Rockers hit the stage to ‘fight the power’

Nicole Hennessy

Locals hit up heavy metal karaoke at The Hi-Fi

A framed Van Halen album cover depicting a baby angel smoking a cigarette hangs on the wall behind the bar while music pumps through the room and Sammy Hagar asks the same question he’s been asking since 1986: “Why can’t this be love?”

Two microphones sit on and near the stage as customers slug down Pabst Blue Ribbons and 10-cent wings in preparation for heavy metal karaoke — a weekly ritual at Lakewood’s “The Hi-Fi.”

Billy Morris, an ‘80s hair metal refugee, has been putting this on “for about five years every Wednesday,” he says. “All the freaks come out.”

The studded fedoras and leather jackets, Iron Maiden patches and bat necklaces begin to pile in the bar around 10:30 p.m.

“Someone spit in my beer,” one customer tells the bartender quite calmly as he waits for a new one.

The black walls and ceilings, seemingly unnatural without clouds of smoke clinging to them, boast photos of Mötley Crüe, Cinderella and White Lion; the sidewalk slowly fills up with the shunned smokers.

A man walks through the door with a snare drum and continues coming and going until the whole set is on the stage.

“This is the only bar where metal heads feel appreciated and good,” says Will Linares, a regular. “A lot of people look at us like we’re burnouts.”

A native of El Salvador, Linares came to America in search of freedom of expression and religion (or, rather, a lack of one).

“A person can come here (to The Hi-Fi) and feel welcome,” he says.

On the stage, Morris, tunes his guitar.

“Oh yeah, all right,” he says into the microphone, sound checking it. “Oh yeah.”

The lyrics to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” lay beer-soaked on a table and the half-filled bar waits for the band to finish setting up.

“Welcome to heavy metal karaoke,” Morris says, announcing Ed Stevens on bass, Eric Matthews on the drums, Whisky Steve in the kitchen and Big Will (Linares), who walks up on stage.

“Okay you cocksuckers, who’s ready to rock?” Linares asks the crowd as he begins moving to the music, microphone in hand.

“We’re not gonna fuckin’ take it!” he proclaims before Morris suddenly stops playing.

“Reverend Dave, give him a shot of 151,” Morris says as Linares stands there, waiting to sing in placid anticipation. “While you’re back there, give him a squirt of tequila,” Morris adds, “and Jager.”

Pouring the concoction down his throat, it mind-numbingly burns its way into his stomach.

“Tell ‘em you’re not gonna take it,” Morris says. “Hit it!”

Twisted Sister’s proclamation falls out of Linares’ mouth in melody. His head thrashes around to the music and his body flails. When the song ends, he exits the stage smiling, as if waking from a maniac slumber.

“Who hasn’t sung yet that wants to sing?” Morris asks.

“Fart man!” someone yells from the bar.

“Get up here, Fart Man.”

And a gray-haired and bearded man walks onto the stage.

“Ahhhh!” he screams into the microphone. “Ready to rock ‘n roll?”

Reading lyrics off of a piece of paper, he speaks with the slight inclination of music in his voice.

“Turn it down you say, well all I got to say to you is time again I say, “No! No! No, No, No, No, No!”

Reverend Dave, donning a studded leather jacket and an ‘80s hairdo with sideburns running down his face, takes the stage after the last “I wanna rock” leaves Fart Man’s vocal chords.

A different limb of his body moves drastically, freezing in still frame, each time a note hits.

“There I was completely wasting, out of work and down. All inside it’s so frustrating as I drift from town to town,” he sings. “Breaking the law, breaking the law … ”

Contact features reporter Nicole Hennessy at [email protected].