Punk rock karaoke goes live at Howlers | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Punk rock karaoke goes live at Howlers



Whether you opened for Black Flag that one time, or you just like to belt "TV Party" to your cat, the people behind Howlers' Live Band Punk Rock Karaoke want you to be their singer. 

The event takes the best part of karaoke -- performing your favorite songs for a crowd of drunk people -- and combines it with the fun of seeing, and being a part of, a sweet rock band. Pick from a list of about 40 songs -- from Devo to Cro-Mags to Melvins -- and the musicians, who know the list by heart, will back you.

Lyrics are printed out, so there's no bouncing ball to keep singers on track. If you don't really know the song, things tend to fall apart. Fortunately, the band members -- drummer Gary Weiss, bassist Rob Jacob and guitarists Bengt Alexsander and Frank Fornsaglio -- have learned to adjust. "We'll play the song the way you think it goes," Alexsander says with a laugh. 

Weiss adds, "You couldn't get much worse than some of the originals. Every time we play the Germs we're playing it better." Even so, he advises, "Try to do your homework before you come in."

The event -- similar to a handful of nights in other cities like New York and Austin -- originated around 2004 at the now-defunct Upstage. Howlers began hosting it about a year-and-a-half ago; it takes place on the last Wednesday of each month. The band members all play in other bands, but seem to enjoy the element of make-believe. Watching them, one gets the impression that they're playing a part in a comedy. "I do things I wouldn't do in a regular band," Alexsander says. "I don't think any of our bands are that rowdy." 

The band says the night tends to appeal to people who don't particularly enjoy traditional karaoke. But whether or not you have the guts to get onstage, it's hard not to feel good about the pure human unpredictability of it all. It's an organic experience, Fornsaglio notes; then he sagely deadpans: "Out of the melee, the beauty comes."


LIVE BAND PUNK ROCK KARAOKE. 9 p.m. Wed., May 25. Howlers Coyote Café, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $3. 412-682-0320 or www.howlerscoyotecafe.com

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