2004 flashback: English Nick leads live band karaoke Metalsome Mondays

I’m posting this now in January, 2016 because I just did a piece on English Nick getting hired to be a full-time night jock at 97.1/The River. Amazingly, he has been hosting this Metalsome Mondays night since 2003. I wrote this piece when I was covering nightlife at the AJC.

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed April 26, 2004

As the 10High crowd dwindled and closing time approached, Jason Stackhouse jumped onstage in a silky red dragon-embossed shirt. He was ready to challenge the Whitesnake classic “Here I Go Again.”

With a five-piece band rocking behind him, Stackhouse stumbled out of the gate. He missed a verse. He missed notes. He squeaked the high ones, Peter Brady style.

But what amused the crowd last Monday night was “the Stackhouse shuffle, ” a side-to-side dance move he named himself, which didn’t remotely match the beat of the music. The guitarists and bassist, grins glued to their faces, tried to follow him step by step.

Stackhouse’s performance was a highlight (or lowlight, depending on your point of view) at ”Metal-Some Mondays, ” a weekly twist on karaoke: average folks singing to a live backup band instead of cheesy pre-recorded tracks.

“I’m not really very good, ” admitted Stackhouse, 27, a waiter and screenwriter from Dunwoody who had also mauled Styx‘s “Come Sail Away” and Poison‘s “Talk Dirty to Me” earlier this month. “But I just love to perform and get in front of people. You really feel like a rock star with a band behind you.”

Live-band karaoke has become the hottest night of the week at 10High, a dark, grungy Virginia-Highland basement venue with exposed pipes, red-paint-flecked floors and four aging ceiling fans wafting the cigarette smoke. Last Monday drew the biggest crowd yet: 220 people, many of them off-day restaurant and bar types and local musicians, ranging from Second Shift guitarist Wesley Hoffman, with a massive Afro, to Sean “Sebastian” McGirr, an exotic dancer who stayed clothed.

“We can’t believe the monster we created, ” said host and 96rock disc jockey English Nick.

A Japanese import, karaoke has become a staple of the American bar business in the past decade. At least 100 bars in metro Atlanta tap into this audience-participation gimmick every week, from Star Bar’s ”15 Minutes of Fame” in Little Five Points on Monday nights to ”Klassic Karaoke” four nights a week at Topps II in Austell.

But live-band karaoke amps up the experience.

“I love the energy here, ” said Butch Walker, an Atlanta musician and producer, barely recognizable with a baseball cap slung low over his forehead moments after performing Journey’s “Any Way You Want It.” “It’s just a chance for people to let their hair down and have fun.”

J. Christopher Arrison, 32, transformed himself from a psychology student with Elvis Costello-esque glasses offstage to Dennis DeYoung redux in the spotlight as he took on the campy, over-the-top “Come Sail Away.” Eyes closed, hands raised in praise-and-glory mode, Arrison unleashed a memorable farewell “Come sail away with meeeeee!!!” The crowd showered him with the night’s biggest applause, and admirers high-fived him as he melded back into the audience.

“That song is a crowd pleaser, ” Arrison said. “People understand the lyrics. We all want to sail away. For me, being onstage is like taking a vacation from myself for five minutes.”

Nicole Jurovics, who books acts at 10High, said she stole the idea last June from a bar in Los Angeles.

“We were dead on Mondays, so we had nothing to lose, ” Jurovics said. Curtis Clark, 10High’s sound engineer and a former bassist in a Whitesnake tribute band, loved the concept. Jurovics gathered willing musicians, and Clark compiled a list of 30 songs they all sort of knew, mostly metal numbers by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses.

“We all grew up in cover bands when the cover scene was big in the late ’80s, ” Clark said. “This is the type of music we wanted to do.”

And it works for the 25-to-40-year-olds who regularly visit 10High and can sing along to tunes by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Van Halen. To keep it fresh, the band adds three songs a week, recently adding nuggets by Queen, Led Zeppelin and Heart. The only current tune on the list of 100 is “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by the Darkness, because it sounds like it could be from 1989.

Now others are trying to copy the success at 10High. This month, Peachtree Tavern in Buckhead started its own version on Thursday nights. American Tavern in Conyers tried it late last year but discarded the idea because the owner couldn’t persuade self-respecting musicians to take part. “It’s tough to find bands willing to compromise their integrity as a band, ” said American Tavern owner Jim McCarthy. “They’ll do originals and covers but draw the line on someone else singing.”

Clark begs to differ: “I think a lot of people want our gig.” Taking on a new random and sometimes drunken lead singer every song is challenging. “People get onstage and have no rhythm, ” he said.

But, surprisingly, the crowd is supportive no matter how abysmal the singer is. “It’s like a family, a real positive vibe, ” said guitarist Richard Gibson.

The only people who’ve gotten booed, Clark said, were strippers more intent on shedding their clothes than revealing their souls in song. And the band can cover — or simply drown out — a multitude of vocal sins.

For performers, live-band karaoke is tougher than the usual format, where lyrics are cued to them line by line. At 10High, the words are displayed on a 13-inch TV monitor at the foot of the stage via a computer offstage. Jurovics manually scrolls the lyrics as the singer goes along. This, she noted, is a technical improvement: “The first six months, we had lyric sheets on a stand.”

For last Monday’s final performance, English Nick brought a woman in chaps named Taylor onstage to try “Barracuda” by Heart. But as guitarist Gibson revved the classic thump-did-ee-thump riff, Taylor froze, then ran off the stage and out of the bar.

The band, looking confused, stopped playing. It was only the second time someone had bailed out in midsong. But English Nick called up a reliable performer to save the day: Amy Peterson, 28, ended the show with a tour-de-force rendition of Motorhead‘s “Ace of Spades.”

“You were perfect tonight!” raved Tira McGeehan to Peterson, who lives in Marietta and works at a record store. “Best ‘Ace of Spades’ I’ve heard here! Some guys have ruined it.”

Peterson beamed. She also felt bad for Taylor. ” ‘Barracuda’ is a tough song, ” she said. “I wasn’t ready to do it myself.”

But, she added, “I’m going to practice and do it next week.”

***

This is an update I did in May, 2005:

 

When Nicole Jurovics helped launch Metalsome Mondays two years ago at Virginia-Highland’s 10 High club, she had no clue “live karaoke” would become such a phenomenon.

“I had zero expectations, ” she told Buzz. “You can’t have any if you’ve been in the music business as long as I have.”

Jurovics and host English Nick of 96rock celebrated two years Monday night with an awards ceremony for loyal regulars in the upstairs Dark Horse Tavern. They also debuted anniversary T-shirts and “Ladies of Metalsome Monday” calendars.

The party has steadily grown since 2003, now regularly drawing 250 people a week. Many hit the stage every week, including bartenders, actors and musicians from bands such as the Swear and Second Shift. Celebrity appearances have included Matt Sorum of Velvet Revolver, members of Quiet Riot, Butch Walker and Mike Mills of R.E.M., who didn’t perform the night he visited but rocked out in the front row.

Jurovics credits much of the success to the band, a sturdy group of longtime local musicians who have built up a massive 154-song playlist, mostly in the ’80s metal/rock tradition. (Recent additions include “Why Can’t This Be Love” by Van Halen, “Refugee” by Tom Petty and “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour.)

“It’s kind of bizarre, yet we’re kind of proud, ” said Curtis Clark, bass singer for the Metalsome Monday Band. “A lot of times when you say karaoke, people think of cheese, but when they see this, it’s a whole different thing. People transform from that shy kid in ninth-grade homeroom to a freakin’ rock star.”

The Metalsome Monday Band is also scheduled to perform on the cultural stage at Music Midtown June 10-12. And the band recently launched a second weekly gig Tuesday nights at the Dixie Tavern in Marietta.

 

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