By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Oct 15, 2019 at 7:02 PM Photography: Eron Laber

It was 2013 the last time we told you about Live Band Karaoke. A lot has changed for the Milwaukee professional musicians who take regular old karaoke to the next level, not the least of which is a major upgrade in venues.

While the group, still headed by Mike Grassman, no longer plays every week in dive bars across town, it’s turned LBK into more of an event-based occasion. They play one a month at the Milwaukee Ale House, and once a month at the Eagle’s Club in Waukesha.

But this Friday, Live Band Karaoke will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a free party at the freshly renovated Paulie’s Pub and Eatery, 8031 W. Greenfield Ave. in West Allis.

The lineup has changed somewhat since its inception – and Grassman has moved from drummer to host.

Says Grassman, "Since I was already kind of the host but from behind the drums, it was made more sense for me to be out front helping the singers and taking care of the sound, versus trying to do all that and play at the same time.

On that note, LBK has upgraded the technology, too.

"We have a tablet with all the lyrics," says Grassman. "They usually are PDF or JPEG photos of the lyrics, but they're broken down into easy-to-read verse, guitar solo and chorus. You can't have the moving ball lyrics because it's hard for the band to stay with that."

Amazingly, the backing band, which is composed of four professional musicians, now knows 650 songs, which is triple the number of songs from a few years ago. And they don’t ever rehearse.

"The guys that are playing are top-notch musicians," says Grassman. "We all play in other bands, and we tend to be the band that knows the most songs in town."

Grassman says his band is booking larger venues, too, from Lambeau Field to the Fiserv Forum. He says the most popular songs for women are usually by Adele or Pat Benatar, while men gravitate more toward Alice In Chains or other ‘90s alternative songs. "Bohemian Rhapsody" remains a big hit, as well as anything by Journey.

So, why is Live Band Karaoke so much better than regular karaoke?

Says Grassman, "Because this is the most unique form of karaoke you can get. You don't go and see a very famous singer singing to 20,000 people with a backing track. You're seeing him in a band."

"It's supposed to feel real," explains Grassman. "And when you look over and you see the guitar player, and you feel the drummer – and mistakes happen, but so what? That’s what happens in real life. That's where the fun comes in."

The free event begins at Paulie’s on Friday night at 9:30. They’re giving away $500 in cash and prizes – including free professional studio time and vocal lessons for up-and-coming crooners from Soundcheck Studios, Grassman’s other business.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.