the lyrics I thought I knew because I do this song all the time in karaoke.  Apparently I rely on those lyrics more than I realized!


  1. I'm waiting for the day you yell "Get off my lawn!" ;-) I feel like an old lady at Creekside sometimes!

    p.s. If ever you hit up OTT on New Year's Eve, text me!

  2. I'm so impressed. I've never sang karaoke, but it's on my bucket list! It looks like lots of fun.

  3. Sounds like a lot of fun (and what a fun 31 day topic--I live in a super small town, and I don't think there are even 31 businesses...cow tipping, anyone?).

  4. I love how brave you are! Sounds like a great time! I agree with other commenters - great idea for your 31 days!

  5. Fun to hear that Joe sometimes sings, too. It would be fun to hear you two sing Karaoke some time.


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