As I am writing this, the day is gray and rainy, my eyes are red and itchy (allergy season) and the weekend seems light years away. This is the kind of day that was made for a couch and a movie, a daydream, a plane ticket to the Bahamas. A brief escape, if only within my skull, can help me muddle through until my chest hits the tape marking the finish line of the Weekend 100 Meter Dash.
There's one thing that I can always think of that will be sure to improve any day, that will whisk me away back to a simpler time, a magical place filled with music, friends and fun. Where, once upon a time, every Wednesday night, kids from all walks of life would come together where the outside world couldn't bring them down, and relish and rejoice in an unabashed celebration of dancing, socializing and singing very, very badly. I talk, my friends, about Crapaoke.
Now, it seems that a weekly session of crappy karaoke (Crapaoke for short) in a dingy nightspot wouldn't be something that bridge the gap between rich and poor, punks and posers, friends and enemies. It doesn't seem the setting that would create lasting friendships, favorite memories and even a baby or two. But for some reason, all of the cosmic elements aligned every Wednesday night at that stage at the Nyabinghi on Salt Springs Road, and for a few hours, we were all stars.
I first happened upon this magical karaoke Narnia while working at the Eastwood Mall Hot Topic. After work, my co-workers and I would go out to shake off the tension of folding five thousand pairs of giant glowstick pants. Someone knew a bartender at the Nyabinghi, and the rest was history. I was hooked the first time I sang (my friend Dawn and I sang "Living Dead Girl" by Rob Zombie). This was circa 2002-ish, and I would go on to attend Crapaoke almost every week until its demise in December 2006.
There were several reasons why Crapaoke was special. First was the premise itself. The appeal of being able to sing your heart out without fear of reproach or judgement was enticing. You could take your one-man act, usually only heard in the shower or car, to a stage under bright lights (and the omnipresent Jesus rug hung on the wall behind you). It didn't matter if you were good. It didn't matter if you were bad on purpose. If you gave it your all, people would dance, clap and cheer you on.
A second reason was the people. There's a certain camaraderie that comes from living in this area - we're all in the same boat, so why not have a good time? People would come to Crapaoke whom I would not have met otherwise: jocks, neighborhood locals, older people, younger people, the antisocial, the misfits. Somehow, we all just fit, and formed a big family to cheer on whoever was singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or "The Final Countdown."
The third reason was the escapism aspect of Crapaoke. The relaxed atmosphere and tight-knit group lent itself well to being able to really let loose. We would all make up fake names for our song slips (Tom Holden, Bill Brasky, Spooky McGee), thus creating new identities for our three minutes of rock stardom. There was a big bucket of weird thrift store clothes to put on and add to your weird persona. There were no rules. People ran around, danced, crawled, moshed, got naked. What happened at Crapaoke, stayed at Crapaoke (well, at least until Facebook).
The last Crapaoke was the stuff of legend. Dozens of Crapaoke All-Stars were in attendance. For the last song, everyone crowded the stage for "Bohemian Rhapsody." With Jesus watching us, it was more like the Last Supper. We said our goodbyes to our fake names, but not to each other. I'm still close friends with many people I met there. We went through four DJs, several microphones, countless PBRs and even lost a few of our brethren. We're all older, and still can't sing a lick. But what a ride.