There is a cure for those nippy Melbourne winter days: Pack hundreds of people into a small space and let them warm each other up with some heart-felt tunes. This year the Melbourne Karaoke Festival was held at 206 Bourke Street Mall. Contestants were battling it out across three categories: Best Band, Duet and Solo Performer. It was a fierce competition with over 120 solo entries alone.
The setup was simple but effective: a small stage erected inside the mall, a judges’ table reminiscent of Australian Idol, some seating and stalls with free samples of delicious beer by Sample Brew and doughnuts by St. Gerry’s, ready to look after famished or nervous contestants.
Hosted by comedian and performer Diana Nguyen, the spectacle started of with entries for ‘best band’. Next up were the duets: A whopping 80+ pairs showed up and impressed with their sense of humour, impressive vocals and stage presence. Melbourne, you’ve got talent! The title was claimed by sassy sisters Lauren and Melissa Burke and their rendition of ‘Waterfalls’ by TLC. Who said white girls can’t rap?
The majority of the evening went towards the solo competition. By the time the first vocalist took to the stage the mall was packed to the rafters with people dancing, cheering, and singing along. Who would have thought that a Friday evening in a mall could be so much fun!
While some contestants were a bit light in the vocal department, they certainly made up for it with imaginative outfits and confidence. Think KISS, Freddie Mercury, Sia, and Lady Gaga. This wasn’t just a karaoke contest, it was a comedy show!
Every now and again, however, the laughter was replaced by pure awe in the face of goosebump-worthy performances. It is probably fair to say that nobody was expecting the voice of a fully-fledged jazz legend when 15-year-old schoolgirl Avemaria Malietoa-Brown took to the stage. She quietly stepped up and greeted host Diana with a hardly audible voice and glanced shyly at the crowd. Then she started to sing ‘I Would Rather Go Blind’ by Etta James… and it was magic.
The judges were blown away. It didn’t surprise anyone, other than the winner herself, when Avemaria took home the title as best soloist. It was truly a television-worthy moment when she was ushered onto the stage by her cheering brother, who had also given a great performance earlier. Avemaria treated the audience to a full rendition of her winning song and helped end the night on a real high note.
Overall this event was a success. There was some upset over the fact that 20-odd soloists couldn’t perform due to time constraints, and musicians were really pushed to show their range with only about 15-20 seconds each to show off their skills. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was infectious with people singing along to almost every song, cheering, and making each other feel welcome as only listening to music can.
Big kudos to host Diana Nguyen for being on her feet for 5.5 hours, whilst being perfectly charming, funny, and putting the more nervous candidates at ease. There’s no doubt that the 2018 Melbourne Karaoke Festival will be a highly anticipated event.
Claudia B. is a German/Kiwi graphic designer and illustrator who has been living and working in Melbourne for the last six years. She enjoys a good glass of scotch and the occasional pole dancing class. Claudia also helps donate proceeds from notthispussy.com.au to charities in support of women’s rights, refugees and climate change.
Visit 206 Bourke Street on their Facebook to keep up with their next karaoke event.