Weird Gigs: Part 2…Tough-Man Karaoke


Here’s another installment from the “weird gigs” file. When I came home from this one I realized how spoiled we are in Southern California. There are so many ways to be entertained here, most of them more sophisticated than what happens in the hinterlands of the Midwest. But as necessity is the mother of invention, so is extreme boredom the mother of creating stupid shit to do. This is one example that proves the rule.

Saginaw, Michigan is situated in the center of the state. Michigan is shaped roughly like a boxing glove and if you live in Saginaw, you live just about at the second knuckle of the fist. We were in town to play some sort of outdoor street fest. Lots of sweat, huge bugs, beer, brats(wurst, that is), and a typical midwestern crowd. Always appreciative and ready to rock and have a good time. I always loved to play these gigs because the locals loved to show us a good time after the gig. Most of the band would be into twisting one and ordering pizza at the hotel, but I always made it a point to find out just what the people of Saginaw or Moline or Terre Haute could invent for late night entertainment.

On this particular night, the gig proved to be of secondary importance. The rep from the hosting radio station had been with us since we had arrived at the airport. She was blond, hip, and best of all, had a white corvette. White corvettes are the perfect car to drive drunk in…at least that’s what the blond radio rep tried to sell me. She said that she was going to take me to a club out in the sticks that I was going to love. I talked her out of the drivers seat and we roared off into the woods.

In a clearing on the country highway, there stood a garishly lit roadhouse. It was big enough for a crowd of five or six hundred so the thousand or so that were in the place made for a snug fit. We passed through the bar grabbing handfuls of pitchers en route to what I thought was a small back room. I was surprised to find that as we passed through the swinging doors, the “small back room” was actually a huge dancehall and it was ramming like a beer commercial in there.

And here was where the fun started. In the middle of the hall was a dance floor and in the center of the floor was a boxing ring…a real fucking boxing ring, complete with a couple of exhausted shit-kickers sitting on stools in opposing corners, pouring sweat, gasping for air, and waiting for the bell. A girl with a microphone slipped through the ropes, the bell rang and out they came. They wore street clothes without shirts and went after each other throwing wild haymakers. Since the gloves were huge, they were totally done in thirty seconds and spent the rest of the two minute round swinging their bodies from side to side in hopes that the centrifical force might lift their fist high enough to look like a punch.

The bell rang and the heaving shit-kickers fell backwards onto their stools. From the side of the ring, there was a rush of activity. A TV screen had been put into the ring and someone announced that Todd was up. “Let’s make some noise for Todd!!” Out of the speakers came the intro of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” and into the ring leaped Todd…with wireless mic and an Elvis suit! This was…this was absolute genius in entertaiment. Beer, controlled fighting and Kara-fucking-oke! All under one roof, and under that one roof, along with the beer, the fighting and the Karaoke, were tons of drunken chicks!

This madness went on all night long. I don’t know which sign-up line was longer, the one to get beat up, or the “I’m so fucked up I sing like Johnnie Mathis” line. This was something I had never seen before. Two minutes of watching guys trying not to get hit alternating with three minutes of homegrown, drunken versions of everything from Tom Jones to Pat Benatar. Most fun I had in months.

I don’t remember how or when, but at some point, I found myself back at the hotel just in time to brush my teeth and get down to the car taking us to the airport. Ah Saginaw…another night could have been dangerous.