If your listening tastes are more competition-oriented, you might want to be present Tuesdays and Thursdays at the South Texas Singers Showdown—a local American Idol-esque karaoke competition at the Bar@3 Rivers Bar & Grill in the 200 block of North Harborth Avenue.
There, you can enjoy stalwarts such as Andre Dwayne Mathis, 28, of Harker Heights, floor listeners with his rendition of John Legend's "All Of Me.”
Or, if you veer over to another venue, Miller Crossing, 131 County Road 403, you can hear Allene Lynn, 22, of Arkansas, deliver a powerful rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. Lynn's resume includes an audition for The Voice. Miller Crossing has karaoke starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Saturdays.
These aren't separate stories by the way. Not really. Much of the same crowd that participates in The South Texas Singers Showdown at the Bar@3Rivers also performs at Miller Crossing.
Just ask Shantelle Krska, 30, who is a regular presence at both bars.
Shantelle isn't looking to set the world on fire with her vocals. It's more like therapy to her. She welcomes the opportunity to sing in public has helped her through some really hard times—particularly the passing of her mother, who was also her caretaker, Nita Krska, in 2012.
A special needs person, she now is being cared for by her father.
Last week at Bar@3 Rivers, Shantelle sipped Coca Cola and knitted a drink coaster as she waited for local DJ Robert Cisneros, 33, to set up his booth so the evening's competition could begin.
"Singing really helps me clear my mind," she said. "My Mom and I were really close. It's really hard when you lose your mama. After she died, all I could do about it was sing. I like to sing 'Pop The Top Again' by Alan Jackson, and the DJ here (Robert Cisneros) helps me sing it."
The local South Texas Singers Showdown at the Bar@3 Rivers is geared toward discovering the next great local artist, explained Vasu Rao, who oversees and coordinates the contest.
“I love artists and I love the music venue—so why not do a singing competition?” Rao said. “I want everyone to come, have fun, enjoy the talent and the great crowd. Best of all, I love it when a singer has the guts to get on stage and give 100 percent.”
Rao's competition comes with cash prizes and leads to a final showdown. Rao said he is hoping those who win the South Texas Singers Showdown can move upward and onward to greater competitions. The sky is the limit, he said.
"Knowingly or unknowingly, our singers are advancing to the next round," Rao said. "There are a lot of people fighting for this crown."
DJ Cisneros, who keeps a keen eye out for talent at the South Texas Singers Showdown, said karaoke satisfies a very basic need for people from different walks of life.
"People have a passion for singing — it's just the way they sing and portray the song,” he said.
The local singing doesn't begin or end with Bar@3 Rivers or Miller Crossing. There's also karaoke available at Riverbend 534 Club, 495 Fm 534 in Dinero.
And some of these local performers have followings. Golden-voiced Andre Mathis, for instance, has only performed at Bar@3Rivers a handful of times, but he has friends there and supporters in the crowd who wish him well and really want him to advance in the competition.
He loves to sing.
"Singing has always been my remedy of staying positive," Mathis said. "No matter what, no matter where, when I sing I always feel happier."
Performers of his or Allene Lynn's caliber, meanwhile, give the impression they are a lot more seasoned than they actually are. One of her performances can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4n4aIPkvzSs.
Lynn has the kind of voice that implies classical training. But Lynn, the daughter of a Live Oak County land surveyor, swears this is not the case.
"I really have no music history," she said. “Never been in a band. Never pursued anything actually. I move around so much that I have never get to be stable enough. I'm a gypsy … I've had a few people come and ask me if I was interested in pursuing a career in music and that they wanted to manage me ... but it never worked out or anything because I am never in one place long enough."
Webster's defines karaoke in the driest technical terms: "A device that plays instrumental accompaniments for a selection of songs to which the user sings along and that records the user's singing with the music."
Cynics and optimists alive say karaoke, ultimately, is a toss of the dice.
One very real possibility of any karaoke tourist is bombing on stage. In front of a crowd that singer doesn't—or barely—knows. Dry throat. Memory is shot. The text on the screen is missing certain lyrics and no one in the audience is paying attention. In other words: AARGH.
Conversely, any patron could experience a wave of good luck—just climbing on stage in front of a supportive, attentive crowd with an excellent microphone, a well-functioning set of vocal chords and belting out an award-winning rendition of a difficult song on the first try. With everyone noticing and applauding.
Even the karaoke purists admit: Who knows what will happen when you get in front of the microphone?
Alix Kerr, 21, of George West, who works as a server at Bar@3Rivers, said she has seen the karaoke contest there attract many additional customers, particularly women, to the venue.
But most of all, karaoke is fun for pretty much anyone, she said.
"I sing a lot of Michael Jackson—or even Chumbawamba," Kerr said with a smile. "I've always had more fun singing to older pop music."
The local karaoke venues tend to differ in terms of presentation. Bar@3Rivers actually has a sturdy stage on which contestants perform.
At Miller Crossing, it's more of a close-knit setting.
Patrons mill inside around 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Saturdays to watch power DJ couple and assistant managers Roderick Holman, 39, and Heather Jordan, 29 (both originally from Shreveport) charm a growing audience with impassioned renditions of songs such as "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence.
Jordan says Miller Crossing tends to really crowds up on karaoke nights, making it a lot of fun to sing in a close setting.
"I grew up singing, so I really like it," she said. "We're open Wednesday and Saturday but I think Saturday is our biggest night."
Holman said he and Jordan have been doing the karaoke thing at the bar for a little over a year.
"We walked in here to sing karaoke one night and the DJ just wasn't doing it," he said. "We took over and have been doing it ever since."
Reporter Ben Tinsley can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BenTinsley or on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.