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Nightlife: KARAOKE | By Chelsea Larsson

KARAOKE IN THE BAY

Whether you do it in private, public, or broken Japanese, chances are that if you live in the Bay Area, you have done it—karaoke, that is. In San Francisco, karaoke is a way of (night)life. Whether you are goth or gospel, Bay Area stages have a place for you to make some music. Here is an insider’s guide to the melodious world of SF karaoke.

THE DIVE BAR: BUTTER
Every Sunday, down a brew and belt out some Journey, Garth Brooks, or Tom Petty at this trailer park–themed sing-shack. Friendly regulars from SoMa/Mission will sing along between chowing down on Frito pies and fried Twinkies.

Neighborhood: SoMa
Food: Mostly edible.
The menu includes childhood haunts like Beanie Weenies, SpaghettiOs, Twinkies, and tater tots.
Liquor: Yes, full bar. Specialty cocktails include a vodka-and–grape juice drink.
Signature Style: Beers and ballads.
Tip: Get there before 9 on Sunday. Over-requested songs have a penalty fee (yes, that means “Don’t Stop Believin’.”)

THE PRO BAR: THE MINT
Every night, karaoke pros conjure up Tina, Janice, and Whitney in front of a critical crowd that would make Simon Cowell sweat. Oh, you didn’t get through the first round of American Idol? Get off the stage.

Neighborhood: Hayes Valley
Food: None inside, but the sushi restaurant next door will deliver to your barstool.
Liquor: Yes, full bar.
Signature Style: Drinking divas.
Tip: Get there early, and listen up for your name. When you don’t hit the stage right when he calls you, the KJ doesn’t think twice about moving on to the next star.

THE LOCAL’S BAR: BOW BOW COCKTAIL LOUNGE
Any night of the week, Chinese grandmas throw dice on the bar while hipster tourists sulkily Instagram mystery cocktails; but in the end, the old and young sing together on a whiskey-soaked stage.

Neighborhood: Chinatown
Food: Peanuts, pretzels, pistachios, and sometimes popcorn.
Liquor: Yes, full bar. Momma Candy, the “mother” of the bar, takes everyone in like family and might buy you a shot. Signature
Style: Chinese whiskey and blackout duets.
Tip: Crowded on the weekends.

THE WHOLE PACKAGE: YAMASHO
Lock yourself up with a group of friends and sing like no one can hear you... because they can’t. Late-night private rooms, made-to-order sushi, excellent song selection, and plenty of sake? Welcome to karaoke luxury.

Neighborhood: Tenderloin
Food: Excellent Japanese cuisine and karaoke room/sushi combos.
Liquor: No. Beer, wine, and sake.
Signature Style: Sake and J-pop.
Tip: Book a reservation for large groups.

THE SWANKY BAR: FESTA
Dapper gents and foxy ladies pay a little extra to sing on Festa’s glitzy stage decorated with the city’s skyline. Cozy up in a booth, and watch the show. With over 80,000 songs in five languages, it never gets dull.

Neighborhood: Japantown
Food: No, but lots of Japanese food nearby.
Liquor: Yes, full bar.
Signature Style: Smooth martinis do gown easy, and suddenly everyone sound like a star.
Tip: Songs are $2 a pop.

THE TRAVELING CAPTAIN: DJ PURPLE
The karaoke DJ prides himself in loud music, seamless song transitions, and getting his crowd dancing. Also, if he sees a singer struggling, he’ll jump in with a saxophone or sing along himself.

Neighborhood: All over town
Signature Style: Sayonara, Celine Dion! DJ Purple has curated his signature “Pink Books” with club hits that will turn the crowd into your backup dancers.
Tip: DJ Purple is out at Tupelo in North Beach each Tuesday, Make-Out Room in the Mission on the second and fourth Mondays of each month, and Slate in the Mission every Thursday.

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

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This article was published in:
Music Issue - Released January 2013
Issue 1 / Version 3 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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