Monday, July 11, 2011
Karaoke review: Agave Restaurant & Bar in Rockwall
The Agave staff was pleasantly surprised by how happy the singers were.
It’s always fun to be at the first night of a new karaoke event — there’s always a surprise in store. A few times, it’s been clear that the gig wouldn’t be around long. Decanter in Bishop Arts, for example — they never promoted the karaoke event, didn’t work fairly with the DJ crew, and canceled it just as people were getting excited. This glowing Yelp review mentions the great karaoke — too bad management wouldn’t pay for it! Other times, you can tell that the first night of karaoke is the start of something big. That’s the feeling I got at Agave in Rockwall Harbor.
The best karaoke venues already have a sense of how to integrate music into their environment, and Agave has a strong musical focus. The Wednesday of karaoke, they had a guitar player singing outside on the patio while the karaoke went on inside. This worked surprisingly well: Patrons who wanted to be entertained could enjoy the guitarist, while those of us who wanted to be entertainers had the inside.
And Agave also knows how to promote their events. Typically, the folks at Totally Twisted Karaoke have to do their own promotion, putting up their banner along with their equipment. Agave, by contrast, had karaoke featured on their posted weekly schedule and with a sign in the nearby plaza.
That let Robert O, the TTK DJ for the event, focus on providing the entertainment ... which, as usual, was done perfectly. He kept the singers moving along smoothly, something not all DJs have the patience to do. I even heard that the Agave staff were pleasantly surprised by how happy the singers were. Nobody felt like they were being blocked from singing by long sets of non-karaoke music or by outright DJ ineptness. I’ve seen both of those conditions at other hosts’ shows (though sometimes caused by events beyond the DJ's control), and it’s very frustrating for singers! That didn’t happen at Agave — despite 15 singers or more on the list, everyone felt like they got their turn.
Not to say that there wasn’t a break for line dancing. The space at Agave for dancing wasn’t huge, but the crowd somehow squeezed into every available space for the Cuban Shuffle and Cha-Cha Slide. By the time it was over, people were moving in all directions, all having a blast.
Agave is primarily a high-end Southwestern/Mexican restaurant, and the food did not disappoint. Bibi got Stuffed Jalapenos that were divine, with a great balance of flavors stuffed into big, fresh big peppers. I came late, so I just got nachos — which weren’t free. I’ve never paid for nachos and salsa before, but they were fresh, not greasy, and the salsa was flavorful without being overpowering. And although the entrees were a bit out of my price range that night — but reasonable for top-notch food — the drinks were *much* cheaper than at most other karaoke spots. The waitress knew her alcohol, too, and the drinks came out perfectly mixed.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Agave’s other distinguishing feature: It has the best location in Rockwall Harbor, overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard. If the karaoke gets too overwhelming — it’s certainly loud — you can go for a walk with your honey as the sun sets over the lake. It’s a great way to have romantic cuddling and loud partying, all at the same place. How often can you do that?
Song check: I was feeling cranky, so I started out with “Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon to get the anger out of my system. It worked so good that I was able to croon “After the Lovin’” by Englebert Humperdink later, for my wonderful Bibi. Me and her sang Barry Manilow’s “Ready to Take a Chance Again” together — boy, that one is tricky! Listen to it carefully and you’ll hear how the chorus has a dramatic, variable pause before it starts. And my daughter Sam sang “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert ... a perfect song for my sweet little girl, who you’d better not mess with if you know what’s good for you!
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