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Shing a shong 

Rap, country, punk. All race, all ages drink and sing together at the Lion's Head Tavern, all because Laurie the Guy is a wizard emcee.

The bartender tells me Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest nights. People drink lots, 'cause they are doing the karaoke.

Laurie the Guy hosts 300 karaoke shows a year; he's done it for 18 years. His first time onstage, at Big Leagues, he was totally sober---a sure indication he was born to sing in front of a TV.

"Half take it seriously and won't drink, the other half, well, I've had people pass out on stage in front of me," he says. The Guy doesn't care about serious singers or drunks. He says he's had ECMA and Juno winners in front of him. Not impressed.

"I'm more interested by the way they present themselves on stage," he says. Great singers who just stand there are boring.

Laurie says he sings for other people. And plays guitar. And mouth organ. And comic bits. And segues. The Guy has his bits down. He doesn't like doing the same song all the time. He likes the challenge of a new song. How many songs do you know? "I know half of the lyrics to all of the songs and not every word to any song." Oh yeah, he says everyone forgets how the bridge goes, too. That's what's so good about Laurie. He just wants you to perform.

Tonight at the Lion's Head, Bette Midler brings down the house. Two tough guys sing a smooth R&B duet to their ladies. A kid raps "The Real Slim Shady." A moustachioed man who looks like a cop brings down the house with a rap hit. People reveal essential bits of themselves onstage. Everyone finishes their songs beaming.

"Nothing's going to fall out of the sky if you get it wrong. It's all about entertainment, who cares if you sing good or not." Shhh. I don't think the bartenders want to hear that. Beer sales would go waaaay down.

Other Karaoke joints

Mike Gough puts on karaoke at Big Leagues (4 Forest Hills Parkway), the Parkside Pub (14 Highfield Park) and Dave Doolittle's (90 Tacoma Drive); there's Mimi's famous karaoke at Bearly's House of Blues and Ribs (1269 Barrington) and Wednesdays' Kamikaze Karaoke at the Menz Bar (2182 Gottingen). For a full list of song pits, visit

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