Monkey’s Gone to Heaven: The end of Frances Farmer Organ Karaoke

An atmosphere of great mourning enveloped the hill, angels wept and sorrowful bellowing was heard with the news that the Organ Monkey will play no more.  Thursday May 19th is the last Frances Farmer Organ Karaoke performance at Vermillion Gallery, at least until they do it again.

Korby Sears fantastic creation of Frances Farmer Karaoke involving an old-school lounge-style organ and 100’s of “songs” (in the loosest sense of the word) combined to create musical magic on the first and third Thursday at Vermillion.  Korby’s the recipient of a Stranger “Genius Award” and the mastermind behind combining the Dreidel Song in Yiddish with the whistling part from Bridge Over the River Kwai, and two days a month, slightly unhinged Capitol Hill denizens gathered to sing weird and strange renditions of old classics and dusty forgotten songs accompanied by Korby’s mighty organ (no, this is not a sex joke.)

I was curious about what would happen to his huge organ (again, not a sex joke), when tomorrow night’s magic was over.  Says Korby  “The organ and leslie cab will stay at Vermillion. I will go back to occasionally playing solo instrumental happy hours here and there – jazz standards, 60s pop, unexpected surprises. Vermillion owner Diana’s dad actually plays organ as well – way better than me – and he plays from time to time as well.”

When asked about other projects on the horizon, Korby says “Believe it or not – and it is rare for me to say this at any time – nothing right now.”  He continues to tell us ” I am in love – which blissfully occupies my time better than anything else could – and pursuing a few non-artistic entrepreneurial ventures that will hopefully provide the income and open up more time for me to pursue other artistic projects. I would love to do a Seattle School retrospective and possibly tour it as well: it was my goal for Seattle School ( to open for The Flaming Lips, and Adam Zacks with The Paramount gave us an opportunity for to pursue that a few years ago, and I never took him up on it.”

Was he quitting because he was tired or out of ideas or bored?  

Korby was indignant.  “Girlfriend, please: never, never, and never. It’s simpler than that: everything has a shelf-life, everything eventually comes to an end. And I’d like to go out on top. I feel like we achieved so much with FRANCES FARMER ORGAN KARAOKE, and the last one on May 5th – the birthday for Asa Bass, The King of FFOK – was so perfect, it really should have ended then. I’m just one of those guys who like to go out on top, and maintain a glowing memory of the show in my head. This has been an amazing 13 months, and I met a ton of interesting and inspiring people I never would have met otherwise. Hopefully, the techniques developed at FFOK will now be used at other karaoke nights. But FFOK, like other events I’ve created, occurred through pure happenstance, whim, and caprice. I’d like to prepare myself for that process to happen again, and see what’s next.”

I asked him if he could ever be coaxed out of retirement and Korby shared with us the good news that yes, he and his mighty organ (snicker) CAN be bought.  ” In the short term, anyone can rent FFOK and Vermillion for a private party. FFOK has been rented in the past for other private events as well, including one at SAM. But if the mood strikes, we might drags FFOK’s gorgeous head out and let it wail some more. I am fully aware that I will miss this when it’s gone.” 

So there’s still hope!  When the Rapture comes on May 21st, I can die a happy woman knowing I may very well see Korby and his Fantastic Organ (tee-hee!) one more time!

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One thought on “Monkey’s Gone to Heaven: The end of Frances Farmer Organ Karaoke

  1. 13 months, 26 shows, 130+ hours, a couple (!) gin and tonics… bathroom breaks – ZERO. I think the most impressive organ is Korby’s bladder! And his brain of course. But for us at Vermillion, it’s his heart. He’s been the best and we have nothing but praise and admiration. So very honored he came here and worked so hard. We’ll miss him. But luckily he moved to Capitol Hill so we’ll get to see him out and about in the sunshine holdin’ hands with his honey with an ice cream cone or a gin and tonic.