Rocking Out in Big Hats
Country karaoke kicks in Monterey.
Thursday, March 3, 2005
There are all types of ways that bars and clubs try to lure people inside their doors, from scantily clad alcohol peddlers giving away free trinkets—the Coors Light Girls—to an opportunity to sing your favorite song in public—karaoke. Although many fine Monterey Peninsula establishments host a plethora of karaoke nights, only one has a country theme. Expecting tall cowboys in huge hats trying to sing Garth Brooks tunes with a mouthful of chew, I head to Doc Rickett’s Lab in Monterey to check out country karaoke, hosted by local country station KTOM.
In just a few minutes, the first performers of the night will grace the stage. In the meantime, a pair of couples slow dance in the dizzying colored lights to a contemporary country song about the devil driving around in a Coupe de Ville. When the song ends, KTOM DJ Scotty Doo puts on a rather rocking country tune by Big and Rich titled, “Rollin.’” As Big and Rich start rapping lines of the song—that’s right, new country is crazy—five ladies start line dancing in the club. While the ladies kick and turn, their faces seem to be deep in thought—it looks like they are doing complicated math equations in their mind—as they try to remember the dance’s next moves.
Outside of the club, KTOM Program Director Dave Kirth and his KTOM co-workers John Young and Chris Wheeler huddle in a circle while harmonizing together like an a capella group. Despite the practice session, Kirth says he will not be singing this evening.
“Well, my voice is a little trashed, and he’s a little trashed,” he jokes while pointing at Young.
Kirth admits that though he will not be serenading the audience tonight, he has sung hits by Chris Cagle, Clay Walker and Brooks & Dunn in the past.
“I gotta really feel it to go up there,” he says.
Kirth says KTOM has been putting on country nights at Doc Rickett’s Lab for around two years. Some weeks, the radio station has concerts by national recording artists like Mark Chesnutt instead of karaoke. But, on the karaoke evenings, Kirth says there is plenty of talent.
“You can find people here who can easily be the next American Idol,” he says. “It’s a place for people to perfect their craft.”
Back inside, Young and Wheeler walk up onto the stage to perform the evening’s first number. Standing on either side of what appears to be a stripper’s pole, the men—who look like regular college-aged guys without anything distinctive like a huge Pabst Blue Ribbon belt buckle or a cowboy hat—sing a very poppy produced song by Chris Cagle titled, “What a Beautiful Day.”
Next up, dressed in jeans and a blue button-up shirt is Crystal Fennimore, who sings a nice version of Lorrie Morgan’s “Five Minutes.” After leaving the stage, Fennimore tells me how she copes with the stress of singing in front of people. “Sometimes, I walk around to calm down, but I have been performing for a while,” she says.
It is a little farther into the evening before anyone ends up belting out an old school number. When it happens, it is Monterey hairdresser Kimberley Therezo, doing the karaoke favorite “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. Following the number, Therezo tells me why she sounds so well-rehearsed while singing the tune.
“I was raised on a ranch, and I used to sing that song as a little girl,” she says.
Throughout the evening, Prunedale’s Patrick McLeary is probably the one karaoke singer who actually looks like a real contemporary country crooner. Wearing a cowboy hat and a leather jacket, McLeary sings lines like “Come Friday night/ I like to party hard,” from Brooks & Dunn’s “Hard Working Man,” with real conviction.
Later in the evening, roommates Amanda Rose-Parks and Meredith Lowden duet on Shania Twain’s “Honey, I’m Home.” The two perform an animated version of the tune as Lowden bounces with enthusiasm at one point during the song.
Lowden, who seems totally at ease onstage, admits that she has been singing for quite a long time. She says that her singing career started when she sang “Edelweiss” in second grade.
Though Lowden is an old pro at karaoke, her roommate Rose-Parks admits that she just took up the hobby a few months ago after moving to Monterey. With local karaoke nights at local bars including Britannia Arms, Eddie’s, The Mucky Duck, and her regular spot, Characters, Rose-Parks realized that being able to sing a few karaoke songs could be an asset in a city with so many karaoke nights.
Now, she talks about how her life has changed ever since she sang Trisha Yearwood’s “Xxx’s and Ooo’s (An American Girl)” at Characters a few months ago. “Once you do it, it is like a bug,” she says.
KTOM Country Nights are at Doc Rickett’s Lab, 180 E. Franklin St. in Monterey, every Tuesday starting at 6pm. The karaoke starts at 9:30pm. No cover on non-concert nights. 649-4241.