A reporter for the Macon County News, Raby was a judge during a recent lip sync contest at the pub. A semi-regular event in the community, the contests have taken on a life of their own as participants are becoming more skilled in their stage presence, and all the while the audience continues to grow.
“I’m looking for creativity, enthusiasm and originality,” Raby said. “If you have those things, you can’t go wrong.”
Across the table from Raby is Ryan Hanchett, a reporter from The Franklin Press, who also judged.
“I want to see energy,” he said. “I want to see someone who’s enjoying themselves. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be shy. Go out there, do your best, and show us something special.”
The man behind the lip syncing scene in Franklin is Dave Linn. A well-known businessman and community organizer, he has held several of these events at the Rathskeller as a way to not only raise money for local nonprofits, but also bring people together for an evening of good fun.
“Doing lip-sync battles came to mind after I caught myself singing along to a Tom Jones classic and didn’t know one of the lyrics, so I began just mouthing the words,” Linn said. “And I began thinking how awesome it’d be to make [lip-syncing] a fundraiser.”
Linn himself is no stranger to the good a community can provide its residents. As someone with cerebral palsy affecting the left side of his body, Linn doesn’t let his condition affect how he lives his life. A seasoned tri-athlete, his road bicycle was stolen a few years ago. Within days, the town of Franklin rallied around his loss and presented him with a brand new bike. It was a gesture that justified Linn’s passion for his community, and also fueled his fire to host charitable events.
“It’s about constantly giving back to the community,” he said. “Franklin has been so good to me, and with things like the lip sync battles, it’s amazing to see how many people come in and participate.”
In terms of money, the last battle raised $675 for Relay for Life of Macon County. With the recent fundraiser, money went to the upcoming “80s Flashback 8K” (Aug. 1), a road race that will present 100 percent of the proceeds to the Greenville Shriners Hospital.
“It’s great to see who performs at these battles,” Linn said. “Many individuals would never walk on a stage in a normal bar, but would do the battle because their friends and family are there and they can make eye contact with them.”
At the Relay for Life lip sync battle, all eyes were on local Realtor Stephanie Sainz. With her elaborate costumes and captivating stage act, she overtook the crowd and judges’ scores with her memorable renditions of “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns N’ Roses) and “Sweet Dreams” (Eurythmics). A two-time defending champ, Sainz decided to sit out the Shriners contest and watch from the sidelines.
“The hardest part is picking out the right songs,” she said. “Because you want to pick something that’s familiar to you, but also something you really can get into.”
So, what’s it like performing with everyone watching you?
“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” Sainz laughed. “But, then everyone starts cheering you on, and it feels empowering.”
Let the music play
Minutes before the battle began, Linn was running around the pub trying to get more names to sign up and take the stage. Sure, there were folks already eager and prepared to join in, but Linn was still in a need of a few more participants. In an effort to “rally the troops,” Rathskeller co-owner Adam Kimsey got out from behind the counter and signed up, all in an effort to provoke others to follow suit. A singer in his own right (The Unawarewolves), Kimsey enjoys jumping onstage and getting the crowd roaring, especially when it comes to these battles.
“I love to do it because it inspires others to do it, too,” he said. “It’s a fun time to get in front of people, loosen them up and get everyone involved.”
And it’s that comfortable and inviting atmosphere of the Rathskeller that makes it more than an ideal spot for the battles, and for numerous other community events the venue hosts.
“We try to do something for everyone, from ages 8 to 88,” Kimsey said. “It’s an open community vibe here, where we bring in all different genres of art and music. It’s all about being part of the community.”
With the competition underway, Kimsey, alongside several other contestants, grabbed the microphone and waited for the song to come on. Hands and legs shaking all over, bodies snaking around tables and throughout the establishment — get everyone involved, get the room energized.
A last-minute addition, Ruby Peoples was asked by her sister, Raby (who had a guest judge during Peoples’ songs to avoid a conflict of interest), to give the battle a whirl. They needed one more entry, with Raby prodding her sibling to join, stating emphatically how much the two of them lip sync in their daily lives.
Peoples gave in and threw her hat into the ring. Getting up from her table, one immediately realized that Peoples was with child. At 39 weeks pregnant, she was handed the mic and launched into a wild take on “Like a Virgin” (Madonna), an ironic and joyously hilarious sight.
“Well, obviously I am not a virgin,” Peoples joked, rubbing her belly. “I didn’t want to embarrass my unborn child, so I wanted to do this contest right, and do it well.”
So, how was it up there?
“I don’t know anybody here, so I don’t care about making a fool of myself, but then there’s this newspaper guy taking photos and getting quotes,” she chuckled.
After an hour or so, with three rounds of melodies ranging from “Fancy” to “Party in the USA” to “Baby Got Back,” Peoples emerged from the pack as the winner. Prizes were handed out and high fives exchanged between competitors as car engines soon started up — the culmination of another great evening in downtown Franklin. And for Linn, he’s already preparing for the next battle, which will be songs of the 1960s on Oct. 21.
“You’ve dreamt about it, you do it in front of your mirror and in your car, so why not do it in front of your family and friends?” he said. “Come on out and have fun, go with it — what else have you got to lose?”
Editor’s Note: Less than 24 hours after claiming her lip sync title, Ruby Peoples went into labor and gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Wren Hazel Peoples.
Want to go?
The “80s Flashback 8K” will held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Tassee Shelter at 877 Ulco Drive in Franklin. The 5-mile course meanders along the Little Tennessee River. All proceeds go to the Greenville Shriners Hospital. Registration is $30, with signup at 9 a.m. For more information, go to Facebook (search: 80s Flashback 8K). There will also be an 80s post-race party at the Rathskeller Coffee Haus & Pub on Stewart Street in downtown Franklin. www.rathskellerfranklin.com.