Bowieoke Circus 11/02/16

I’ve been a massive fan of Karaoke Circus for years. Unfortunately my move to London coincided with them stopping doing it. 🙁 I’ve spent ages following the people who did it (Danielle Ward & Martin White) with hope of them doing some secret gigs but nothing ever came up. If you’ve not heard/seen Karaoke Circus before then I’ll update this blog with some that I’ve found on-line. In summary, They are Martin White on Keyboards, Danielle Ward on Bass, Foz Foster on lead guitar and David Reed on Drums. Comics then perform songs which are then judged by a panel.

In 2016, David Bowie died. This appeared to be the motivation for Danielle & Martin to get the band back together and arrange a special, one-off, BOWIEoke Circus. All money raised would go to charity and after a teaser or two on Twitter it was announced! couldn’t believe it. The opportunity was there to see the Karaoke Circus band back on stage doing only Bowie hits. I managed to get a pair of tickets before they sold out and this had to have been one of the most anticipated gigs for me ever, let alone just 2016.

Doors opened at 7pm and the show was to start at 7.30pm. We joined the queue at 7.20pm and there were at least 50 people in front of us.

Some people walked past and asked me what we were queuing for. “A David Bowie Themed Karaoke Fundraiser” was my reply but that didn’t seem to interest them. 10 minutes later the queue hadn’t moved. I just hoped that the band hadn’t started. Luckily I noticed a familiar face talking to the crowd. It was Martin White! Eventually he got to us and explained that the format of the show was that there would be one comic performing a song and then one member of the public would perform the next one and would we like to do one? There was a list of 7 songs and you could choose to put your name into the hat for any of them. I decided to go with ‘Under Pressure’ and that’s when Martin explained it would be a ‘blind date’ – a male and female member of the public would be picked at random to perform it. Martin left to go back inside and as slowly as the queue moved forwards, more people joined behind us.

Eventually we got inside where we were told that my man-bag was allowed in but we’d have to check my girlfriend’s handbag. This came a shock to both of us as I’ve never had to, or been with someone who had to, check in a handbag. I guess this was a good money maker for the Working Men’s Club as at £1 per item, the cloakroom was plenty full.

We walking into the hall around 7.50pm and luckily the show hadn’t started. After finding a good place to stand I headed to the bar and bought a couple of drinks before returning to our spot and getting ready for the show. Moments later the lights dimmed and Foz & The Baron appeared on stage with a banjo to welcome us to the show.

The rest of the band took to the stage and Martin introduced the first performance of the evening. This was a member of the public, Victoria Redfern who did a great version of ‘Rebel Rebel’. That got the crowd going and after she had finished singing she was then judged by the judging panel – Dan Tettsel, Dan Maier and The Baron and was followed by Michael Legge and Robin Ince with ‘The Man Who Stole The World’. Although they didn’t start it immediately as Michael decided we needed to all recite The Lord’s Prayer.

It was a great song to get the crowd going at the start. Whether people knew it more as a David Bowie hit or as a Nirvana Unplugged hit, I don’t know. But what I did know is that their performance was both true to Bowie, Cobain and themselves.

What followed was a surprise. The next member of the audience was announced and I couldn’t believe it. A friend of mine (well ‘Twiend’ – if that is such a word) is @johngalantini and it was his name read out! He made his way to the stage and belted out an amazing performance of Be My Wife.

Then we got to enjoy another comic with Colin Hoult. This was a very acceptable performance and the best the judges could do was Dan Tettsel with ‘Carpet Salesman on a Works Night Out’! The Baron confirmed what the crowd thought….that it was Brilliant!

At brilliant #BowieokeCircus – @colinhoult pulls the best shapes! @serafinowicz @robinince @michaellegge &co AMAZING!

A photo posted by Clare Nightingale (@drasticsturgeon) on

Next up it was another audience member, Paul Boyle with Queen Bitch. A very different performance to Colin’s and certainly a favourite of the judges.

We were then treated to a great looking Trio – Margret Cabourn-Smith, Thom Tuck and Grainne Maguire performing ‘Young American’.

I don’t know what was to be expected but it was certainly a personal performance with lots of audience participation of ‘Young American, Young American, She was a Young American!”

The first section ended with Peter Serafinowicz doing some great Bowie impressions while performing Boys Keep Swinging. I don’t think anyone knew who any of the guests would be and seeing as in the last week he has been in the news loads with his Racist Donald Trump video, it was excellent to see him perform live.

Chatting with Martin in the queue for the gents he said Peter had been there during sound check and performed loads of the songs as Bowie….what a great guy!

The 2nd act started like the first. Another audience member performed – Alex Norris. A DJ set favourite of Let’s Dance got the crowd back into the mood and really kicked off this section.

The acts were coming thick and fast and what we saw next was Holly Burn. Martin introduced her and said we’d not be seeing her in character but as she walked onto the stage it became evident that this was not true! I have experienced Holly Burn at The Queens Head in Angel where I was the unfortunately audience member she picked on to dance with her on stage so I knew what to expect. Well I thought I did. UNIQUE would be the best word to describe it, and it certainly wasn’t a style anyone else would use that evening, that was for sure. A hasty jacket removal and throwing into the crowd caught a woman in the front row. Ooops!


A photo posted by Clare Nightingale (@drasticsturgeon) on

It was time for another comic and this one was a total surprise. Adam Buxton (The Adam & Joe Show/Bug/Etc) got up to the mic and after a brief introduction and telling people about the sad death of his own father over Christmas, he treated the audience to Kooks.

His performance did include a ‘Stephen’ (Just Coming) and a WozzaWozza for the fans. He did hang around and didn’t rush off somewhere else.

Two comics on the trot can only mean one thing, audience time. Martin took the mic and explained this would be the ‘Blind Date’ song with 2 members of the audience called up. The first name was ‘Kelly Jackson’ and as she made her way to the stage the next name was called out……’Twon’.

Ho-Lee-Fuck! I’m at Karaoke Circus (which I didn’t think would ever happen), the comics have been amazing and I’m getting the opportunity to perform in front of this crowd. I made my way to the stage not believing what was happening. The song was Under Pressure and I was hastily given some words. The time was a blur but it certainly was an experience I relished. Unfortunately the sound of wedding bells didn’t ring for me and Kelly but I think we gave the song our best shot and could rely on The Baron for some honest feedback….we were BRILLIANT!

p.s. ignore the fact it looks like we forgot the words. We didn’t, but the words we had written down were incomplete.

Making our way off stage we were replaced by Gary Le Strange (Waen Shepherd, Kate Darby, Stephen Evans and Phil Whelans). I think I was a hard act to follow but they did an acceptable job. Being judged by the Two Dans, I think they were unfairly cruel but The Baron moved the swing-o-meter back in the AMAZING direction!

The amazing Waen and his lovely backing singers #BowieokeCircus

A photo posted by Clare Nightingale (@drasticsturgeon) on

The second act ended with The Actor Kevin Eldon take to the stage and perform Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide. He appeared out of no-where and was apparently helping with the backing vocals on a number of the songs. It’s a slow Bowie song but rather than bring the audience down, it rallied them up and the sing-alongs helped drive the song through to the end and a welcome drink/toilet break for the audience. Martin gave us 15 minutes and everyone returned much quicker (baring a few of the brass section) than in the first break.

The third and final act began with another audience member – Alex Sievewright. He sang Changes. The audience were well lubricated and his performance, along with the band’s, really got us all going. First time I’ve seen someone play a bow-saw (or is it saw-bow) live.

With the crowd pumped the 1st comedian of the last act took the stage. Actor/Director/Comedian – Chris Addison!

Sporting a look that tip-toed the fine line between 70’s porn star and 80’s footballer he performed Diamond Dogs. Chris has been a regular on Karaoke Circus and as such he felt comfortable from the moment he said, “This aint Rock’n’Roll….this is Genocide!” to the last bar played. The Judging panel gave a mixed review with much being criticised not about the performance – much booing was done by the audience. Chris took it all well and the final view of The Baron put the bed any doubters…….BRILLIANT!

Another audience member took to the stage. This time it was Emily Webber singing ‘Life on Mars’. The audience got behind this entirely and it was mainly a sing-along between 300 people. As a collective it seemed like everyone was just thinking about the great man himself and what had brought everyone to this very place, at this exact time to not only celebrate his life, but to also raise money for two cancer charities – MacMillan and Cancer Research UK.

With the last audience song it was left to Martin to introduce the final act of the evening.

The final act of the night was introduced as Pappy’s. They appeared at the back of the room carrying what looked like a coffin that was about to be posted. You can see it in the video but as you can see the audience loved it and it looked like they loved it to. Sometimes I wonder if Karaoke Circus is just a coping mechanism to handle Pappy’s required level of nudity?

Pappys certainly didn’t let anyone down and those people who stayed until the end got to see special effects and a performance that had to be seen to be believed. The video above gives you an idea but really…being there is the only way to truly experience a Pappy’s Karaoke Circus performance.

As they left the stage I was thinking about what I’d just watched over the last 3 hours. How lucky I was to be there. Not just being there but sharing it with 300 people who will all have those same memories for ever. Will the Karaoke Circus gang reform again? It’s possible they might. If they ever do I’ll be there and I’ll bring everyone I know (both of them) to share an experience that is so much more than the sum of all its parts.

My biggest thanks to Martin, Danielle, David, Foz, and all the team behind Karaoke Circus. To all the comedians who performed and the audience members who went on stage and gave it their all. All the efforts of both performers, audience and all the team behind the Bowieoke Circus helped to raise over £3000 for two cancer charities. You have also given me a place in my mind I can go to that will remind me that the world isn’t shit all the time.


(edit – 19/2/16 – Danielle Ward has written THIS blog post about her experience of the evening – it is well worth a read)