I am something of a karaoke enthusiast. This baffles many of my friends as I'm actually quite a good singer. I found out early on that there were few things you could count on in a career in music, but musicians being sort of unreliable was the #1 lesson that deterred me from pursuing fame and fortune as a singer. Well, that and the fact that I sort of have a perpetual fear of being continually "in the spotlight" -- not that I don't like it here and there, but I like to be able to retreat to my introverted lair when I feel like it, and let's face it, in today's culture with the way we use technology surveillance and our obsession with celebrity culture? I'd be one step away from a mental breakdown after every concert.
But I digress. Karaoke. It's the perfect blend of being able to fulfill my desire to perform, meet interesting people, and still remain largely unknown. Everyone in a karaoke bar is a character. I could tell you a bunch of stories on this point, but if you're interested, Rob Drew's book Karaoke Nights is a fabulous, smart analysis of this subculture. A fellow enthusiast recently explained his own obsession as being "like I'm addicted to crack," and while I have no base of crack addiction for a comparison reference, I'm pretty sure it's an accurate simile.
So, I used to frequent karaoke on a weekly basis. In the last few months, I haven't gone as often because of a number of factors: a) my normal karaoke spot changed the night they have karaoke, b) I mostly used karaoke night as a means to escape the confines of my home/loneliness/relationships, etc., which is somewhat pointless when you're in a happy place and c) the last six weeks have been hell as far as my job is concerned. Last night was the first time I was able to go out in a long time on my own terms. I had a great time at a new little dive place that does karaoke. It's off the radar of most locals (and more importantly, students) so I can actually relax and feel okay kicking back. I sang some good stuff, I sang some stuff that I should never sing again. I got my foot trampled by a drunk girl from Minnesota. I'm kind of lucky she didn't break my toe(s). But I certainly wouldn't trade the experience for anything...and I look forward to going back in a few weeks.
My obsession has me wondering about the importance of performance in contemporary culture. I'm not sure why I continually complain about feeling like I'm "performing" within the confines of my job (and of my former relationship, though this is not the case now), yet when I have a chance to get out and do something, performing is often my first choice? In some sense, I'm not sure today's generations know how to live a life without performance, without surveillance. And while I like to think nostalgically that this wasn't the case ten years ago, I'm sure there were similar trends on local scales that were the equalvalent of today's YouTube or blogging. I seem to remember calling in to a lot of radio talk shows during that period of my life...