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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Hot damn, karaoke jam! This past Monday was, quite possibly, the highlight of my entire musical career! Super Karaoke Fun Time Band was asked to play WFMU DJ Tom Sharpling's birthday party. His wife, and also FMU DJ, Terre, booked us about a month ago. I knew this would be something, but none of us were prepared for just how amazing the evening would be.

In addition to being an FMU DJ, Tommy is also the story editor on the Monk TV series. He's also one of the funniest guys I know. And as such, he has lotsa pals in high places. The fun started over a week ago, when I got an email from Officer Tom, a NJ police officer, who asked if we would be able to work up Body Count's Cop Killer for him to sing at the pardookie. Always respectful of law enforcement officers, we gladly obliged. He actually came to a rehearsal, sos we could do it up right. Unfortunately, the rehearsal was a good 8 days before the event and the tune had begun to seep out of our collective minds by the time the party rolled around. However, we're professionals and we made it work. Very nice!

So we opened the show with our version of MC5's Kick Out the Jams, as we often do. Then, first singer up was Ira from Yo La Tengo who did Tom Petty's American Girl. Really kicked things off right! We ended up playing 2 1/2 hours. Everybody was in a karaoke state of mind. Georgia from Yo La did a truly beautiful version of Stop Your Sobbing. Andy Breckman, Monk creator, as well as original cast SNL writer and original David Letterman writer, (among other things) did Day Tripper. The lovely and talented Laura Cantrell did a rousing version of Slack Motherfucker. Horatio Sanz from SNL did a killer Running With the Devil and led the all star finale of Highway To Hell. I'm sure there are other talented folk we jammed with and I'm discovering their resumes every day.

But the highlight of the night had to be the birthday boy himself who did the Ziggy Stardust/Suffragette combo and Wings' Jet.

Woof! Still recovering from the evening! We blew the roof off the sucker! Quite a treat on any number of levels! I hadn't been on the Maxwell's stage since the early 90's. Who sez you can't go home again?

And a parking spot was waiting right in front of my apartment when I arrived home at 2 AM! Truly, the rawk gods were smiling on me.

I am Otis Ball. This is Project SMonkey. SMonkey ho!

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Well, it's been quite the week! Wednesday we played our weekly show in Hobroken and it was a cave! Weather was decent, I did my promotion, the club did theirs, but we did, quite possibly, our worst attendance to date there. The owner and I decided it was best to end our relationship at his club. Dunno why, but we just couldn't draw at that place. If I had to guess, it would be the current state of Hobroken, which is a blog for someone else to write. That's not why I'm here.

So, we're out our residency, but we're also saved a weekly headache, so it evens out. Waddoo we care? We got a radio show to do! Woooo!

And that's where the fun really starts. We pulled into FMU an hour before our set and were up and running about 15 minutes later. UNFORTUNATELY, the engineer got stuck in Valentine's Day traffic and showed up about 6:15. With no time to prep what was to be an historic broadcast. As you would imagine, setting up for a phone in karaoke show leaves plenty of opportunities for glitches. He had the band miked quickly, but then spent about an hour trying to figure out how to get the phone line in the band monitors, on the radio with the band and back out the phone so the singers could hear us and sing along. It was about 7:30 when we did our first song and that was with me singing to buy them some time. We had about 25 minutes left in the show to get 8 more songs in. UNFORTUNATELY, we lost our first caller to dinner reservations. Michael was a trooper and hung on the phone for 10 or 15 minutes while the engineer ran crazy line checks trying to get everything up. Eventually, he had to split for Valentine's Day dinner. He wanted to sing Blondie's Dreaming to his wife, as it was her favorite song. So I now have Michael's denied evening on my shoulders. I hope dinner went better than the hors dourves.

Next up was a friend who is a classically trained opera singer. UNFORTUNATELY, she was to be the guinea pig. The band was coming through overloaded through her phone and she couldn't make heads nor tails of where we were in the song. Which no doubt made her very nervous. Made me a wreck! But she was a trooper and hung in there.

A song or two in, a few knob twiddles later and we finally had things pretty much in sync. And the DJ of the next shift was kind enough to float us some spill over time. We crashed through the rest of the songs and finished about 15 minutes after the hour. My fave was Bex doing Madonna. You can listen to the show at WFMU. Hit the archives for Feb 14. And our fake manager, Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss, had a particularly stunning moment. Listen for it. We start playing about 90 minutes into the show.

Tomorrow night is the big private party. Look for me later in the week with stories from that one.
Well, it's been quite the week! Wednesday we played our weekly show in Hobroken and it was a cave! Weather was decent, I did my promotion, the club did theirs, but we did, quite possibly, our worst attendance to date there. The owner and I decided it was best to end our relationship at his club. Dunno why, but we just couldn't draw at that place. If I had to guess, it would be the current state of Hobroken, which is a blog for someone else to write. That's not why I'm here.

So, we're out our residency, but we're also saved a weekly headache, so it evens out. Waddoo we care? We got a radio show to do! Woooo!

And that's where the fun really starts. We pulled into FMU an hour before our set and were up and running about 15 minutes later. UNFORTUNATELY, the engineer got stuck in Valentine's Day traffic and showed up about 6:15. With no time to prep what was to be an historic broadcast. As you would imagine, setting up for a phone in karaoke show leaves plenty of opportunities for glitches. He had the band miked quickly, but then spent about an hour trying to figure out how to get the phone line in the band monitors, on the radio with the band and back out the phone so the singers could hear us and sing along. It was about 7:30 when we did our first song and that was with me singing to buy them some time. We had about 25 minutes left in the show to get 8 more songs in. UNFORTUNATELY, we lost our first caller to dinner reservations. Michael was a trooper and hung on the phone for 10 or 15 minutes while the engineer ran crazy line checks trying to get everything up. Eventually, he had to split for Valentine's Day dinner. He wanted to sing Blondie's Dreaming to his wife, as it was her favorite song. So I now have Michael's denied evening on my shoulders. I hope dinner went better than the hors dourves.

Next up was a friend who is a classically trained opera singer. UNFORTUNATELY, she was to be the guinea pig. The band was coming through overloaded through her phone and she couldn't make heads nor tails of where we were in the song. Which no doubt made her very nervous. Made me a wreck! But she was a trooper and hung in there.

A song or two in, a few knob twiddles later and we finally had things pretty much in sync. And the DJ of the next shift was kind enough to float us some spill over time. We crashed through the rest of the songs and finished about 15 minutes after the hour. My fave was Bex doing Madonna. You can listen to the show at
WFMU
Tomorrow night is the big private party. Look for me later in the week with stories from that one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Man, talk about rockin' a hard place! Band politics is giving me angina! We're behind on pay at our weekly gig, which bugs me, but to a much lesser degree than the band. Our crowds have been respectable for such a young band, but hardly overwhelming. Having said that, I really appreciate the residency. Nuthin's gonna make us better than playing weekly shows, pay notwithstanding. It's not like the pay is all that much to begin with. I'd rather be playing a gig for free than rehearsing for free. At least at this point in our career. No one's talking about quitting the band, which is a relief, but our residency may be in jeopardy.

On the plus side, we have two big gigs comig up in the next week. This Saturday we're doing our Valentine's Day karaoke show on WFMU. Hit the link for more info. Still a few slots left, if you wanna surprise your baby with a Valentine's Day melody of love. You can listen on your computer live or hit the archives to listen at your leisure. And on Monday, we're playing a private party that promises to be our most exciting gig to date. More on that show after the fact. Should be some spectacular mp3s on the way. Sign up for the Otis Ball MP3 Club by sending an email to otisball@aol.com. You won't regret it.

Tomorrow night is our last regular Wednesday for a couple weeks. Or more. No telling. Kevin, our drummer, is taking his vacation and heading down South to Memphis and other points of rock and roll interest. I envy him that. Taint been down to Memphis in far too long and I miss it. One of my favorite places in the world, even after the disgusting renovations of the last decade or two. If you find yourself in Memphis, feel free to email me for points of interest.

derf Awright. Clearly the interesting stories are in the immediate future, not tonight. Check back after the weekend.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Hey hey, kids! Super Karaoke Fun Time Band has been snowed out for tonight. Yup, we canceled the show cuz of snow. But we'll be back next week. As will our new favorite karaoke singer, Dr. Dot. It's all happening now! Better come check her out, before she stops coming cuz our PA sucks. First good reason we've had to upgrade our sound system.

Last few weeks have been work! Here in Northern Jersey, Wednesdays have been lousy weather evenings. And while the turnout has been light, we've been doing OK with singers. Our days as a cover band seem to be slipping away, thankfully. And we're doing a Valentine's Day show on WFMU, so check back next week for details on how you can sing on the radio to your sweetie with a smokin' back-up band!

We've been working rehearsals into our schedule, as well as trying some new numbers cold during our first set to bulk up the song catalog. We're nearing 100 songs. We wanna double that over the next couple months. Nuthin against our current gig, but we're looking to add another weekly show and crack the private party market. We may have our first shot at that next month. More on that when it is confirmed.

Ya know, taint easy being a karaoke band. Lotsa issues we didn't even think of. Such as, trying to keep arrangements for 100 songs in your head. We tend to have about 40 songs that get called on a regular basis. Which means there are about 60 songs we don't play very often. So when we do play one, it's a crap shoot how well we'll nail it. I'm usually pleasantly surprised, but last week, Sammy blew up when we screwed the end of Sultans of Swing. Luckily, we were all a little buzzed, so it was easy to laugh it off. It happens so rarely that no one took it seriously. Kinda like when they crack up on
SNL.. All in good fun.

And while I'm doing link tags, lemme thank The Suburban Limbo and Tin Huey for the recent plugs! It's nice to have pals.

Welp, hope to see all the local SMonkey fans next Wednesday at The Cage in wonderful Hobroken. We're rehearsing Friday, so we'll have new songs. And my car is parked, I am home and warm. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Happy New Year, all. Super Karaoke Fun Time Band regrouped this past Friday after a long break for the holidays. And we returned for yet another experiment. The owner of the club wanted us to start playing weekends in this year of 2004. I didn't think it was a very good idea. We're still building our audience and getting our act together. The band is excellent, but pulling off a live karaoke show is something else. Every week we discover new perils and pitfalls. This last show was no exception.

We arrived at the club at 8:30 for our show. That gave us an hour to set up and get a feel for the crowd. It was immediately clear that this crowd had no desire to be felt. Matter of fact, the bouncer at the door had no idea a band was playing and tried to explain that I must be at the wrong club. I assured him this must be the place.

A couple of stained, padded bras had been added to the lighting rig since last we'd played there. White and bulky. Nothing very sexy about that. But I figured they were probly put there by the owner anyway. However, we had far bigger issues to worry about. First and foremost, the weekend crowd was clearly not interested in karaoke. Bill, the DJ, gave me the rundown on what to expect from the crowd and we worked out our evenings schedule. 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off for the next four hours. The band preferred our longer sets, but I liked the shorter sets. 5 or 6 songs, then time off to figure out a game plan for the next set.

And working out game plans turned out to be the challenge for the night, as it was immediately clear that we would basically be a cover band for the evening. Over our three sets (more about the missing set in a bit), we only had three different karaoke takers and two of em were FOBs. (Friends of the Band) We did make a new friend, Mike, who stumbled through Sweet Home Alabama and decided we were the shit. He bought us drinks and talked Southern Boogie with us most of the night. He also talked us into going off list and trying Freebird for the first time. As always, Sammy knew it cold and the rest of us were able to follow along competently.

In the middle of our third set, we were told the police had stopped by to ask us to turn down. Fair enough, except the DJ was playing CDs louder than we were playing. The first clue sumthin was up. Then, 20 minutes in to the third set, we were told to take our break early. Caught me by surprise, but OK. After 30 minutes, we expected to return for our final set, but Bill didn't announce our return. I asked him what was up and he said the owner wanted to wait for the crowd to build. Didn't make any sense to me. One would think that having a live band playing would be more likely to bring in folks from the street. But what do I care? I don't own the place.

Well, after our 30 minute break turned into 75 minutes, we got the picture and packed it up. Talking with the owner the next day, he told me our songs were more geared to an older crowd and maybe we should put the weekend shows on hold. Fine with me. Though I don't think a karaoke set of Puddle of Mudd, Audio Slave, Pigs In a Blanket or Big Toe Suckers woulda gone over any better. And to add insult to injury, the DJ ended up playing at least 4 or 5 songs that we had in our karaoke list.

So, to sum up, in the future, everyone should just listen to me when I open my big mouth.

And I never did find a parking spot when I finally got home at 3 AM. Matter of fact, I'm still driving around.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Rock and roll is work! Last night's show was somewhere in between the bad of the first week and the good of the second. Not a very big crowd and not too many singers. We probably did half the night as a cover band. A liquor company considering sponsoring us showed up and they were game for a few songs. And, as always, Betty was there to do a couple numbers.

But one of the regulars made the night tortuous at times. He has a problem with boundaries. We musta spent a good 10 or 15 minutes arguing with him during the sets. You see, he likes to call songs we don't know and tell us we know them. And on the occasions when we actually do give one a shot, he doesn't know the words and walks off halfway through the tune. Not cool. Not cool at all. At one point, I had to literally slap him upside his head to get him to leave the stage!

And so we've realized it's time to draw up some karaoke rules. This is really bumming us out, though I guess it was inevitable and better sooner than later, etc. meh But it does look like we'll be adding a second night every week after the holidays. Ray, the club owner, believes in us and wants us to be the house band. For all the problems this brings (and I still think it might be a little early), it's nice to have that kind of support. Doesn't happen often in this business.

So we're off for the next couple weeks, give or take. Discussions are in the works for a New Year's Eve show and we really need to find time for some rehearsing. We've gotta learn a big bag o' new tunes, particularly some female vocals. Looks like plenty of homework during the downtime.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Well, third night, people! After a wildly succesful second show, we've been asked to add Friday nights to our weekly schedule at the club. I believe it's too early. And there's no guarantee tonight will go all that well. Rains coming down and it's expected all evening, ending in a slush storm right about the time we're packing up.

But we're relaxing somewhat. Gonna try for a third set of all new stuff tonight. Songs we've never played before. Working without a net. Not a new concept to me. It's become immediately apparent that we need to add songs regularly. After tonight, we should have about a hundred. Pretty good for five shows.

Tonight will be our biggest playlist yet and, without a doubt, our longest show to date. Last week, we promised a singer that if she came back this week, we would do her request for Sweet Child O' Mine. We're ready to hold up our end of the bargain. Let's see if she shows.

OK. Dinner, then heading out. More later.
Well, third night, people! After a wildly succesful second show, we've been asked to add Friday nights to our weekly schedule at the club. I believe it's too early. And there's no guarantee tonight will go all that well. Rains coming down and it's expected all evening, ending in a slush storm right about the time we're packing up.

But we're relaxing somewhat. Gonna try for a third set of all new stuff tonight. Songs we've never played before. Working without a net. Not a new concept to me. It's become immediately apparent that we need to add songs regularly. After tonight, we should have about a hundred. Pretty good for five shows.

Tonight will be our biggest playlist yet and, without a doubt, our longest show to date. Last week, we promised a singer that if they came back this week, we would do her request for Sweet Child O' Mine. We're ready to hold up our end of the bargain. Let's see if she shows.

OK. Dinner, then heading out. More later.

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