Before reaching the front door, a ferocious dog growls from a vacant scrap of the building that was once a seafood restaurant. Once inside the rugged bar, expect to find every kind of creature: bearded whiskey-guzzlers, graduate school hipsters and aggressive women with raspy voices. With his impressive snow white beard and worn eyes, owner Pancho Pepe Rodriguez, 62, looks like a character Ernest Hemingway might have written about in Old Man and the Sea.
"Sometimes, it looks like a movie in here,'' Rodriguez says with a Cuban accent and gravitas. He gestures to the crowd of drunken buffoons, "And they all look like actors.''
Seven Seas feels like a Keys transplant. Mounted fish and buoys decorate the cluttered walls, along with photos of legendary Key West haunts like Sloppy Joe's Bar and Captain Tony's Saloon. An old school jukebox in the corner plays CDs of artists like the Doors and Fleetwood Mac. There's no elevated stage, only a small area for the talent.
DJ Anthony "Nacho'' Aldana works for Karaoke Miami, a company which also provides MCs at spots like Out of the Blue Cafe, Tom's NFL Sports Bar and Grill and Score Night Club on South Beach. Aldana sings Pearl Jam songs that make you think Eddie Vedder himself is on the mike. He says he has occasional issues with rock stars reluctant to give up the spotlight. “The more they drink, the more they sing,'' Aldana says. The bar is crowded and the crowd is rowdy, probably because of bartender Vanessa Bueno's skills. She pours a tasty and deadly Jackmopolitan: Jack Daniel's, Triple sec, cranberry and lime juice.
A tipsy woman belts the Eagles' "Hotel California" to cringing faces. When asked about her love for the Eagles, she all but runs away for fear of her name appearing in print. Turns out, her husband works the night shift (when she is supposed to be home). For her, karaoke is a scandalous affair. On the flip side, it's a family affair for the Pozzesseres. Best-selling author Heather Graham Pozzessere hits karaoke nights at the Seven Seas and the Titanic Brewery near the University of Miami with her family.
Heather does a chilling rendition of "The House of the Rising Sun" and one of her sons, Shayne, performs a respectable cover of Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet with Butterfly Wings." Shayne Pozzessere, a 31-year-old ballroom dance teacher, says he always wanted to be a singer. Karaoke provides an outlet to live out his dream.
Seven Seas; 2200 SW 57th Ave., Miami; 305-266-6071û; 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday and Saturday.
-- KYLE TEAL
Alfredo "Freddy" Bizzio sings during karaoke night Thursday at Seven Seas in Miami. Photo: Alex Kolyer.