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The triumphant(ish) return of Pants Karaoke

Singer Ed Joseph takes the stage at Pants Karaoke.
(Scotty Hoopes)

The popular Karaoke event returned to the Til-Two Club in City Heights for four glorious nights

“Now let’s get Ryan up to the stage.”

Now those are some words I hadn’t heard in a long time, and they instantly sent my body into defense mode— pumping a salty-sweet mixture of adrenaline and anxiety through my veins. I made my way up the stairs. For a brief moment before the music kicked in, all I could hear was the disembodied murmur of bar chatter, and it felt judgy.

What had I gotten myself into?

But then the bass-heavy intro to Soul Coughing’s mid-'90s hit “Super Bon Bon” rumbled out of the PA system. I pulled the mic free and intoned the band’s signature nasally drawl: Move a ... side and let the man go through. Let the man go through.

By the second verse, all my jitters were gone, and that silly White-boy pseudo-rap shamelessly spilled from my mouth.

Turns out, it doesn’t take a lot of exercise to get your karaoke muscle back in shape.

On July 11, Pants Karaoke returned to Til-Two Club in City Heights, and for the community of regulars that frequented Pants (as it’s sometimes referred to) every Sunday night before the pandemic, it was bliss.

Everyone thinks their karaoke night is the best, but they’re wrong. Pants Karaoke is the best. For one, the songbook is off the hook. No other karaoke night is going to have almost every Radiohead song (even the B-sides) in existence. You want to sing The Misfits, Phoebe Bridgers, The National, LCD Soundsystem or Beyoncé? You can sing them at Pants.

And that selection has expanded significantly during the pandemic. While everyone was perfecting their sourdough loaves, Scotty Pants — Pants’ mastermind KJ (karaoke jockey) — discovered a new way to quickly make karaoke tracks of almost any song. It’s a method he cryptically refers to as The Process.

When I asked how many songs he created in his downtime, Scotty Pants said, “It’s something along the lines of 4,300.”

But even more than the song selection is the community.

When COVID precautions banned indoor religious services, I kind of understood the uproar (emphasis on kind of): These are the places in which we feel a connection. I’m not religious, so Pants is the closest thing I have to church. This is something Scotty Pants understands, as evidenced by the virtual karaoke night he held every Sunday during the shutdown. Of course, singing quietly into Zoom while a cat is sleeping on your lap does not have the same visceral thrill as stumbling through a White Zombie song in front of a group of strangers, but it’s something.

My Soul Coughing song ended. I left the stage to moderate applause. I did fine. Not great, but no one goes to Pants Karaoke to be a star. It’s a place to take risks, stumble and make a fool out of yourself in front of friends.

As the night went on, the vibe became euphoric. A singer with the stage name JMoney began singing Harry Belefonte’s “Jump In The Line,” and Katie Reams — a regular singer — formed a conga line, pulling people into it until nearly half the bar was engulfed.

“It’s like one of those dinner scenes in mobster movies,” another regular, Butch Rosser, said while watching the revelry. “Where everything is perfect just before it goes to hell.”

With the Delta variant lurking in the corners of our conversations, threatening to shut things down again, I knew what Butch meant, but I hoped he wasn’t right, because there are a whole lot of new songs I still need to sing.

Due to the Delta variant, Pants Karaoke is once again on hiatus until further notice. Find updates at Facebook.com/pantskaraoke.


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