Olly goes to Live Band Karaoke

Oliver Heath clears his throat, pumps his fists and gets ready to rock out:

Once a modest night in the seedy basement of the old Mandarin Club in Sydney, now at Marrickville’s Factory Theatre, Black Cherry has become a unique rock ‘n’ roll carnival of bands, burlesque, a twist room and, if you’re lucky, Live Band Karaoke. True to the name, most people wear black with a splash of red; rockabillies, old school goths, rockers, pinup babes. I was worried a white cowboy hat would be too much. No such thing here. Go. Your only problem will be deciding which of the attractions should get your attention.

I was excited about Jungle Rump live band karaoke. Yes even with all the show girls and babes to gawk and squawk at. My attempts at bands have never left the garage, so crank it to 11 lads, it’s my time to shine. I signed up for Mother by Danzig.

Karaoke is a strange beast, best enjoyed when people fail with full effort. Like shower-singing in public, a drunk salute to unreachable dreams, we perform a wake for the rock legend that never was. When too polished it painfully feels more like an Idol episode than a shooting star. I hosted it back at uni a few times and the only thing worse than someone being joylessly over-prepared was the occasional group of college girls that would just come up on stage and just dance and giggle – some bizarre dating ritual that despite intentions came across more like they were poor East-Asian bar girls. I witnessed the other extreme in rural France where everyone seemed like they had regular singing lessons. My mate Joel and I got up to do Pretty Fly for a White Guy, and they all looked at him like he has just dropped a turd on the stage. Here, we would applaud how magnificently terrible he was, but there it was just silent disdain, and my uncontrollable giggling. The woeful singing and the startling audience reaction had caused a short circuit in my brain and all of sudden I was the bar girl that no one wanted to buy.

Back at Black Cherry, I had no idea how this would go down. There just for my turn on stage, to my surprise I found myself liking the show. All muscles and 80s swag, Jungle Rump look like the Sax Guy from The Lost Boys had babies with Hulk Hogan and nurtured them only the Arnie part of the sperm shake from Twins (I promise I’ll make my comparisons more contemporary from now on). A couple of them could play in Steel Panther and nobody would blink (phew). My excitement shifted to apprehension as I realised how zealously prepared the punters were. Not only did the guy singing Du Hast know all the words but he had fucking dance moves worked out. They looked too much like they’d go with goose-stepping for my taste, and made me suddenly aware how White the everyone was, but that’s bound to be the same at any night full of goth rockers and moon tans – with that much foundation on it’s hard to know what anyone’s ethnicity is. Tasteless moves aside, he did kick ass, and this was representative of the whole show. It was more like watching people whose bands had waned get back on stage at a tribute night than a regular karaoke night.

With each person that nailed it, I was more worried about how my act would go down. I feared for my life – there had been too many bourbon and cokes consumed by this room for me to escape with my scalp if I flounced it. A singer from a band that I really dig bowed out in fear when her name was called, and she was further down the list so I figured my turn was imminent. I waited in anticipation, worked my self into a fear based trance: I was going to kill it, crowd surf on the hessians to a shower of booze and boobs. All the fist pumps would be mine. All!

It didn’t happen. I wasn’t fist pumped, I was bumped. Night over. No song. No moment to shine. Serves me right for abandoning the pole dancers. Sorry girls, I’ll have my priorities straight next time. I’ll be the guy whose eyes are spinning with the nipple tassels. Well one of the guys anyway.

Black Cherry is on again this Saturday 27 October with a Halloween/Day of the Dead theme and, my personal tragedy aside, I still highly recommend it. At $20 it’s a bargain for an unusual night out. I think the karaoke is some kind click thing for regulars, and the list might be a token gesture for wannabes, or perhaps you just gotta buy one of the Jungle Rump 80s Adonai a beer. You’ll work it out. Maybe they saved my life, you shouldn’t fuck with a Dazing classic anyway.


Words and pictures by Oliver Heath. Find out more about Black Cherry here