Take a second to envision your ideal karaoke venue. First, it would have a fantastic sound system. Second, and closely related, it would feature amazing acoustics.
With respect to crowd-size, the bar would be well-populated but not packed wall-to-wall. A fair proportion of those on-hand would actually participate in the karaoke-proceedings, and the majority of those who decline to participate would be the type of persons who are inclined to get off their butts and dance and/or sing-along if they dig the song being performed, or at least are attentive enough to partially-watch the singer and clap courteously when he or she finishes.
Obviously, the perfect karaoke-setting would have to include some ultra-talented vocalists that would compel the crowd to hang on their performances by the sheer force of their vocal ability. And, more than that, singers would predominantly select appealing and popular– yet interesting– tunes to perform, not the sort that could be heard at any one of the millions of American wedding receptions that take place annually, all of which that essentially feature the same play-list.
Finally, the optimal location for karaoke would contain some type of a stage that would provide singers the option of “working it” as they sing, in order to more authentically get into the moment of their performance. And the karaoke-room would have multiple television monitors functioning as lyrics-screens, so singers are free to turn and face different directions while they perform, or perhaps take a walkabout if they like, without missing a word or skipping a single beat.
A karaoke-bar that possessed all of these aspects would be truly worthy of a five-star-review. And a karaoke bar that possessed none of these aspects would be Digger McDuff’s of Cromwell, CT.
It is difficult to even determine where to begin in critiquing this venue. To concisely sum it up, if Digger McDuff’s were a project students submitted in class for a group-assignment whose directions were “create your own karaoke bar”, then the teacher would give it back and tell them to try again.
Individually, McDuff’s fails every single one of the “ideal karaoke bar” criteria outlined above. The speaker system is garbled, the acoustics are wretched, the bar is dead even on a Saturday night and populated largely by mopey drinkers who seem oblivious to the karaoke happening on the premises, and there are only a handful of people who actually sign-up to sing which results in long intervals during the night when the KJ just plays regular music, or no music is played at all.
Additionally, some of the singers rival the worst “bad auditioners” ever highlighted by American Idol, and none of them, it seems, are cognizant of the fact that there actually have been new songs written and released within the last two decades. In this respect, perhaps it is a blessing that the bar does not furnish these folks with a stage. The collective talent in the house is abysmal enough as it is without providing the performers the opportunity to develop “stage-delusion” on top of it.
However, if there is one component of karaoke at McDuff’s that epitomizes its sad state, it would be what it offers in the way of lyrics-display. The actual screen onto which the words are projected is perfectly serviceable. It’s merely a standard pull-down overhead-projector screen of the kind used in millions of classrooms, so readability is not an issue. But, the actual lyrics-display technology looks like it has not been updated since the advent of karaoke in the 1970s. The on-screen lyrics dot actually bounces from word-to-word in the way it does in sing-alongs on children’s television programs. This may seem like a minor element on which to focus out of the entire karaoke experience, but such a follow-the-bouncing-dot lyrics-display set-up leaves the impression that, in the age of XBox 360s and Nintendo Wiis, they are working with a system about as technologically-advanced as Pong.
To be fair, the lyrics-display issues and at least some portion of the sound problems rest with the KJ, not Digger McDuff’s. Cadillac Jack Entertainment Productions conducts karaoke on-site, and the overall presentation of the attendant KJ is on par with the quality of the bar’s karaoke experience itself.
But, however we apportion the responsibility for failure among the site, the crowd, and the company presiding over the evening– make no mistake, as a karaoke bar Digger MCDuff’s is in fact a huge fail. The combination of the thoroughly uninspired venue with the utterly uninspiring crowd and KJ drops its rating down to one-star level. Digger’s karaoke embodies every corny cliche that form the impressions about karaoke by those who snicker at it. It could not be more cliche, if you were to enter the bar to find a group of Asian businessmen crowded around the microphone singing “Don’t Fence Me In” heavily-accented and off-key. On karaoke nights, McDuff’s kitchen closes at approximately 11:00 P.M., but, be assured, the bar generously serves up cheese until last call or later.
WHERE: Digger McDuff’s Tavern, 195 Shunpike Rd. Cromwwell, CT
WHEN: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays: 8:30 P.M. – 12:30 A.M.