Typically, I do not believe in signs. But after a weekend spent at Homegrown Fest, after-parties and beyond, it was difficult not to interpret a good omen or two as I made my way into Lota's Goat on Sunday night. Glenn Frey's "You Belong to the City" was on full blast and a gentleman of at least 65 was completely nailing the saxophone solo via a red kazoo. As that melody wormed its way into my brain, I settled into a back booth, pleased at such a charming start to the evening.
That's just one of the details that makes Carmen's Sunday night karaoke at the Goat so special, and a three-day weekend makes it a Sunday-best occasion. That Monday sleep-in means the freaks really do come out at night, head down Gaston, wait in 20-minute bar lines and lobby for their spot among Carmen's juried karaoke list of regulars, local musicians and American Idol would-have-beens.
By 10:30 pm, a stranger had lifted her dress to show me her bathing suit; Carmen announced she was already on standby; and the tip jar was stacked by those trying to curry favor and get on the list. It was the earliest I have ever seen a crowd pack the Goat, and the earliest I'd ever heard her warn the crowd that the list was at capacity.
For those wondering what the demand is for, Carmen, the Goat's karaoke curator, provides more than the instrumental track for your embarrassing solo. Her setup includes a live drummer, a keyboard player and Carmen providing spot-on background vocals and the occasional percussive addition of tambourine. She does not merely put your songs in order, she DJs the evening so an old soul song mingles nicely with the new Nicki Minaj.
The Goat serves as one of Dallas' best blues bars on other nights of the week, but on Sunday, some of those same musicians come out, toss a few back and get silly on stage. (Get there early for the old-man hour, it's worth it.) They aren't the only familiar faces on the mic: There were freestyles from GalleryCat, some Prince from the Missile fellas and Sir Silky, and an impressive duet with King Buck Chad Stockslager, cementing Carmen's unique niche in the Dallas music scene.
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At 1:20 am, the Goat was out of cold Miller Light, a cross-dresser was singing "Toxic" and party-goers desperately threw bills at Carmen, trying to get a turn. Even the Goat can't escape karaoke clichés: As the opening strains of "Can't Help Falling in Love" came over the speakers, the crowd swayed, a couple slow danced and, by the end of the song, the entire room was belting along passionately. Not all clichés are terrible.