Bandaoke is Back!

Yeah, you know that you’ve always wanted to sing in a rock band. Well, this is your chance. It’s not some Guitar Hero video game. It’s not some canned karaoke night. It’s Bandaoke – you singing with a live, breathing rock band. And it’s back again for another season beginning on Thursday night at Savannah’s in Albany.

You don’t know about Bandaoke? Well, let’s get the inside scoop from Andy Maroney, who’s the drummer with the Bandaoke band, the Ruddys:

Pronunciation: \ker-ē-ō-kē, ka-rē- also kə-rō-kē, kä-rä-ō-kā\
Function: noun
Etymology: Japanese, from kara (empty) + ōke, short for ōkesutora (orchestra)
(Date: 1979): a device that plays instrumental accompaniments for a selection of songs to which the user sings along and that records the user’s singing with the music; also: a form of entertainment involving the use of a karaoke machine.

Pronunciation: \band-ē-ō-kē\
(Same as above except way cooler and a lot more fun because it’s done with a live band.)

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OK, so the etymology doesn’t exactly line up correctly, but you get the idea. For some reason, when people consume alcoholic beverages they like to sing…often loudly…and sometimes quite poorly. While there are many places in the area where one can indulge in the fantasy of channeling one’s inner diva or rock star, not many feature the spontaneous energy of a live performance.

Let’s face it, with very few exceptions most karaoke backing tracks sound, well, kinda cheesy and canned. You know what I’m talking about. Now there is another option for those of you who yearn to publicly express yourself through song.

This week marks the return of Bandaoke to Savannah’s on Thursday nights. Co-sponsored by radio station FLY 92 and hosted by FLY 92’s Marissa with music performed by house band the Ruddys, it’s one of the more entertaining ways to spend an evening out…both for the band and the contestants. According to Joe Schaefer of Savannah’s, this promises to be the biggest and baddest Bandaoke season yet, as it begins on Thursday and continues through August. Yes, you can win money. Read on…

The basic format is familiar: There are several three-ring binders spread around the bar, each one containing an alphabetized listing of all the songs available for the participants (who we jokingly refer to as “victims”) to choose from. There are literally hundreds of popular hits spanning the past 50 years, from Sinatra standards to the latest from modern groups like Kings Of Leon. The main difference with Bandaoke, of course, is the band itself.

The Ruddys are truly a family band, featuring Scott “Scooter” Ruddy on acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals, as well as his daughter Jessica on bass, harmonica and vocals. They’ve been performing regularly as an acoustic duo around the area for the past few years. When playing larger rooms they’ll add drums. Currently that chair, known as the drum “throne” to percussionists, is being occupied by yours truly. Go ahead, make a potty joke if you want, but at last count we had around 500+ songs in “the book” and we can even play most of them fairly well. The challenging part is that we never know what’s going to be next.

Most bands have a set list of tunes to play that they’ve extensively rehearsed. Our set list is created as we go, based on the songs that are requested by the singers. This means in the space of ten minutes we could be switching from Elvis to Led Zeppelin to Lady Gaga. Challenging? Sometimes. Unpredictable? Usually. Entertaining? Almost always.

The real fun begins when Scott cranks up the volume a bit, and the band becomes a power trio to be reckoned with. He elicits sounds from a six-string Taylor that were never meant to be played on acoustic guitar. Jess is simply one of the most animated and energetic bass players I’ve worked with…period. They bring a level of joy and enthusiasm to the material that is truly contagious.

It’s a blast for participants and band members alike, due to both the “live” environment of being on a stage with lights and a full sound system AND the fact that we’re able adjust the music to the singers’ particular key or style. These are key factors in making things a lot more interesting than your average “canned” bar sing-a-long. Add to the equation Marissa from the afternoon shift at FLY92 as our emcee (and sometimes comic relief) and a big wad of prize money and you can’t go wrong. Last season, the weekly finalists each took home a Benjamin and the winner of the final round took home a Cleveland. And we’re not talking the animated cartoon character on the Fox network either.

The most surprising thing to me is just how many really good singers there are in the area. You don’t even have to be that talented to win, just bring lots of friends with you because the winners are determined by the volume of the crowd’s applause. Beware…sometimes the worst singers have the most friends who clap and cheer the loudest!

Story by Andy Maroney

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One Response to “Bandaoke is Back!”

  1. LiLi says:

    Sounds like fun!

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