I refuse to sing karaoke in Athens. Refuse. When every person you know in your twenties is either a bit of a drunken showboat or an overeager singer who is totally about to hit the big time, karaoke rises to a level of competition that I just don’t have the patience or chops for. There’s Dr. Fred’s and Shokotini, the Office Lounge and Foundry’s Live Band Karaoke. Throw in the frat parties and office parties at Little Kings and you would be hard pressed to go a night without someone warbling an unsteady tune.
All of this is to say, I don’t sing in public. When I do sing, it’s at home. To my cats. There is a very short list of people I would dare sing for and last Friday, someone cashed in that chip for a very good cause. How could I say no?
Folks, when the manager of your favorite retired band asks you to sing a song by your favorite current band, you SAY YES. And that’s how I ended up singing at Bertis Downs’ birthday celebration/Project Rewire fundraiser last Friday night.
Bertis had put together a live band consisting of some of the best live musicians around (including Mr. Hendershot himself on drums) to play U2 songs while he and his friends sang their hearts out. I was very wary of doing this, seeing as how I’ve never sung with a band at all and would rather not butcher a beloved band’s song. But then Bert said he was singing “Zoo Station” and the mayor-elect was on board to sing so that was that. I wanted to do something from my beloved Pop and the only thing I knew in my key was “Staring at the Sun.”
Soon a fully formed set list appeared, taking us from Boy to Songs of Experience with a few non-album singles thrown in for good measure. Hendershot’s reached capacity pretty quickly and a vegan chocolate cake appeared near the stage.
And so Bertis kicked off the night with a rousing version of “Zoo Station”. Behind me, I heard the jaws of Mills and Berry hitting the floor. Yeah, how are any of us supposed to follow that?! Next up was honestly one of the highlights of my night, “Ordinary Love” as performed by Squallé and Sarah Zunigá. Squallé did this amazing freestyle that I hope exists on video somewhere. Talk about elevating the material…
The first set included a few teachers, an REMHQ staff member pinch-hitting for another performer, Winterville’s mayor, and professional performers (setlist at the bottom, fyi). By the time the break came, I was a bit of a nervous wreck and so went outside only to flee back indoors away from the suffocating humidity of the Athens summer.
Set Two included a poet, the Athens mayor elect, and one totally out of their element music junkie. But if there’s one thing that will drag me back down to earth, it’s Pylon. And thankfully, Vanessa Hay was there to do the ONLY version of Vertigo that I will ever except ever again. She did it her way and so I must as well.
Video of my “performance” exists somewhere out there. I haven’t and probably won’t watch it. My better half was impressed (“I had no idea what your voice sounded like. Wow”) so that’s the only opinion that matters to me. I will admit that I actually had quite a bit of fun once the first few lines were done. Letting go is something I struggle to do. But Friday I did it. Bertis gathered a large group together for one final song: U2’s take on “Helter Skelter.” On that chaotic note, we happy few departed, songs rattling in our heads and new admiration for our fellow Athenians in our hearts.
If you’ve read this far, I’d like to point you to the charity the party is fundraising for: Project Rewire. Life’s goal is to support our community’s most vulnerable youth, giving them hope for the future and the tools they’ll need to reach for the stars. Please consider donating. Even just retweeting/posting the link will help a lot. THANKS! – MGMT
ZOO STATION, Bertis Downs
ORDINARY LOVE, Squallé and Sarah Zunigá
I WILL FOLLOW, Carrie and Tim Kelly
OUT OF CONTROL, James Trigg
SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY, Bain Mattox
NEW YEARS DAY, David Bell
A SORT OF HOMECOMING, Dodd Ferrelle
PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE), Dave Daley
BAD Don Chambers
WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME, Andy Lemaster
WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, William Kissane and Eli Garibay
I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR, Angela Wyatt
RED HILL MINING TOWN, Amanda Kapousouz
DESIRE, SJ Ursrey
IN GOD’S COUNTRY, Nicholas Allen, Normaltown Poet Laureate
ANGEL OF HARLEM, Neal Priest t and Jamon Holt
VERTIGO, Vanessa Hay
ONE, Dave Marr
WHO’S GONNA RIDE YOUR WILD HORSES, Kathy Kirbo
THE FLY, Will Leitch
MYSTERIOUS WAYS, Erica Gilbertson and Kaija Gilbertson-Hall
TRYIN TO THROW YOUR ARMS AROUND THE WORLD, Kelly Girtz
STARING AT THE SUN, Jordan Stepp
EVERY BREAKING WAVE, Shelley Olin
SUMMER OF LOVE, Robert Sampson
ZOO STATION (encore), Bertis Downs