Each Tuesday and Saturday night, Season’s Eatery and Pub in Oak Bluffs tries to help Vineyarders and visitors endure those long, cold winter nights by offering up karaoke from 9:30 until closing.
Though not filled to overflowing as it is in the crowded summer months, Seasons still attracted more than 60 patrons through its doors this past Saturday for a spirited romp through the classics.
The performances ranged from the sublime and soulful to the ridiculous and incomprehensible, but through it all everyone had fun and the audience was unfailingly enthusiastic and supportive.
Presiding over the festivities, as he has for more than three years, is Seasons bartender Vamp Campbell.
The affable Mr. Campbell, who succeeded Mike McGlaughlin and Eric Hawkes as karaoke host at Seasons, was slow to embrace the phenomenon when he first started working at the restaurant.
“When I started [at Seasons] I was a bouncer and I hated karaoke. Then after a couple of slow winter nights, I came up to sing a song, ‘Kung-Fu Fighting.’ Then, the next week, I sang ‘Copacabana.’ It was so much fun and everybody was laughing.”
Today, Vamp is not shy about handling his share of the singing. On most nights, he kicks off the show with “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest or Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You,” but this time the host sang a duet of “American Pie” with Mike Delis, a board member at the M.V. Portuguese-American Club. A karaoke rookie, Mr. Delis agreed to sing only if Mr. Campbell worked the upcoming chili contest at the P.A. Club on January 30.
Next up was Angel Quinones with an inspired version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Mr. Quinones, who would perform at least half a dozen songs, summed up the essence of karaoke, “You got rock stars and you got not stars.”
For each singer, the appeal of karaoke seems unique.
Former Vineyard resident Dave Robushi, now living in Connecticut, said that karaoke was a big help in getting him acclimated to Vineyard life. “I can’t tell you how it picked up my spirits,” he said.
Mr. Robushi performed knockout versions of “Treat Me Like a Fool,” “Mustang Sally,” and “Sweet Caroline.” His karaoke experiences have also spurred him on to sing at Route 22 and Monster B’s, two clubs in Stamford, Conn.
Following Mr. Robushi to the stage were sisters Crystal Roy and Brenda Viera, who joined together in a joyous rendition of “Gloria.”
“I attempt to sing at karaoke,” Crystal said, “I’m not good at it, but I attempt it.”
Her sister weighed in thoughtfully on what makes karaoke fun. “It’s enjoyable for the moment. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you sing, it’s about having the confidence to get up there in front of a crowd and just be yourself. Music is the soul of happiness,” Brenda said.
Tanya Patnaude, who would join in on a later tune, took the opposite tack, “You can become someone you’re not; it makes you feel free.”
With dozens of karaoke evenings under his belt, Vamp has his share of memorable stories. On one occasion, a man asked to have “Sweet Caroline” held for him a month in advance so he could sing it when he was in town for the shark tournament.
Another time, Vamp remembers a man in a tacky suit crooning through “Bailomos.” He said with a chuckle, “He got off the stage and all the girls hung out with him all night.”
As for the most stirring performance, Vamp cites a big guy who did “My Way” his way. “He had tears in his eyes and brought down the house. The crowd was roaring.”
While NSYNC’s Joey Fatone may be the most famous person to take the mic at Seasons, Vamp fondly remembers the late Virginia Hackney of Vineyard Haven, who was a karaoke regular and loved to sing Madonna’s “Material Girl.”
As with any performance, the relationship between performer and audience is an integral part. “The audience is supportive for the sheer courage necessary to take the stage,” Vamp said.
What Vamp enjoys most as host is getting the audience pumped up for the last song with a raucous crowd-pleaser such as “Shout” or “Rock and Roll All Night.”
Saturday night, he did the honors on those two songs himself, and added Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” for good measure.
With another happy throng headed out onto Circuit Avenue, Vamp summed up his tenure as host, “It’s been one fun karaoke blur, one long song,” he said.
Karaoke Night at Season’s Eatery and Pub on Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs Tuesday and Saturday nights, from 9:30 pm to closing.
Ralph Stewart is the photographer for The Times.