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Karaoke where you can sing with the band

Tom Christie sings along at Kodiak's Restaurant and

Tom Christie sings along at Kodiak's Restaurant and Bar in Farmingdale with Brian Smith's live karaoke band. (April 28, 2011) Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

It's the stuff a serious karaoke singer fantasizes about: a packed house, an open stage, the perfect song -- only instead of belting out the lyrics over a prerecorded soundtrack, you're the front man of a real live band.

"I wasn't planning on doing this!" insists Trisha Kusinitz, of Plainview, mere moments after delivering a spirited cover of "Me and Bobby McGee" on a recent Thursday night at Kodiak's in Farmingdale. She's done plenty of karaoke before, but never with the accompaniment of two guitars, drums and backup vocals.

"This was the best ever," says Kusinitz, 33. It felt more like I was a rock star."

Singing with the band

That's exactly the reaction bandleader and guitar player Brian Smith is going for with his new weekly "Rock Star Karaoke" nights at the restaurant and bar.

"There is a special energy to live music that you do not get with the machine," says Smith, who's been hosting such sing-with-a-band events sporadically at various bars and restaurants since 2001. Recorded music tracks are unforgiving, he explains, but band members can get some synergy going with the singers. "If the person is having trouble staying on key or losing their place, we back the vocals up to keep it moving and sounding good."

What to expect

The mood was enthusiastic as Smith and band mates Steve Elias and Dave Milner jammed and sang backup vocals for a steady stream of karaoke singers taking their turn at the microphone.

"It was great," says Anthony Calambas, 35, an auto mechanic from Patchogue who was singing with a live music backing for the first time. "The band is definitely cooler."

Joe Marmer, of Melville, looked a bit nervous before his gig tackling Dave Matthews' "Ants Marching."

"It was fun, but intimidating at first," says Marmer, 30. "I was worried about the gong."

Audience members can signal their displeasure with a less-than-stellar performance by striking a gong planted near the stage. But Marmer -- and all the other singers on this night -- were spared by the crowd.

Eleven-year-old Jessie Pesa, of Huntington, got a particularly rousing reception when she sung Pink's pop hit "So What?" with family friend Melina Cook, 28, of Babylon. Pesa's mother, Donna DeRosa, called the restaurant in advance to get permission to bring her daughter to sing at the event, which is generally geared to an over-21 crowd. For Pesa, who normally sings at home over CDs, the experience was "much better and more realistic."

While Smith's band can play many popular songs on command, those with specific requests can send him song titles, and the group will try to learn them in time for the next karaoke night. "This is interpretive music," he says. "It's great to see people have the chance to sing with us."

Rock Star Karaoke

WHEN | WHERE 9 p.m. Thursdays at Kodiak's Restaurant, 1815 Broadhollow Rd., Farmingdale

INFO 631-414-7055, kodiaksrestaurant.net

ADMISSION Free

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