I have to admit, my friends and I didn’t have high expectations for Thursday night's Karaoke Night with friends at MJ’s Pizza Bar & Grill, on Route 35 North in Middletown.
When we arrived at 7:30 p.m., we found ourselves among a middle-aged-and-older crowd. Scanning the packed bar, there were no younger people to be found. We took a table in the elevated section, overlooking the bar, and ordered desserts, drinks and a basket of fries.
But just an hour later, the crowd was going crazy, sparked by KJ (karaoke jockey) Giuseppe's hilarious butt-shaking dance and delivery of of Prince's "Kiss." Young people starting filing in around 10 p.m., and KJ Giuseppe got many of us up out of our seats and bar stools, singing and dancing.
“When you come here you know you’re gonna have good food and a good time,” KJ Giuseppe said. I have to say, that’s exactly what I had at MJ’s.
Throughout the night, I heard everything from Diana Ross, to Goyte, to Zac Brown Band. Not only was the music diverse, but the singers were impressive. I'd say there were "above amateur" and absolutely amazing to hear.
The usual overplayed karaoke songs, like Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," were never heard, which was refreshing. There were two renditions of "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri -- the only song repeated during the contest.
The food was good too, though they stopped serving everything except pizza before the night ended at 11:30 p.m. The three of us spent $40 total. Not bad for a night on the town with live music, right?
MJ’s reopened in 2011, after formerly being known as the Black Oak. Since then the Thursday karaoke nights have been a mainstay. Contestants are given weekly prizes and qualify for the final contest.
Justin Daniels, one of the younger singers that night, blew the crowd away with his rendition of The Temptations' “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.”
While he said he loves to sing anytime, anywhere, his fiancée Arley Sues was unsure whether or not she'd have the courage to sing that night. Daniels jokingly said it depended on how much she drank.
In the back of the bar was Valerie Heilweil, who sings and dances to nearly every song, and jumps at the opportunity to karaoke. Heilweil said she won the contest a few weeks back singing Evanescence's “Call Me When You’re Sober" and Alanis Morissette's “Uninvited.”
“I love the DJ here,” said Heilweil. “He’s really good, ‘cause he doesn’t hog the whole night. He’s pleasant and encouraging.”
KJ Giuseppe was involved with the crowd all night, even singing a few duets with those who ventured onstage. He came over a few times to talk to us and tried to sign my reluctant and intimidated boyfriend to karaoke.
I was a little disappointed to leave, but called it an early night at 11:30 p.m., when karaoke ended. But the bar was still hopping and full of chatter and laughter as everyone was having a great time.
I didn't karaoke this time because the vast amount of talent made me a little intimidated. But maybe the next time I go I'll be able to muster up the courage to sing, even if it is a little off-key.