Calypsos is about to turn it up to 11.
The popular Lakeside Avenue coffee shop is cranking up the volume and opening its mic in an effort to raise money and awareness for addiction recovery in North Idaho, all through the magic carpet ride of karaoke.
“Karaoke is all about having fun,” said Takali Omega, crooner and interim volunteer director of North Idaho Recovery. “You don’t have to be a Mariah Carey or George Strait. Karaoke isn’t about that. It’s about taking the mic and blowing the doors off and just being a little crazy sometimes.”
North Idaho Recovery Community is a recovery group promoting communication and advocacy to help those suffering from substance-use and behavioral-health disorders. The organization filed as a nonprofit corporation in early September.
“North Idaho Recovery Community has been planned by several of us for many months,” Omega, who is in recovery, told The Press. “It took about eight months to gather our board members, get the 501(c)(3) status, decide which route we wanted to take to pursue our mission to restore connection between those affected by substance use and/or behavioral health conditions and the North Idaho community. [We do this] by offering free-to-low-cost, one-on-one recovery coaching, and social and recreational activities that focus on family sobriety, and to get it all up and running.”
North Idaho Recovery Community partnered up with other groups, organizations and businesses to spread the word about its services. One such business, as it turns out, was a coffee shop.
“Takali is one of our regulars,” Calypsos owner R.J. Reuber said. “We love Takali, and we love all his hard work. North Idaho Recovery Community is run by people in recovery who are trying to improve their lives, lives they’ve torn apart because of addiction.”
Reuber added that, while he doesn’t fully understand the personal dangers of addiction, he has a healthy respect of its power.
“I personally don’t live in recovery,” he said. “I lead a sober life: no drugs, no alcohol, not even cigarettes. But I’ve seen addiction destroy lives. I want to help others who have torn their lives apart and torn other people apart. I want to help them come together with the community. Addiction can take everything away from you, so I want us to do what we can. We can’t do much, but we can do this.”
He added that Omega, who runs Calypsos’ open mic night every Monday evening, has always been open about his past and his recovery, an honesty that happened to pull at the heartstrings of the staff at Calypsos at the Sept. 23 open mic.
“I was in my office, doing some work and listening to the music,” Reuber said. “Before [Omega] sang, he said something that really got me: He said something like, ‘For the 400th time, since I’ve been in recovery, someone I know has overdosed.’ And then he played ‘John Prine’ by Sam Stone. I listened to this, and it just haunted me.”
“There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,” Stone wrote in 1971.
“Our goal,” Omega said, “is to bring the entire community onto the same page, so that the organizations that work with substance use and behavioral health disorders can benefit, and the community can lose the stigma associated with those issues. Substance use and behavioral disorders affect everyone in the community, from schools to libraries to our businesses.”
He added that the organization’s partnership with the popular coffee shop is a sight for sore eyes.
“Calypsos has been involved with the recovery community for some time,” Omega said. “They have played many roles, from giving donations to hosting a few events. They’ve been the venue for Karaoke For Community since March. They’ve been an amazing part of our process, and we can’t come close to giving a full account of what they’ve done for us, as it’s always in motion and evolving.”
While “John Prine” is widely considered a tragic piece of music, Omega said anyone is welcome to sing just about anything from his karaoke machine Saturday.
“I have over 33,000 songs,” he said. “It’s rare that we run into a song request that isn’t there, though it does happen sometimes.”
The event, which begins Saturday, Oct. 5 at 5 p.m., is free to the public. North Idaho Recovery Community will ask for donations throughout the event. All proceeds go to the nonprofit.
“Running an organization that covers five counties requires a lot of consistent revenue,” said Omega, who volunteers his time as interim director. “This particular event is helping with operating costs and community education. Much of it is printing costs. We also receive donations on our website (www.nirecovery.org) that pay for our recovery coaches to work one-on-one with people trying to maintain a drug-free life. All of our coaching is free. We operate mostly with volunteers, who are doing amazing work.”
He said the organization was also developing educational material to help inform people of the various services in North Idaho, particularly in rural areas.
Omega emphasized that, while proceeds will go to a serious cause, the event is anything but serious.
“We’ll have a great time, whether the place is packed, or if it’s just a few people,” he said. “If you’re shy, bring someone up on stage with you. If you’re with a shy person, sneak them up on stage.”
That said, a grand prize and bragging rights will be handed out for the evening’s winner. As for Omega himself, don’t be surprised if he hits the stage.
“My go-to [karaoke song] has, for a long time, been ‘Let Her Go’ by Passenger,” he said. “It’s a song that’s about not really understanding and knowing what you have until it is gone. I think everyone can definitely relate to that.”