It's Monday night and Miley Cryus' mega-ballad "Wrecking Ball" is playing in G-major, morphing the Billboard hit into a demonic electronic haunt that shakes the walls at Glendale's industrial club, Complex. A crew of loyal karaoke aficionados move steadily inside, imbibing on the liquid courage they need as Lady Aquamarine slips past the booming stage, lays down a purple glitter tablecloth and stacks a pile of her mysterious tarot cards on top.
Before you open the heavy doors on Colorado Street, or peruse the 10,021-song catalog for Ground Control Karaoke, be warned. This isn't the spot to sing Garth Brooks or battle in a contest — and host Andrew Holguin wouldn't have it any other way.
"I wanted to have fun and not be serious," says Holguin, one of the creators behind Ground Control Karaoke night, a weekly Monday night event at Complex that invites the brave and willing to pick from a collection of Alternative Rock classics, New Wave, Synth Pop, Classic Rock, Hip-Hop and R&B; at 8 p.m.
Marking its first anniversary at the Glendale club, Complex will host a one-year celebration on Monday, March 10, inviting karaoke devotees to belt out anything from Bad Religion to Oingo Boingo while sampling Girl Scout cookies with craft beer.
Holguin started Ground Control nearly 10 years ago at Jewel's Catch One Nightclub in Los Angeles with artist and karaoke buff Howard Hallis. At that time, Hallis created custom karaoke discs slammed with Bauhaus, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Depeche Mode.
"Goth kids all want to sing Depeche Mode and David Bowie," Holguin says, describing the crowd as a combo of Goths, nerds, geeks and laid-back lyric-lovers.
"It's not so big that it's like a big nightclub with nameless faces," says Holguin, whose go-to picks are usually Sisters of Mercy or Jethro Tull songs.
The ambience is more of a neighborhood pool party, with Holguin as the ring leader, inviting everyone to dive in the deep end. Holguin even convinced his friend and yoga instructor Lady Aquamarine to join the Monday event. While karaoke patrons serenade, she sets up shop and reads tarot cards.
"I think most people would think that a karaoke night is a lot less likely to have a tarot card reader," says Lady Aquamarine, who admits, "It's kind of loud back here" with roaring speakers below her feet.
The booming Funktion-One sound system at Complex is "like the Rolls Royce of speakers," says Alex Morales, bartender and regular karaoke contributor.
"We stay away from things you can do in Hollywood," says Morales, who is often persuaded to sing the addictive, repetitive Sesame Street original, synonymous with the Muppets.
"Sometimes they force me to sing 'Mahna Mahna,'" he says.
"From the Smiths to Disney, the song book is really big but the obscure stuff you can't find at other karaoke bars," explains Morales. This isn't a top-40s kind of spot, he adds, and often the night attracts actors and singers interested in perfecting their vocals.
"I know a lot of people who come every week who never sing the same song," he says. He considers When in Rome's "The Promise" his staple selection.
Eric Schreeck, the onstage host of Ground Control, often picks songs he doesn't know, with the help of liquor. "I kind of want to fall on my face once in awhile — that's kind of part of the fun," he says.
What: Complex First Anniversary at Ground Control Karaoke
When: Monday, March 10 at 8 p.m.
Where: Complex, 806 E. Colorado St., Glendale.
Cost: No Cover
More info: (323) 642-7519, complexla.com
Follow Nicole Charky on Twitter: @Nicosharki.