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Come Get Your Five Minutes of Fame

The Amazing Embarrasonic Pumps out a Steady Stream of Make-Believe Rock Stars

There are three drummers in this band. There are also three guitar players and three bass players. Which is funny, since there are only three guys in the band. And what exactly is/are The Amazing Embarrassonic? They are San Francisco's first interactive rock band.

Their newly launched website (www.embarrasonic.com) describes this band as a "Human Karaoke Machine," promising "a rock star fantasy experience that allows you to front a live, three piece rock band." They've got guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, a stage and a repertoire of over 350 songs. But without you they are nothing."

It's not c.plicated at all: pick a song from the seven-page list. (Songs are listed alphabetically by artist, from Abba to ZZ Top, with TV themes listed at the end--tell me who hasn't sung the Spiderman theme in the car?) You pick your song, practice a little, drink a little (or a lot, so that you don't chicken out when your name is called), grab the lyric book and step on stage. Then a "one, two, three, four" and hit it!

This five-and-a-half year old phenomenon is the brainchild of the default drummer Lev Delany. The band debuted at the Casanova Club on Valencia Street in 1994. "At the first show we had 60 songs," remembers Greg Foot, third worst drummer and first best guitar player. Songs are added all the time, sometimes to the surprise of the other two. ("Do we do that one?" "Yeah, I added it." "Oh, OK, I'm playing drums.")

"It's pointless to practice," Jim Galbraith explains the song-adding process. "Who ever brings in the song generally plays guitar on the song. Who ever knows it least usually plays drums." Greg adds, "Sometimes we rehearse on the phone." "We're rehearsing now," laughs Lev, over beers at the Odeon across the street from the band's monthly gig at the El Rio. An Embarrassonic show will last three hours plus, with no stopping. "Get em on, get em off, no dead air, keep it moving," is what makes for a lively show, says Greg. "To get to most people as possible." The normal tally is 40 people a night.

At El Rio, fans have already signed up and are practicing for their big moment. The show opens with a group of nervous girls singing Wild Thing. This same group will return a few more times, getting a little more lubricated and a little louder each time. They're followed by a pretty good Stones cover, a very bad Elvis impersonator and a Monkees fave, Not Your Stepping Stone. But the evening's highlight has to be Helter Skelter by Embarrassonic regular, Mike.

From there on things get better and boozier. The walls come down and decades and genres are left in the dust. Is it loud and proud? It should be to make a good performance. There are a couple of no-shows here and there. Too shy or too drunk? Who knows? A man of few words, the show ends with Lev announcing, "OK, we're done." The machine has stopped, for now.