If you've passed by the Shamrock Pub (2257 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota 34237) any Sunday night this month, chances are you've heard a little bit of howling, growling and/or caterwauling. But it's even more likely that you've heard some damn good singing. What's this, you gasp, a karaoke night where people actually carry a tune? This isn't an ordinary karaoke night, friends; this is the (deep breath) International Music Stars Karaoke Search Video Contest. The winner gets a music video and time to shine live onstage at the Shamrock's St. Patrick's Day block party. With stakes like this, local talent has been oozing out of the woodwork, resulting in a most melodious series of evenings.
What you're really wondering is: Doesn't that take the majority of the fun out of it? When I stopped by for the third qualifying round last Sunday, I found that no, it certainly doesn't.
I squeezed through the front door while host Greg Bortnichak, aka DJ Spaghetti O'Face, was cueing up a track for the next contestant---none other than our fabulous weather-girl Meredith Garofalo. She'd come with her own entourage of cheerleaders, who shrieked and showered her with applause as she belted out a smashing rendition of "Orange Colored Sky."
"I forecast great things for this contestant," Greg said as Meredith took her bow, and was impressed enough to keep the meteorological jokes coming for the rest of the night. He played a dutiful and spirited host: He helped timid singers select the perfect shell-cracking number from a limited library, and led rowdy group sing-alongs to "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" and "Hey Ya" whenever things slowed down. He seemed to know everyone who blew through the door on a first-name basis, and I wished that more patrons took their buddy seriously when he occasionally rattled a dented Spaghetti-O tip can.
I thought Meredith would prove a tough act to follow, but folks kept grabbing the microphone and really going for it. A guy named Bill in a black cap sounded every bit as smooth and mellow as the real Bill Withers on a version of "Use Me." I held my breath in anticipation of a glorious crash and burn as the opening bars of "White Rabbit" rolled out of the speakers and Greg handed the mic to a slight man in a fantastically ugly sweater. This unassuming character turned out to be the previous week's champion, David Scarpaci, and he freaking nailed it.
As the clock ticked closer toward 11 p.m., cries of "take your shirt, pants, etc., off" filled the air with each new contender. The people huddled under the heating towers on the back patio shouldered inside to watch their friends do everything from the Doors to Dashboard Confessional.
I knew the night had reached a peak when I saw Tierney Nesbitt make her way up from the back of the shotgun bar. She makes a habit of slaying Amy Winehouse and Roberta Flack without breaking a sweat, and tonight she brought it home with Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." The front of the house had to make room for the force of her powerful pipes.
Do you think you can hang with these divas? Then get out there this Sunday for the last qualifying round, and maybe we'll see you at the semifinals on Mar. 3. The cream of the crop will be joined by Bard and Mustache and Hank & Cupcakes for a night of wailing, dancing and letting it all hang out.