A Mobile Karaoke Unit Is Community-Generated "Transportainment"
It's probably safe to stay you can get just about anything from a truck in Los Angeles these days. Korean fusion tacos. Thai fusion tacos. Frozen yogurt. Frozen dog treats (not kidding). But do you know of a truck where you can get a rousing version of Kelly Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone"?
The RVIP Lounge is not a truck, strictly speaking. Rather, it's a fully-functioning RV that provides free, safe public transportation while riders belt out karaoke standards at the top of their lungs.
On a recent night in Austin, Texas, where the RVIP had a week-long engagement during SXSW, a dozen revelers passed three microphones around while lyrics danced across a monitor just behind the driver's seat. As passengers covered songs by everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Ace of Base to Cee-Lo, the RV traversed the landscape of tech-sponsored parties, parking outside for a quick set, or picking up and dropping off passengers as they requested stops via Twitter.
The RVIP Lounge was born in Los Angeles. When actress and musician Kestrin Pantera and product manager Jonathan Grubb found themselves in possession of an RV, they realized it could bridge their loves for entertainment and startup culture—and also fulfill their dream to travel to the SXSW festival on a budget. The RV provided viable accommodations for the couple, and a mobile performance venue for festival attendees. Partnering with Walt Disney Imagineering CTO Scott Watson this year opened up more opportunities: They were able to outfit the RV with more features, including a light array on the outside of the vehicle that looks like a giant interactive equalizer.
After a debut at SXSW three years ago, the RVIP Lounge has become a favorite at progressive gatherings, where it can serve as an impromptu community-builder. The transient cabaret had a starring role at TED Active in Palm Springs earlier this month where it shuttled participants around town and served as a kind of transient campfire singalong. As part of its partnerships with Foursquare and Wired at this year's SXSW, the RVIP hosted American Idol-type competitions, pitting east coast against west coast and investors against press. The results aren't official yet, but many agree that Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley's Kelly Clarkson impression may have tipped the sing-off in favor of the east coast.
After a farewell performance in Austin tonight, the RVIP Lounge will be headed back to L.A., ready to accept its next booking. While the truck is available for private events, Pantera and Grubb are also committed to providing free rides across town and popping up at random parties. Follow them at @RVIPLounge, or maybe just listen for the sound of 20 people crooning "Since You've Been Gone" while soaring down Sunset Boulevard.