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From the Where2sing.com stories:
The Great Karaoke Escape 2004/05

Day 22

It's another beautifully sunny Brisbane day, and I'm back with friends out at Redland Bay, a lovely part of Brisbane and about thirty minutes' drive from the city. This is an area with large modern houses, immaculate lawns, and toys like boats in the front yard; my friend has the biggest boat in the street, but he works too hard to use it much. His wife also works, so my day is spent at home catching up on emails and writing reviews. Their two dogs chase magpies in the back yard, their three cats patrol the front yard, there's the sound of the neigbour mowing his lawn, and the occasional car or ute passes by - for this is the area in which 'tradies' retire at the end of the day to their near-million dollar homes after shovelling dirt all day and pretending to be poor.

My friend returns looking suitably dirty and poor, and his wife follows him in a scene reminiscent of the opening 'coming home' sequence from the Simpsons, and a few minutes later they are transformed into the 'nouveau riche' of Redland Bay and claiming to be hungry. Some days ago we had decided that we would all go to karaoke, and tonight is the night.

Possibly the last time my friend has witnessed my singing was many years ago when I had a piano, and possibly at one of those strangely regular 'going away' parties at a time when her Majesty's colonial government (and before the reign of 'round 'em up Ruddock') decided I should run my business from some foreign shores. The holder of a variety of temporary visas and residencies, my stays in Australia were, for twenty odd years, somewhat brief. And it would have been at one of these 'going-away' barbeques that the alcohol would have reached my fingers and resulted in a short number or two on the old upright piano that I dragged from one flat to another for a couple of years before finally donating it to a friend who had momentarily expressed an interest in owning such an instrument and was much surprised the very next day to find one sitting in his garage.

I am not sure that either the new 'tradie' population of the Moreton Bay area, or the original 'family on acreage' natives, would be much in the market for karaoke, but it was worth a shot, and would give me an idea of the difference in karaoke between city pubs and their counterparts in the suburbs. I was also not sure whether my friends would enjoy karaoke, no matter good or bad quality singing, so I hoped for the best and expected the worst.

Is karaoke really a 'city dweller' pastime? Is it the social scene and the possibility of running into friends that makes karaoke ideal for large metropolitan areas, whereas there is no need for this social catalyst in country areas? It does seem to be that 'singles' are more in evidence at karaoke than couples, so perhaps, given that many regular singers are not particularly skilled in the singing department (or have a great deal of misplaced courage), that this is a pastime borne out of social need rather than purely the desire to sing. I do remember once mentioning to a host, Rob Deal, that one of his singers (whom we both knew) had a new girlfriend, only to receive the immmediate response by Rob of 'he can't have. He hasn't phoned to tell me.'

And the notion that karaoke favours the city-dweller is borne out by my experiences in chasing karaoke across 5 States, where it is easy to find several places in city areas, but hard to find anything in country areas other than the local RSL running it on a Friday or Saturday. But we're not far out of the city here in Redland Bay, so there's a hope that tonight's venue will be reasonable.

Now changed into good clothes, we head off in the family transport that is far too smart and expensive to be seen in daytime, in a direction and velocity that means we'll be chomping through juicy steaks and savouring karaoke in very few minutes. I am not sure whether the men with flat hats frequent these backroads, but if they do I am certain they will not need anything more than eyesight with which to calculate that most drivers are way above the legal speed limit. Trees and corners fly by, and it is only a few hair-rising minutes later that we arrive at a small collection of buildings that appear to be Birkdale. And, in front of us, is Birkdale shopping centre.

Some shopping centres bury their pubs inside, upstairs or downstairs, but in places where they are difficult to find. In contrast, Finn MacCools is right on the edge of the shopping centre, and sticks out into it in a way designed to capture attention.

We park close, and walk through the large outside eating area on our way to the bar. This looks like a very pleasantly decorated Irish pub, and has obviously been designed from the ground up as one - all the right beams in the ceiling, and a layout and room proportion that suits its purpose. The girl at the bar is friendly, and the choice of food looks to be great value. Having ordered, we carry drinks back to an outside table and await the food.

Do my friends ever go to karaoke? No, I'm told, it's just not their type of 'thing'. Can Ray sing? He says not, in a way that suggests he has tried and been told not to. Can his wife sing? In the shower, she says, so I think it's a confidence thing. Do they know anyone who does sing, or go to karaoke? Ah, then we begin talking, and I hear about their friend who has an unfortunate 'bark' when singing. I get the feeling that they have not been to a good quality karaoke, and from the look of the equipment in this place, I'm becoming more confident that this will be a good place.

The food arrives, and is really good; the steaks are tender, and large, yet the price was low. If you're going to come here, come hungry and eat here. The karaoke starts, and we can hear it through the window, but the security guy soon closes the door, and the singing is distant. Still, it sounds good, and I'm happy that this should be an enjoyable night.

Food finished, we move inside and take up position near the door. The sound is good, the singer is great, and there's only a small audience as it's obviously rather early.

This is Day 22 of my adventure, and with only one day left, I'm keen that tonight's karaoke is both memorable and enjoyable. The songbooks are close to the host's console, so I wander across and collect one, presuming that it won't be long before the host comes by and says hello. We look through the book, and there's a good selection. (The review is already on the WS2S site).

Read more singers' stories, and write your own karaoke story, on Where2sing.com . . .

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