Everything began as a pseudo-art statement. Organized in 1993 by Tres Shannon and Mistress Dawn of the Frances Farmer Gals, Karaoke From Hell was supposed to be a house band for the X-Ray Café. For reasons no one seems to remember, it premiered instead at Satyricon, was broadcast on KBOO, and has been off-and-on ever since. Dawn compiled the original songbook, intentionally miswriting chord charts and lyrics to make familiar tunes like "Cracklin' Rose" into surreal moments of confusion and discord. The book they use now is similar, but the grand idea is more user-friendly.
The current Karaoke From Hell band features Tres as MC and "bouncing ball to help the singer," Dawn on rhythm guitar, Kenny "The Cool Man" Coleman (Countrypolitans) on lead, B-B-Q Bob (Road's End) on bass, and Vic the Stick Porter (Frances Farmer Gals) on drums. This combination of talent gives the group flexibility, with the guitarists offering polar opposite takes on performance. Coleman says this is "the role I was born to play. I know a lot of fragments of popular and cheesy songs."
Lately, Portland luminaries like Sean Croghan (who sang "Hey Good Lookin'") and Matthew Hattie Hein ("Centerfold") have been spotted rocking the mic. Although it's fun for the band to back professionals, they derive the most pleasure helping non-musicians (to use Tres' words) "be the star." So if you want to be a rock star, now's your chance.