Fired up with Monday-night karaoke at The Harp
by Bart Mendoza
Oct 31, 2012 | 5522 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With her signature brassy, larger-than-life style, Laura Jane Wilcock is a natural for playing the role of hostess during open-mic karaoke nights at The Harp on Mondays. 
                                          Courtesy photo by Jon Kanis
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Karaoke has been given a bad rap over the past few decades. The thought of bad singing to cheesy songs might put off some, but in the right hands karaoke can be a lot of fun. Even if a vocalist isn’t particularly top notch, an event host with a sense of humor and a sense of fun can turn it into interactive entertainment. Such is the case with Laura Jane Wilcock, who hosts karaoke every Monday night at The Harp.

Wilcock has hosted this event since April 2010, becoming a veteran of similar events at various locations around town since 1991. With her signature brassy, larger-than-life style, Wilcock is a natural for playing the role of hostess. It’s a rare performer who can pull off wearing Viking horns while playing her trusty inflatable guitar, but she’s more than up to the challenge. Setting her apart from most others who emcee such club nights, Wilcock is a respected powerhouse vocalist in her own right, fronting the acclaimed band The Tighten Ups.

She notes that when it comes to karaoke, most neighborhoods have more in common than not.

“All neighborhoods yield talented folks, both local and tourist,” she said.

Wilcock notes that not everyone is a great vocalist, but that’s okay.

“Of course, some folks sing better than others, so my karaoke nights feature a ‘freedom to suck’ policy that protects us from judgment at all times,” said Wilcock. “I do not care for karaoke contests. We will applaud.”

Wilcock admits to applying a system to her open-mic nights.

“It helps to have a true love of humans and music, as well as being an enchanted conduit of hilarious good times. Keep energy high, be fair, care about the sound quality and mix of each singer. And also, bring a cowbell.”

Still, considering she is an San Diego Music Awards-nominated singer with her band, how hard is it for her to deal with a particularly bad singer?

“I just combine that love of humans with the ‘freedom to suck’ motto and then add tequila plus a sense of humor,” she joked.

According to Wilcock, Ocean Beach gives her a good blend of singers each week.

“We get a really good mix,” she said. “Euros from the hostel, neighborhood guys thick with facial hair and an attitude, packs of surfer girls, off-duty rock stars, hospitality kids, softball teammates and an above-average sampling of local comics.”

While Wilcock is open to performers of all styles, as long as they’re “friendly, fun-lovin’, brave and over 21,” she’s not adverse to cutting someone off if they are disrespectful.

“I have cut many people off who swing microphones, hit microphones, scream into microphones and don’t stop doing these things when I ask them to,” she said.

She points out that certain types of music fare better than others.

“It’s songs that encourage us to sing along, like ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen, and ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond. Those always get the crowd going. People also respond to humor and interpretive dancing,” she said.

Although singers have 4,000 tunes to choose from, there is one artist Wilcock would be happy to never hear again.

“Anything by Celine Dion,” she said good-naturedly.

Even after more than 20 years of hearing the good and the bad when it comes to local singing, Wilcock said she is still having fun at karaoke.

“I get to make loads of friends,” she said. “I get off on helping people achieve the high of public vocal performance in a safe and playful environment. Plus, I can hone my improvisational skills as an emcee as well as my sound-mixing skills. And I get to play my beloved inflatable guitar like a rock and roll fiend,” she said.

Karaoke with Laura Jane Wilcock takes place at 9 p.m. on Mondays at The Harp, 4935 Newport Ave. 21 and up. No cover.

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