Jake Pawloski once knocked over a chair during karaoke night at Crunchy’s because he thought his stage presence was lacking.
“I really felt like a rockstar,” he said. “ I mean, obviously I was killing it up there.”
The experience gives him special insight to the patrons at the East Lansing bar where he now works as a server.
“We have people come in like two hours before karaoke night even starts just to get a good table,” Pawloski said. “It’s very popular, and if you want the good real estate you gotta get there earlier. We have lines around the block some nights.”
Since 1995, karaoke nights have been a staple of Crunchy’s.
Brad Feighner has seen the rising popularity of the bar’s karaoke nights during the 13 years he has worked at Crunchy’s. It is such a hit because it’s the only place in East Lansing that offers the experience, he said.
“We cater to the college kids and alumni, and the next nearest place that has karaoke night is either The Avenue down in Lansing or, well, before they stopped doing it, Buddies’ Pub and Grill in Okemos,” said Feighner, who now hosts the event.
There might be another reason for karaoke night’s popularity.
“Crunchy’s is here to give you that platform to live out any failed dreams at a life on the stage, but it comes at a price,” Pawloski said.
The price? Servers and other sober people in the room have to deal with bad and drunken singing, he said.
“Karaoke night loses a lot of magic when you’re sober and dodging all the kids running around screaming the words to a Bon Jovi or Bowling For Soup song.”
However, as someone who used to be a regular participant, Pawloski understands the appeal.
Feighner was one such regular participant. When he was younger, he would frequently drive down from Webberville with his friends to Crunchy’s. His love for karaoke was what made him want to work as a karaoke host.
He now makes sure karaoke night runs smoothly. He has a station next to the karaoke area where he loads up song requests and controls the audio levels.
And he still sings.
On slow nights, Feighner hits the stage to encourage others. One of his favorite songs is Walk the Moon’s ‘Shut Up and Dance’ because of it’s infectious beat.
“The kids love this song. It’s a crowd pleaser!” he said.
Sarah Thelen, an alumni of Michigan State University, returns to East Lansing at least once a month from South Lyon to visit her sister and sing karaoke. She’d come back to Crunchy’s more frequently if she could.
“It’s just the best experience,” Thelen said.
Karaoke night gives a platform for people to let loose and enjoy themselves, Feighner said. Unlike an open mic night, there are no expectations or skill required.
“Once people realize there’s no pressure involved, they can just sing their hearts out and that just adds to the fun,” Feighner said. In his 13 years of karaoke nights, Feighner has seen all sorts of people singing all sorts of songs.
“I do enjoy seeing the kids sing some songs back when I was their age – Like American Pie by Don McLean or Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver,” he said.
While the majority of Crunchy’s karaoke night clientele are college kids or alumni, Feighner remembers a 60-year old regular named Dennis. For over five years, Dennis would come by himself every week and sing, he said. Unfortunately, the singer has been sick and has not been back recently.
Crunchy’s offers song choices as diverse as ABBA, Kanye and John Denver. The bar asks for suggestions to expand its song collection. Feighner fields these requests.
It helps him expand his music tastes and be in tune with what people are listening to now, he said. Without his job he would not have been exposed to today’s rap or pop.
He is especially proud that he remembers the lyrics to Fergie’s ‘Fergalicious’.
Feighner recommends giving karaoke a shot. His biggest tip for those who are shy?
“Just let loose, remember that everyone else is just here to have a good time and so you yourself should have a good time!”