“Purr like a cat,” the graffitied pink piano commands in green spray paint, and the blonde in matching shorts is doing something like that.
No, she’s not making animal noises into the mic, per se, but she is capably handling Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” in tones almost as inviting as the sound of feline contentment.
“What are you putting me through now?” she asks the DJ across from her before launching into the number.
“Hell,” he retorts bemusedly from behind his cheetah-print booth, the two co-workers setting a playful mood underscored by various novelty signs that checker the green and turquoise walls. (“I’d agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong,” one reads).
And so it goes at Cat’s Meow, a new 10,000-square-foot-plus entertainment/karaoke club on the second floor of Neonopolis, where the voices of revelers and staffers soar in unison with the cholesterol levels at the Heart Attack Grill below.
It’s a late Thursday afternoon, a week before the club’s grand opening, which takes place Thursday, and it’s fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk-hot outside, meaning the crowds haven’t shown up yet like they will later on.
Still, as the sun streams in from the see-through garage doors that line the main room, a brunette tackles Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” with the requisite amounts of exclamatory zeal.
She’s accompanied on stage by the aforementioned blonde, the MC of the hour.
The latter wields a large sign that reads “ooooh” as she sways to the beat, attempting to elicit the “oh, oh, oh’s” that introduce the song’s chorus.
This is one of the things that set Cat’s Meow apart, in addition to the concert-hall sound system and lighting rigs: Here, you’re never alone on stage, as there’s always a professional singer/MC on hand to work the crowd and help you out if need be.
This comes in handy if you’re feeling the effects of that third Budweiser and maybe forget the words to the final verse of “Shook Me All Night Long.”
‘Bourbon Street Las Vegas’
Cat’s Meow may be new to Vegas, but the club originated in New Orleans, where the burgeoning chain’s first location opened nearly 30 years ago and attracts more than 15,000 visitors a week.
General Manager Michael Marowski, a nightclub lifer who’s overseen properties in California and worked with the Light Group locally, spent over a month at the flagship venue before launching its Vegas counterpart.
“Fremont Street is very similar to Bourbon Street,” he says. “This is Bourbon Street Las Vegas.”
In building the Cat’s Meow brand here, Marowski is focusing on format in particular.
Though Cat’s Meow possesses a library of 40,000 songs, it’s culled that to a list of around 600, divided by genre, with the emphasis on high-energy, crowd-pleasing tunes.
“We don’t want a bunch of Patsy Cline on a Friday at midnight,” Marowski says.
Guests sing an average of eight songs an hour, alternating tunes with the MC.
The idea is diversity, with an emphasis on catering to a variety of tastes hour by hour.
“Let’s say we have a guy sing a country song, then the next karaoke song is going to be a hip-hop song, in between that, my DJ’s going to throw in some ’80s rock or ’90s rock maybe, keep all the genres going,” he says. “If somebody in that crowd likes AC/DC, they just heard Garth Brooks and they’re about to hear ‘Baby Got Back’; we throw something in there for everybody.”
Sour notes, but no sourpusses
While serious singers do come here, those would-be crooners dressed like Frank Sinatra who belt out Rat Pack standards, the vibe here is anything but, from the stage festooned with bicycles, stuffed animals, feather boas and assorted instruments to the impromptu Twister contests that break out at the behest of the MCs.
“We’re kind of just a goofy nightclub that has karaoke,” Marowski says. “We’re not anything like a karaoke bar. A lot of karaoke bars, you go in, and it’s song, song, song and you just hope the karaoke singer is OK. We provide entertainment in the club where we get the crowd really involved.”
Even if you don’t sing, you might still find yourself part of the action, all of which is live-streamed via a series of webcams on the Cat’s Meow website (catskaraoke.com).
“If the MC doesn’t think you’re having a good time, she’ll pull you up on stage and make you jump rope or do a hula hoop contest to get everyone involved, so the whole crowd’s watching that stage,” Marowski says. “I would say 80 percent to 90 percent of the people who walk in here get up on that stage at some point whether they sing or get up and have fun with the MC.”
Marowski says he interviewed more than 120 potential MCs to find the 20 or so he hired, with out-size personalities a must.
“They have to be a little crazy,” he says. “I make sure that they’re just a little bit out there.”
Almost on cue, a server sporting a bright blue hairdo and a black Testament T-shirt bounds up to Marowski as he leads a tour of the property.
“I feel like I’m in high school again,” she grins, sounding all the right notes in a room where it doesn’t really matter if the right notes are ever sounded at all.
“We try to keep it real light,” Marowski explains. “It’s just a place to get goofy.”