All 5-foot-6 of Matt Welz is on the mic. Standing there in his trademark cranberry-colored leisure suit, eyes shining beneath little round glasses, he flashes a toothy grin and proceeds to let it rip.
It is karaoke but not normal karaoke, if there is such a thing. Welz, also known as Millionaire, is a self-styled karaoke man whose unorthodox approach which he calls hilaraoke includes a nerve-fraying falsetto, vociferous rapping and imitation guitar whining.
It was Labor Day weekend when Welz kicked off his weekly talent show at Smalls Bar. The event, now to be held every Tuesday, is appropriately called Small-Time Talent Tuesdays, and looks to be, at the very least, a novel way to pass the time. Unlike other karaoke nights, participants in Small-Time Talent Tuesdays are encouraged to perform anything any way they want: puppetry, magic, performance art, music the stage is theirs.
Karaoke is the template, says Smalls bartender (and drummer for hometown garage-rock heroes Outrageous Cherry), Carey Gustafson. Somebody can do a rock classic and somebody else can try stand-up material or play the spoons. I cant wait to see what people come up with.
But if opening night is any indication, emcee Welz will be a hard act to follow. Welz knack for hamming it up has landed him opening gigs at the Magic Stick and a karaoke gig at Greektowns Cock-N-Bull restaurant/bar every Wednesday night.
Local musician Philip Skarich (of the Witches and Dead String Brothers), saw Welz perform at this years Fourth Street Fair. I felt drawn to it in a car crash kind of a way, says Skarich, who was at Smalls for the inaugural talent show. He says he thinks people appreciate Welz because he doesnt really care about technique as much as feeling.
Sadly, opening night for Small-Time yielded only a few brave souls, but bar manager Shari Bergel says she expects a better turnout in the future: Were having a great time and its only going to get better.
9 p.m. every Tuesday at Smalls, 10339 Conant, Hamtramck; 313-873-1117.
Jennifer Bagwell is a Detroit-area freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.