Based in Pacific Beach, Rock Out Karaoke combines the raw power of a live rock band with the fun of audience participation. Individual singers take center stage with the live band, complete with lyrics displayed on a monitor in real-time with the music.
“Every gig we’re surprised by someone who looks like a vocal outcast but who burns the mike,” says drummer Eric Ganci (Pickford’s Party). “We do costumes and props, too, so we have the jean jacket and leather wrist strap for Billy Idol, a wig for Nirvana, that kind of thing.”
Ganci says their strangest contestant was at Viejas. “He was an older gentleman, about 75 to 80, wearing white gloves, a red Hawaiian shirt, and strutting with a cane. He sang well, but the song choice threw everyone — ‘Talk Dirty to Me’ by Poison.”
The band most often finds itself playing “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (Guns N’ Roses), “Rebel Yell” (Billy Idol), and for female singers, “Black Velvet” (Alannah Myles). “‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is so popular, we recently did it with about 20 singers, all at once.”
Least popular with the players are “Stay” (Lisa Loeb), “Island in the Sun” (Weezer), and “Brown Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison). “They’re all great tunes, but a little slower and easily overdone. Nobody likes hearing a favorite song butchered.”
Band faves include “Mother Mother” by Tracy Bonham and “Brick House” by the Commodores. “We just added ‘Ice, Ice Baby,’ and I hope it gets picked every time,” says Ganci. “We premiered it April 17, and the singer pulled off a great running-man move with about ten backup dancers.”
Not all contestants rock the mike. “When liquid courage has overwhelmed the performer or they’re headed to karaoke hell in a handbasket, then the band just sticks to the song.”
Ganci blames Who singer Roger Daltrey for their biggest dilemma. “Singers always want to swing the mike, and the sound guy will have none of that.
“We strongly encourage an energetic rock performance but try to curb violent behavior.”
The Rock Out Karaoke song list includes an eclectic mix of classic rock, 1980s rock and pop, 90’s rock, country and more – everything from the Beatles to the Bangles. As of 2010, they have played over 150 live performances dating back to 2006, at venues such as House of Blues, Viejas Dreamcatcher Showroom, Viejas V Lounge, RT’s Longboard Grill, Hennessey’s Tavern, 710 Beach Club, and Martini Ranch.
Additionally, the band has performed for Clear Channel special events and a host of other parties, weddings, and corporate events.