Thursday, October 29, 2009

Go Ahead and Sing Your #%@& Off - Karaoke in Dallas

Here is article #3 for Lit Monthly (November, 2009 issue)...

Go Ahead and Sing Your #%@& Off - Karaoke in Dallas

Do you have the testicular fortitude to stand up in front of a crowd of complete strangers, family, and friends and belt out a version of “Close to You” by the Carpenters? No? Well then have another drink or two and you soon will. Ah, karaoke; it allows us to accrue a few of our fifteen minutes of fame (or shame) and get that adrenaline rush of a live performance. In the comfort of our favorite bar, we’re able to sing and join in on the cheers and jeers of our contemporaries, who usually feel that they could’ve done a better job on that last tune, which was so deftly sent through the abattoir.

Karaoke (amateurs singing along to recorded music through a PA system, with the assistance of scrolling lyrics that are being displayed on a video screen) has been around since the early 1970s. The true origin of this phenom is speculative, but most agree that it can be traced back to Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue, who created a karaoke-type machine back in 1971. Totally embraced by the Japanese, the popularity of the “Big K” quickly spread to East and Southeast Asia during the 1980s, and by the 1990s it was in full swing in the US and remains a popular form of entertainment today. In fact, the movie Duets, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis, centers on the life of a U.S. karaoke hustler.

Karaoke is really all about having a good time, whether you sing well or not. The medium has become so popular that even famous recording artists often use it as a crutch, on stage, relying on a video monitor of scrolling lyrics to keep from looking like a jackass, should they forget a line. Heck, even Elvis “the pelvis” used to use cue cards during live performances. And speaking of live performances, there is a form of karaoke called “Rock Star” karaoke, where a real band, with a list of up to several hundred songs, actually backs you up. You really get to be a rock star for a night!

As the majority of us have a hard enough time just mustering enough courage to vocalize to any crowd, there are a few rules of etiquette that should be followed when performing (or watching) karaoke. Here are a couple of lists that will help make the evening more enjoyable (or at least less painful) for everyone involved.

Some Karaoke Rules of Etiquette

1. Always applaud for every singer, no matter how bad they are. It’s always possible that you’ll suck even worse than them, when your time comes.
2. Conversely, making fun of someone on stage is a big NO-NO. No hissing, booing or derogatory comments from the peanut gallery, please. Unless of course it’s one of your siblings or best friends, and they are actually better than you.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, get up and sing backup or a duet with anyone unless you are specifically asked to! It’s hard enough sounding like crap on my own.
4. While there are tons of songs to choose from, there’s always a chance that someone will request the same song as you, before you. Don’t whine about it. They turned their slip in first and get to sing the song first. Just pick another tune and move on.
5. Always be respectful of the microphone. Don’t swing it around by the cord like Roger Daltry, and certainly don’t lick it, suck it, stick it in your mouth, or in any other bodily orifice. It’s a highly specialized, expensive piece of equipment, and when I sing on that mic, I’m singing with everyone else that that mic has been with.

Follow these simple rules and you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy inside and will probably be invited back to regale the adoring throngs with your smooth vocal stylings. Fail to heed them and the karaoke police may come knocking on your door in the wee hours of the morning, and force you to listen to 37 different renditions of “Feelings.” That being said, here is a short list of “don’t be that guy” songs that you should never inflict upon any karaoke crowd…

1. Songs that are too lengthy – i.e. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “American Pie,” “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights,” “Freebird,” and “Stairway to Heaven.” Why? Life’s just too damn short!
2. Songs that are overly weak, wimpy, or watered down – such as “I Got You Babe,” “The Rose,” or “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (Both by Bette Midler, sorry Bette!), “Delta Dawn,” “Copacabana,” anything by Air Supply, the Carpenters, Neil Diamond, or the like. – No explanation needed here, is there?
3. Tunes by musicians that are not in your vocal range – Journey, Rush, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Minnie Ripperton to name just a few. - Is there a freakin’ Screech Owl in here?
4. Songs that have just been way too overdone – like most anything from the Grease soundtrack, “Ice, Ice, Baby,” “New York, New York,” “My Way,” “Freebird” (again), “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Strokin’,” “Friends in Low Places,” “Baby Got Back,” “Margaritaville,” “Hotel California” etc. – No, Not Again!! Please!!!
5. Songs that nobody else knows. – You’re going to sing that? Really!?
6. And last but certainly not least… sad, depressing, or breakup songs. – You may have just been through a tough breakup, but my life already sucks and I don’t need to be reminded. Keep your personal issues to yourself!

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are a few of my favorite places in the Metroplex to stretch my vocal chords:

1. The Maple Point – 5415 Maple Ave. Dallas, TX (214) 688-5515 (Thurs.)
2. Lone Star Café – 11277 E. NW Highway Suite #124 Dallas, TX (214) 341-3538 (Tues. and Thurs.)
3. Tradewinds – 2843 W. Davis St. Dallas, TX (214) 337-9075 (Sat.)
4. The Stone Elephant – 6750 Abrams Rd. Dallas, TX (214) 342-9200 (Thurs.)
5. Ernie’s of North Dallas – 5100 Belt Line Rd. Suite #502 Dallas, TX (972) 233-8855 (Mon.)
6. The Goat (aka Lota’s Goat) – 7248 Gaston Ave. Dallas, TX (214) 327-8119 (Wed. and Sun.)
7. Knox Street Pub – 4447 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX (214) 528-5100 (Thurs.)
8. Winedale Tavern – 2110 Greenville Ave. Dallas, TX (214) 823-5018 (Thurs.)

You can find Rock Star Karaoke at:

1. Scooter’s – 3427 Trinity Mills Rd. Suite #700 Carrollton, TX (972) 662-9170 (Thurs.)
2. Sherlock’s Pub – 9100 N. Central Expressway Dallas, TX (214)692-1111 (Tues.)

There are tons of places to sing karaoke in Dallas, from little hole-in-the-wall dives to places like Family Karaoke, where you can rent your own private room with a karaoke machine, sing as horribly as you want, and order food and drinks, away from the judging eyes and ears of others. For more DFW karaoke hot spots, check out the website It’s a phenomenal resource for finding places to sing, on any night of the week. They were also very helpful in writing this article. Now get out there and sing your #%@& off! “Feelings, wo-o-o feelings…”

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stairway to Freebird: An Homage to DFW Tribute Bands and Clubs

Here is the second article that I've written for Lit Monthly. It was written for the October issue. I also penned a little one-page blurb for one of the advertisers, Reno's Grill, in Deep Ellum.

Stairway to Freebird: An Homage to DFW Tribute Bands and Clubs

Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush, The Allman Brothers, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd, performing live for only $5 each? You bet! When we can’t see the original band for one reason or another, a tribute to our favorite and sometimes defunct bands fits the bill just fine, and Dallas is at the forefront when it comes to the tribute band scene.

With concert ticket prices reaching the $150 range and old rockers dropping like flies, sometimes a tribute is the only and certainly most cost-effective way of recapturing the youthful rocking that we were once able to experience for under $10. I mean, I remember seeing bands like Boston, Queen and Thin Lizzy at the Dallas Convention Center for only $8.00 each!!!

Webster’s English Dictionary defines “tribute” as: a gift or service showing respect, gratitude, or affection and Wikipedia defines a “tribute act” as a music group, singer, or group of musicians who specifically plays the music of a well-known music act.

The first tributes to emerge appeared in the early to mid-60s and were primarily Elvis and Beatles impersonators, including an early Fab Four-inspired band called the Buggs, from Omaha, Nebraska. Marshall Crenshaw, in fact, got his first big break in 1977, playing for the touring Beatles tribute Beatlemania. A few tributes have even made it to the big time in their own right; Australian Pink Floyd and Dread Zeppelin come to mind. The Oasis tribute, No Way Sis, was once actually asked to play for a sellout crowd in Paris, which the holier-than-thou Oasis had just cancelled. As the tribute genre has grown in stature and quality, a number of big name acts have acquired replacement musicians, from tributes that have emulated their own sound, such as Journey, who found Arnel Pineda on You Tube, singing for a Philippine Journey tribute called “The Zoo,” or Tim “Ripper” Owens, the one-time singer for Judas Priest, who was found fronting a band in 1996 called British Steel, a Priest homage. Incidentally, Owens’ story was the inspiration for the film Rock Star.

Dallas has certainly had its share of tributes and the locals have always shown enough interest to keep them playing at live venues virtually every weekend, for the last decade. Some of the earliest bands to show up on the DFW scene are still in action, including Hard Night’s Day, the Beatles trib who just won the Observer’s 2009 best tribute band and Naked Lunch, the Steely Dan clone (one of my personal faves), recently named the best “Dan” tribute in America. The DFW tribute band tapestry is woven from a tight group of musicians, many of whom play in multiple bands, and fortunately, the quality of musicianship is relatively high with these guys (and gals). So, you can almost always find a really great show somewhere in DFW, on any given weekend.

Here’s a list of a few top local tribute bands and some of the venues in which they can be seen. Please check out each band’s or club’s website for more info and upcoming gigs.

Alcohollica - Metallica
The Almost Brothers -Allman Brothers
Anthem - Rush
Back In Black - AC/DC
Bebe Le Strange - Heart
Blaze of Glory - Bon Jovi
Boys Named Sue - Johnny Cash
Briefcase Blues - Blues Brothers
Child O’ Mine - Guns N’ Roses
Destroyer - KISS
Escape - ourney
Fast Lane - Eagles
Hard Nights Day - Beatles
Holy Diver - Van Halen
Judas Rising - Judas Priest
Lizard Larceny - The Doors
Lone Star Floyd - Pink Floyd
Naked Lunch - Steely Dan
Oliver’s Army - Elvis Costello
The One Percent Band - Lynard Skynard
Petty Theft - Tom Petty
Queen for a Day - Queen
Swan Song Led Zeppelin
The Thin White Dukes - David Bowie
Voodoo Blue - Stevie Ray Vaughn

DFW Tribute Band Venues
Bronco’s Sports Bar - 900 Airport Fwy - Hurst, TX 76054 Phone: (817) 498-0600
The Cavern - 914 Lower Greenville Ave - Dallas, TX 75206 Phone: (214) 828-1914
Dan’s Silverleaf - 103 Industrial St - Denton, TX 76201 Phone: (940) 320-2000
Dino’s Bar and Grill - 2707 Race St - Fort Worth, TX 76111 Phone: (817) 222-2608
Flying Pig Roadhouse - 531 S Denton Dr - Lake Dallas, TX 75065 Phone: (940) 497-3240
House of Blues – 2200 N Lamar St – Dallas TX 75202 Phone: (214) 978-2583
Lakewood Bar and Grill – 6340 Gaston Ave – Dallas, TX 75214 Phone: (214) 826-3888
Lee Harvey’s – 1807 Gould St – Dallas, TX 75215 Phone: (214) 428-1555
Lone Star Café and Club – 11277 E Northwest Hwy – Dallas, TX 75238 Phone: (214) 341-3538
O’Riley’s Billiards, Food & Bar – 8989 Forest Ln – Dallas, TX 75243 Phone: (972) 235-2781
The Pour House - 209 W 5th St - Fort Worth, TX 76102 Phone: (817) 335-2575
Sambuca – 2120 McKinney Ave – Dallas, TX 75201 Phone: (214) 744-0820
Skillman Street Pub – 9220 Skillman St #115 – Dallas, TX 75243 Phone: (214) 341-4022
Tolbert’s Restaurant – 423 S Main St – Grapevine, TX 76051 Phone: (817) 421-4888

DFW tribute bands offer a wide variety of musical stylings to suit just about any taste, and can be a buttload of fun to watch and sing along with. So dig out your old concert t-shirts, grab a lighter and some buds (either kind) and go support the next best thing to your favorite old (or not-quite-so-old) band. They’re most likely playing in town, this weekend. Rock on!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

“Park” Your Bocce Balls Right Here

Sorry it's been so long since my last post, but I've been performing with Lone Star Floyd and as many of you know, I am now the Bar and Night Club columnist for Lit Monthly Magazine, writing at least one article a month for them. I'll post each article here, for those of you who can't get the mag in you area. Here is article numero uno...

Hi, my name is Greg Holman and while this column is not about me, I feel that a short introduction is necessary for you to understand why Mr. Mark Beneventi has graciously seen fit to inflict my knowledge of Dallas-area bars, night clubs, and restaurants upon you all.

I’ve lived in Dallas since 1974, and have lived in North Oak Cliff for the past fifteen years. I’m a bartender, DFW foodie, award winning cook and local musician. As a Dallas area musician, I’ve played a wide variety of venues ranging from the old Hot Club, Theatre Gallery, and O’Riley’s, to the Across the Street Bar, Memphis (in Addison), and Starplex (that’s right, I still call it Starplex!). In the early 80s my father was involved with the creation of the Starck Club and I consequently spent a lot of time “Starck Raving” and schlepping at other hot spots of the time like Nostromo, Zubar and Tangos.

I like all styles of music and will be visiting new and forgotten honky-tonks, blues bars, dance clubs, spots where the elite meet and greet, and all places in-between. I’ll be looking at good cheap drinks, cool patios, great bar food and DFW events where drinking, eating and partying is a requirement.

I love patios! Drinking and dining Al Fresco has a certain Je ne sais quoi. Food tastes better, wine is sweeter and vibes are cooler, so to start off the column I thought that I would hit Marc Cassel’s new collision-fusion, bocce ball bastion, “Park” on Henderson, which had its semi-grand opening on July 21st. Before the opening, I was intrigued by the first descriptions that I’d read of their lush patio and couldn’t wait to check it out. I’ve stuck primarily to the bar, patio and drinks for this article.

You may know Marc from his previous stints at Dragonfly in the Hotel Zaza and the always awesome Green Room in Deep Ellum. He’s also worked at the Mansion, Baby Ruth, and Star Canyon. Donald Chick, of La Condesa Comida y Tequila fame, holds the purse strings to this Breck Wolsey-designed, Eames House-inspired urban oasis on Henderson. In addition to the Wolsey interior, there is plenty of eye candy to be seen here, for both boys and girls. This includes the staff (a good looking bunch)! To get the groove going, they have DJs on Fridays and Saturdays and Dallas icon Jeff Liles has been spotted, spinning tunes on occasion. Girls wear everything from jeans and colorful tops to short slinky dresses with heels. Guys are wearing jeans or slacks with collared shirts, but all appear to be dressing to impress.

After getting past the valets and entering the big twin red doors, we were greeted by a jazzy soundtrack playing at a talkable volume and nice ambient lighting from George Nelson bubble lamps. Beverly Hills Hotel inspired banana leaf wallpaper and landscaping by Jason Pautz added a comfortable feel. Marc was very visible, expediting food from the kitchen and assuring that it was up to his specs.

The restaurant/bar is broken up into five different sections that easily flow from one to the other. And despite what you may have read, the bocce ball courts are outdoors and set to open on the third or fourth week of September, as is the new back-room bar which will be available for private parties.

The horseshoe shaped bar is spacious and accommodating and our bartenders Scott and Kevin were very helpful with questions about the menu and restaurant and genuinely seemed to be happy to be there, as did the rest of the staff. Fresh ingredients such as citrus and herbs are stored decoratively throughout the restaurant and fresh garnishes of fruits, herbs and berries fill drinking glasses at the bartender’s stations. The mixologists show a bit of flair while pouring the ‘60s themed specialty drinks ($8.00) with names like Voodoo Child, the Easy Rider, Jagger’s Lips and Pineapple Garcia. There are also twenty draft beers available, ranging from $4 to $6 a pint. They offer a house sangria ($5 a glass, $16 a carafe) that we thought was refreshing, if not a little bland, compared with the likes of Bolsa’s or Gloria’s and wines average $25 to $50, with a few higher-end bottles available, and several are served by the glass.

Park is pretty much as “green” as a Dallas restaurant can be. The kitchen uses sustainable, local and organic ingredients when viable and the interior is constructed with reclaimed wood. Tables, bars and benches are made from local rough-hewn cottonwood trees. They produce their own in-house bottled water, compost all of their biodegradable waste, support an herb garden and bee hives on the roof and have landscaped with hearty indigenous plants. A three trunk Live Oak, transplanted from Wilmer is the centerpiece of the patio, which also sports Japanese maples, and bamboo. Smoking is allowed on the patio.

Being one of the newest additions to one of Dallas’ hottest areas for food and drink, the crowds on the weekends can be a bit daunting, but during the week there seems to be no problem with seating. The drinks are well made and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. I could certainly be happy sitting and sipping on the patio, spending a relaxing evening in the Park.

Park is located at 1921 Henderson Ave. Dallas, TX 75206 Phone: 214.824.3343. The bar opens at 5:00 pm Tuesday through Thursday and at 4:00 pm Friday through Sunday. The Kitchen opens at 6:00. They are closed on Mondays. They will take reservations for parties of 6 or more. They can be found online at

You can read more of Greg Holman’s incoherent ramblings at