Some things are acknowledged classics: the ’59 Caddy, the gin martini, the Airstream trailer. Some other things, which might have started out on the cheesy side—say, Saturday Night Fever—have edged over toward the classic, by virtue of nostalgia and time. You might think the same of karaoke: once an eye-roller, and now a kind of innocent (if beer-fueled) old-school fun.
You might not think that classics and a little cheese go together, but you don’t know Brent Buford and Ron Rendon of Armadillo Karaoke. They’ve combined a 26-foot retrofitted 1972 Airstream Overlander with a commercial karaoke system with added tech touches, and they’re towing the trailer and the tunes all over Austin to various events. And they’re killing it.
“We had tossed around various karaoke concepts for years—believe it or not we actually wanted to combine it with a mini-golf concept and make it more of a permanent fixture, like an entertainment-oriented trailer park. But the trailer just appeared one day, and it was a good enough deal that we decided to grab it and see what we could do with it,” says Buford.
What they did was gut it, install a “horseshoe” of bench seating for 20, new electrical and AC, a video system, and a Voicebox karaoke system that’s used in brick-and-mortar venues. They added in mobile hotspot capabilities so that customers can search for songs and cue them up from their smartphones. And when the songs start streaming, there’s no need for listeners to sit: dancing is definitely an option.
“There’s plenty of room to move around!” says Buford. “These trailers are actually very spacious once you rip everything out of them. I’m 6′ 2” and I can tear it up in the trailer,” he says. Armadillo doesn’t supply outside tables or chairs, but once they tow the Overlander to the venue, the renters can surround it with any fixtures or furniture they please.
The business is new, but they’ve had quite a few events so far, mainly private parties, corporate gatherings, and a neighborhood festival. The partners, who both have full-time gigs, are restricting their tow range to the Austin area for now, but they are thinking about the future: “We want to do more of them,” says Buford. “It’s a tricky business, because the trailers can be hard to find, and they take quite a while to remodel. But we hope to eventually have a fleet of them.”
It’s not practical to install a miniature golf course in most Airstreams, but Armadillo Karaoke is working out well as a new classic. “Airstreams are iconic—everyone knows immediately what it is,” says Buford. “Austin has become a big town for food and entertainment trailers, and the majority of them are Airstreams. I love that the trailers are so capable and sturdy that you can do almost anything with them, yet still pull them around with any average truck or SUV. Ultimately, though, Airstreams have a “cool factor” that customers love—it’s pretty neat to have a party at your house with a gorgeous Airstream in your driveway.”
You can cue up “Stayin’ Alive” at http://www.armadillokaraoke.com
By Tom Bentley