MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The people we'll meet next also perform on stage, not unlike the young poets we just heard from. But these Washingtonians are exploring a very different means of self expression. Laruen Ober brings us their story.
MS. LAUREN OBER
It's a Wednesday night at Policy, a hip restaurant and lounge on 14th Street NW. Billy Idol's 1982 hit "White Wedding" is playing over the speakers and Emily Diamond-Falk is putting the finishing touches on her costume for tonight's karaoke league competition. That's right, I said karaoke league. In this bar tonight, karaoke is a team sport.
MS. EMILY DIAMOND-FALK
Well I'm wearing a very tight French maid's outfit.
Diamond-Falk is a member of REO Lush Wagon, formerly known as New Kids on the Lush Wagon. These folks make up a dedicated team of karaoke-ers. They're part of District Karaoke, a competitive team-based karaoke league. And they are no joke.
And I think it's very important to note that New Kids on the Lush Wagon actually won city -- would be state-wide if we had statehood -- competition last season.
Yep, she's talking about a city-wide tournament, for karaoke. Last season, Diamond-Falk and her team sang their way to karaoke glory, beating out 22 other teams to take the title. This season, REO Lush Wagon is looking for a repeat.
You put a lot of effort into knitting or scrapbooking or whatever, and so we put a lot of effort into our hobby.
But, like, it's something that people would go and do just for fun, but you've made it into a team sport.
Right. We were the ones that didn't have letter jackets.
Being a member of a karaoke team may seem a little odd, especially if you've ever played a more, say, legitimate sport like lacrosse or basketball. But competitive karaoke isn't all that strange when you consider that D.C. is full of off-the-wall leagues. The city boasts whiffleball, skeeball and shuffleboard teams. Want to compete in something called inner tube water polo? There's a league for that. How about a competitive game show league? D.C. has that, too.
There's something about this city that makes us turn everything into a competition. Maybe it's because there's so much drive and ambition here that it just naturally extends to our recreational pursuits. In the case of these karaoke-ers, it's not enough just to go to their local bar on karaoke night, belt out some Tina Turner or Guns 'n Roses, and call it a day. This is about victory. And costumes.
MS. SYLVANA NAGUIB
What they say is true, you know, at the top, there's only one direction to go, down, so I think we've decided if we're gonna go down, we're gonna go down in flames.
That's Sylvana Naguib, a Lush Wagon newbie. At tonight's competition, REO Lush Wagon has picked Diamond-Falk to represent them in one of two solo karaoke rounds. There's also a team round where everyone gets to perform. Diamond-Falk is REO's ringer. By day, she works in environmental policy. By night, she's a belter. Though in competitive karaoke, it takes more than a good voice to bring home a win. The teams are judged on two criteria, sing it, and schwing it.
MR. JESSE B. RAUCH
Singing it is that musicality, how did you sound.
That's Jesse B. Rauch, commissioner of District Karaoke.
And then the schwing it is that kind of performance. But sometimes it means a little bit more. And if people have a good time, they may give you a high schwing it score.
Diamond-Falk is definitely going for the schwing tonight. She's decided to go with a Downton Abbey theme. Not the obvious choice to go with her song selection, which is "Alone" by Heart, but it works. She's dressed as a maid with a microphone in one hand, and a feather duster made from a butter knife and some paper napkins in the other. And she's serenading a giant, hand-painted cutout of Mr. Bates, the show's war-wounded valet. The crowd loves it. Her schwing factor is off the charts.
Rauch, the commissioner, and also the founder, insists that it's not just about competition. It's also about fostering a sense of togetherness.
We’re really focused on building a community. That is my top goal, is to build a community of people who become friends and support each other. As much as individuals can come and do this, it wouldn't bring people together in the same way. That team element adds a certain dynamic that individual karaoke performancing and competing probably doesn't get.
But don't think that all that community-building talk makes District Karaoke any less serious than other social sports like kickball or dodge ball.
I should tell you our unofficial motto. It's, anyone can kick a ball, but only ballers can belt a ballad.
That's like some fighting words there.
Yeah, but don't tell them that.
I'm Lauren Ober.
To learn more about District Karaoke, and to see photos of the members of REO Lush Wagon, head to our website, metroconnection.org.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and International law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.