Rokaoke: The Rock Star Experience

Wednesday 18th July 2012

My concept was to offer an ‘Experience Day’ to rival jumping out of an aeroplane or racing round Brands Hatch.
We had a couple of try-outs last year, and in retrospect I felt my ambitions were perhaps a little over-ambitious!
On the allotted day, ten Rokaoke ‘riders’ turned up at Rok Skool in Haywards Heath, having already picked the song or songs they wished to perform. They received an afternoon of expert tuition working with the teachers at Rok Skool. They also got the chance to run through their numbers on the bandstage there, with HotHouse Rokaoke Band.
They changed into their stage gear and jumped into the waiting stretch limo, which ferried them down to The Brighton Ballroom. There the live gig experience unfolded – VIP area, canapes, bubbly, interviews and on-stage performance.
It was complicated, as business models go and having twice seen it in action I made the decision to put my higher ambitions on ice and go for a cut-down version. A version that didn’t rely on the performer shelling out £250 for the privilege and one where a good crowd was automatically guaranteed.
It went like this:
Step 1: on every table a Song Menu.
Step 2: A very rock’nroll Song Waitress approaches and takes the order.
‘Number 95: Winner Takes It All? Certainly Madam’.
Step 3: When the moment arrives, she collects the highly-adrenalised person from their table and ushers them through the audience to the stage, for a brief interview, followed by their performance, on mic, centre stage, with a kicking band around them.
The experience costs the performer nothing, as the band is paid for by the event organiser. And think of how many events this simple idea would enliven: Stag nights, Hen nights & Wedding receptions. Staff parties, jollies and team-building exercises.
You think of them. So many more.
On Sunday July 1st, we gave it our first try-out. HotHouse Rokaoke Band launched into a rocking opening set at The Talbot in Cuckfield, then kicked in to the riff from ‘A Whole Lotta Love’ – perhaps more widely recognised as the theme tune from Top Of The Pops.
‘It’s Rokaoke time!’ crowed Master of Ceremonies Joe Kaye, as our Song Waitress led Sarah Barker, the first of our performers, to the stage, to belt out I Will Survive.
The fascination amongst the crowd was palpable and the evening a fine success, with a residency at The Talbot being instantly offered as the dying notes of HotHouse’s encore (Y.M.C.A.!) faded into the ether.
From now until the end of the year we will be ‘road-testing’ our business vehicle at any local venue that will have us, for the cut-down price of £350. This is our learning curve period, coupled with an opportunity to let future clients and agents take a look at the magic we have on offer.
Rokaoke is the future of karaoke, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a more exciting fairground ride! Why would you not want to go on it?
Hereward Kaye

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