Karaoke Venues: What Makes a Good One? #AALL15

With just under three weeks until this year’s CS-SIS Karaoke with Ken event, let’s talk about the venues. This year will mark the second time since the official designation as an SIS sponsored social event that we will return to a venue. We last visited McGillin’s Olde Ale House on July 24, 2011 when AALL met in Philadelphia four years ago. It marks the first time that both visits will have been as a sponsored event. In 1999, prior to its official status, and again 2009 we sang at Cafe Japone near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. At the last visit we overflowed the small establishment with 75 attendees, spilling out into the sidewalk. Unfortunately, Cafe Japone has closed and we cannot return there in 2019!

McGillin’s was a loud venue, with conversation and music already blaring when we arrived. So it took a few minutes extra to get things started. Singers, bring your boombox larynx and audience, be alert to hear our folks sing their hearts out!

Other venues for this event have included Kikugawa at Riverplace in Minneapolis, 2001. There Tory Trotta thrilled the crowd with her rendition of “Leader of the Pack.” Kikugawa also has since closed. In 2002 in Orlando we visited the Lucky Leprechaun Irish Pub on International Drive. This was the only time we heard our members perform a rousing rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Perhaps it’s time for a repeat performance!

In 2003, despite my bad back, we made it to Jack’s Roadhouse in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Ten years later on our return visit to the Emerald City we traveled to the Hula Hula Tiki Bar, with as much kitsch in the decor as you would expect. But the beverages and the playlist were great! 2004 in Boston found us at another Japanese restaurant where the karaoke videos included leaping dolphins! On our first visit to San Antonio in the following year Tory had found us Suds and Songs, a bar in the mall that featured our first experience with a DJ loading the slections from his computer’s hard drive.

St. Louis in 2006 was most notable for the inability of the taxi drivers to find the place we were meeting. In New Orleans, 2007, we visited the world famous Cat’s Meow on Bourbon Street, where the performance queue takes twice as long to move through because the D.J.s sing every other song. In 2008 we were in Portland at a dive bar, the name of which I don’t recall, and as noted above we were back at Cafe Japone in ’09. Armida’s TexMex was our 2010 Denver host, and of course McGillin’s in ’11. Boston the following year found us at the Elephhant and Castle in Boston, and with Seattle in 2013 and The Republic of Texas last year for our return visit to San Antonio, you have the list. One of our favorite performers in the past few years has been Jackie Prentiss, who channels a mean Lady Gaga.

So back to the question: What does make a good karaoke venue. In my mind, the best ones have this:

  1. Location close to the meeting hotels.
  2. Ample seating.
  3. A DJ with a friendly attitude, a killer playlist, and fast access to the songs.
  4. Seating that lets us hang out with friends and mingle with each other to make new ones.
  5. Tasty beverages, whether soft or hard.

Hope to see you in a few weeks!