"And singing Blondie, it's a first-time performer..."
"Give it up for-"
"Actually I'm wussing out. Sorry. Next person."
The band shrug disdainfully. The host gives me an I'm-not-angry-I'm-just-disappointed look. She's still holding out the sheet of song lyrics.
"Why are you not going up?"
"Well my partner's wussing out, and I need him to start in tune..."
Chris rolls his eyes, and turns back to Big Buck Hunter. His was not the name they called out, after all. And, like his says, it'd be different if he knew the verses.
Eventually they do move on to the next person, and I go back to studying the list of song titles as if looking hard enough will reveal the meaning of life, or at least one of those Magic Eye pictures, the sort I could only ever glimpse cross-eyed. With well drinks this strong the corss-eyed thing wouldn't be a problem for long.
"Why don't you two do one together? Since you're both tempted to do one?"
Phil and I look at one other, shrug, and go back to scouring the song sheet. It's hard to choose how to pitch it: play for comedy appeal with Hit Me Baby One More Time, or go for guts and glory with some classic rock anthem that'll get even the most hardened barflys saluting us with sloshing pints of Brooklyn Lager. Or heading for the door.
In the end we stick with what we know best: Madonna, Material Girl.
Up on stage there's a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. They tell us they'll give us the nod when we have to go in. Like novice bowlers, we also have a gutter-guard in the shape of a Hanks regular who stands at the front beating time and acting out the lyrics. His interpretation of "some boys lie and some boys cry" is to die for.
After a few stumbles, and some initial bum notes, we vogue our way through the song. About three and a half people whoop and cheer as we finish. We are rock stars. We graciously thank our support band, our parents, our third-grade music teachers, and then reluctantly leave the spotlights.
Five minutes later I have one finger running down the song list, another stuck in my ear, Mariah Carey style, as I try to sing out some Counting Crows over and above the guy on stage who's exhorting us to Put Another Dime in the Jukebox, Baby.
Then inspiration strikes. I run to sign myself up for one more taste of glory. Time After Time. I knew that all those evenings I spent age fourteen playing Mah Jong, drinking Baileys and listening to my parents' Best Love Songs Ever CDs would come in handy some time.
"You say, go slow. I fall behind. The drum beats out of time..."
My gutter-guard syncopates his air-drumming, and I flash him a grateful rock-star smile...