(Transmute : to change or alter in form, appearance, or nature and especially to a higher form)
“Transmute” is a verb that is often used in the context of chemical changes when a substance, through the process of a chemical reaction, is transformed into a fundamentally different and often higher-quality substance. In medieval times, a mystical, quasi-scientific field known as alchemy arose which was primarily focused on attempting to transmute lead into gold.
“Transmutable” would then seem to be a strange adjective to use to describe a karaoke bar. But, to understand the applicability, you have to understand the two distinct types of karaoke-atmospheres that Bitter McCluskey’s is able to create and alternate. The venue has two rooms– a bar-area that has the qualities of a typical Irish pub and a larger, main room adjacent to it that houses a gigantic flat-screen TV, used for televised sporting events. Center Stage Entertainment, the ubiquitous karaoke-jockey company in Waterbury, runs karaoke at McCluskey’s and is capable of running it in either room. And while you would not think that the decision on the part of the bar and KJ Mike Mrazik as to whether he should set up in the bar, or less than thirty feet away in the other room, could make such a difference, it can truly alter the essence of the evening’s karaoke experience.
When Mike holds court in the bar, the essential flavor of the pub atmosphere seeps through into the night’s karaoke. Sing-along songs– drunken sing-along songs, that is– from every genre become a recurring theme on the play-list. And even when the crowd doesn’t chorus with the you while you sing, most of them look on as you perform and at least listen passively.
Part of the reason for this level of attentiveness is logistical: the bar-part of McCluskey’s is located in a narrow, elongated room. Barstools line both the actual bar and a center-bar where no bartender stands and serves drinks, but instead more barstools wrap all the way around it (if this center-bar were lower and had a surface made of formica, it would remind of you of an extended, rectanguar cafeteria table). The effect it produces, however, is that of two rows, and the stools along the actual bar then form a third, back row. As a result, when the bar is crowded and the barstools occupied, karaoke singers in here have a naturally-assembled, seated “audience” to watch them perform.
However, when karaoke is moved into Bitter McCluskey’s big room, its character changes completely. By far, the feature of this room that most impacts the transformation is the purity of its acoustics. Terming the sound-quality of vocals and music sung and played in this room “pristine” does not adequately capture the level of acoustical purity present. The sonic unadulteration crosses out of “pristine” territory and into the realm of “ambient.” (hence the aspect of transmutation into a “higher” karaoke-form).
The difference in sound-quality has an effect on singers’ song selections too. It seems that people become aware of just how clear their own singing voices sound in this room, as well as those of others. Although some individuals profess not to enjoy the “echo-y” sound, many seem to revel in it. Because gradually the evening’s play-list will tend to drift toward songs whose vocals can feature an almost ethereal quality– Evanescence is a popular choice for female singers here– as opposed to the songs with rollicking sing-along choruses that dominate the evening when karaoke is held in the bar-room.
When karaoke is held in the large room, it aslo affects the audience-dynamic. Instead of the performing in front of the three rows formed by barstools in the pub-area, you enter the room virtually alone. Sometimes KJ Mike remains in the room, along with a few supportive listeners, but the majority of patrons hang back by the bar. And sometimes everyone sits in the bar while you sing, Mr. Mrazik included. The combination of the the relative solitude you experience while singing in this room with the haunting vocals it can produce, makes it almost seem as if you have entered to perform inside some sort of designated “karaoke chamber.”
The effect is also similar to that of singing in a studio. In fact, because of the acoustics and reception in the room, it is virtually certain that if capable singer that was to record their selections in this room that evening, the recordings would sound fantastic.
WHERE: 1474 Meriden Road, Waterbury, CT
WHEN: Mondays, 9:30 – 1:00