It was just before 9 pm on a Friday at the Dallasite, and things were slow. The Rangers game on TV was winding down, and the bearded karaoke DJ was setting up his equipment. My companion and I shuffled up to the bar, where he promptly ordered a nip of Jim Beam.
The bartender told me that the Dallasite is a beer-and-shots kind of place, but a copper cup nearby caught my eye—which led me to discover that the Dallasite’s Moscow Mule is pretty good. We posted up at a table to watch the night unfold.
The Dallasite is a laid-back dive with walls covered in beer-brand neon signs and posters advertising universal brews like Pabst and Budweiser. There are two pool tables, a shuffleboard table, and a few dart boards. The rectangular bar is scuffed up and ringed, and photos taped up around the place depict good times had during the Dallasite’s 50-plus years in existence.
The first karaoke performance of the night was Rihanna’s “Stay.” It sounded good but wasn’t much of a crowd pleaser. After a few more songs that conjured only half-hearted cheers, a lady in thigh-high boots busted out Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.” It only takes one rowdy performance to wake up a room.
The beer flowed, the crowd buzzed, and the bar filled quickly. By the time a woman in a striped dress sang “Baby Got Back,” folks were on their feet, with a group of ladies dancing and taking turns grinding.
And then Neil, a tall man in a tweed jacket, slammed on a pair of sunglasses, planted his feet, and announced: “I’m gonna get silly.” His “Sunglasses at Night” had everyone bobbing along. A woman in a purple dress danced into the bar, took one look at Neil, and cried out: “Look at that wide stance!” Behind us, a table full of college-age kids gulped tequila shots.
When Neil finished, I approached him by the pool tables and congratulated him on a fine performance. He said he’d been doing karaoke for 10 years. I told him that I don’t really know the difference between singing and yelling.
“That’s not an excuse,” he said. “This is about self-respect. Karaoke is starting a business. Karaoke is starting a new relationship. Karaoke is life!”
Just then, a drunk woman in red lipstick shot toward us like an arrow. She gave me a nasty look and pushed Neil so hard that he stumbled backward into the rack of pool cues. Then she stormed off.
“My girlfriend is a little possessive,” he said sheepishly, pulling himself up.
I escaped the drama as the crowd sang along to David Allan Coe. When the woman in the purple dress danced by me, I asked her what the appeal of karaoke is. She told me she was planning to rap some Lil Wayne.
“I’m going through a divorce right now,” she said, still dancing, “and karaoke’s kind of like therapy.”
By now it was just before midnight, and the place was packed. As a petite woman clung to the mic and crooned a love song I didn’t recognize, we wandered out to the front patio (avoiding eye contact with Neil’s sobbing girlfriend) and crossed the parking lot. I decided that when I got home, I was going to crank up the stereo and practice a couple songs—just in case I ever felt like some karaoke therapy.