Karaoke From Hell
Sub as General Fiasco's frontman for a tune of your choice at the Spring & Airbrake? Hell yeah!
We've all murdered 'Mr Brightside' after a few shandies at one point or another, but I now hold the slightly improved claim of doing so on stage at the Spring and Airbrake with the full force of General Fiasco behind me.
The surreal experience was made possible thanks to a new Karaoke From Hell night, which tosses all of the cringey singsong traditions out of the top floor window in exchange for a near-authentic, thrillingly carefree experience and what some are calling the 'best night out in Belfast in years'.
The immediate attraction of Karaoke From Hell is that you don't have to holler over nameless knock-off instrumental versions while squinting and trying to keep up with lyrics scrolling by in some awful font. Instead you're backed by the very real and organic rocking sounds of General Fiasco's Enda Strathern and Stephen Leacock, with LaFaro's Herb Magee.
'Having General Fiasco up there is a massive bonus, as any songs people want to sing, these guys are more than capable of playing them,' says organiser, Richard Crothers on the night. 'We've had other big names from the scene on the stage too, and I really hope the music scene here gets into it.'
To my despair, the ragged thuds of Herb's bass playing are absent tonight as he tours in England, but it is the least of my worries. My pals are increasingly restless in pestering me to give the old karaoke a go. What is the problem?
For someone like me - who is utterly horror-stricken at the notion of getting on a stage, let alone attempting to sing in front of anyone other than my dog - I am here, in the Spring and Airbrake, with intentions to enjoy the night but to keep my feet planted firmly on the floor.
But, as more and more people get up on stage, look like they are having a hell of a time and, most importantly, doen't get scowled off by an angry mob, it is hard not to get caught up in the good spirits – and I'm not talking about the alcohol, but it certainly helps.
The temptation grows with every participant that hops off the stage, adrenaline radiating from them. It's contagious and the point arrives, round about 12 pint o'clock, when anyone could be coaxed into braving the Karaoke From Hell spotlight.
There is the option of requesting songs for the band to learn beforehand, but with me - totally against even considering going up before this point - I can't argue with a sizeable list of familiar party regulars to choose from.
When you're actually looking down on the crowd, though, the panic takes hold. 'The words! Does anyone know the words?!' Mine would, of course, be the only track for which the lyric sheet has gone missing. 'Screw it, we're up here now.' My three pals and I, the blame for my tuneless death evenly divided into a three part harmony.
Then the last wave of worry: 'We're on stage with General Fiasco at the Spring and Airbrake!' It all sets in. These lads played to 40,000 people last year and are currently soundtracking Jersey Shore. Even one of the country's most beloved bands, Mojo Fury, launched an almost decade-in-the-making debut album here a fortnight ago. 'We would need to be good here, lads.'
But it really doesn't matter if it is good or not, the fear is vanquished by the opening bars and the words come streaming out. There is no pressure, and we even get a generous applause and a few compliments from our fellow singers.
The only downside to Karaoke From Hell (in its present guise) is the fact that those below 18 are not permitted access. Perhaps an under-18 event may follow? With no date set as of yet for the next instalment, make sure to keep an eye on our What's On section as it's sure to become a regular fixture in Belfast over the summer months.