Welcome to live band karaoke

Good morning Rockers and Rollers.  Hammersmith here, guitarist and co-founder of Rockaoke Australia.  Welcome to our first blog post.   I’m going to start writing about all things Rockaoke, music and anything else that might get me up on a high horse.  Problem is, I’m not that opinionated, or so I thought. But I’m going to kick this blog off by talking about why we wanted to bring this Live band Karaoke concept back home with us from the UK.  So here is how I got roped in from the start…

So a good mate of mine told asked me to do a Rockaoke (pronounced Rock-ee-oh-key for anyone who was wondering) gig in Plymouth one day back in 2007. I politely turned him down because it was on a Sunday night, it was two hours’ drive, and I thought I would end up singing all night (if you’ve heard me sing, you know that wouldn’t be good for anyone!). I honestly thought no one would get up and sing with a band because it would be too daunting! Later that month, my best mate (Andy, bass player and soon to be heard more regularly on our blogs) and I decided to give it a go ourselves as our regular singer become less available to do gigs. With our Drummer Niko, we approached the pub across the road from where we lived (god I love London) and we made Thursdays at the Puzzle in Fulham a regular Rockaoke gig for over a year.

The Puzzle – Now the Southern Belle in Fulham where we did our first rockaoke gig

It ended up being their busiest night of the week. OK, kicking goals so far.

But many of my fellow muso mates were not convinced this was a good thing. And to a point I agreed. Why? Because muso’s believed that the line had been crossed, both literally and metaphorically. Punters and Musos on stage together in harmony? Not going to work. So much could go wrong. Gear could break, people will not sing in time with the band, they’ll sing out of tune, lose their place, forget words or worse still…Steal the show! But to my amazement, the concept gained so much momentum that the bands, the venues and the agents couldn’t keep up.

This is what we experienced:

  1. More people could sing than couldn’t sing
  2. More people came to our cover shows
  3. Our network of musicians grew exponentially
  4. More gigs became available and ultimately
  5. More muso’s got more work.

All this happened while the good people of London got the chance to sing with a live band in a real venue…for free.

I think in those early days of Rockaoke I never appreciated it for what it was. Because I had been playing in bands for nearly 10 years at the time, I think I had forgotten what it felt like to simply perform live music to an audience. It really is a thrill and buzz. You see, I love playing gigs and just rippin’ in to some great songs. To be able to share that passion with people who would have only dreamed of it is a real privilege. There is something really raw and organic about it as well. I love not knowing what we are going to play next, who is going to sing next, are we going to nail it or piss people off? Are we going to do Mustang Sally three or four times tonight? Yeah I know, hopefully it’s five!


Aussie’s Smithy, Niko and Andy rocking the Live Band Karaoke scene in London

But seriously, it’s great that at a time when local live music seems to be on the decline, something can come along and get people back into a their local pub listening to live bands. And that’s why we wanted to bring it back to Australia.

But, I was only going to bring it over here if it was done properly and delivered professionally.  There’s a lot that can go wrong with a live band karaoke gig. A lot. I have a few funny stories but I will save this topic for the next instalment. In the meantime, “carry on my wayward son”.


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