Every night of the week, there’s a Brooklyn bar where you can belt out your favorite Pat Benatar song like the star you are, and for free, no less. Below is a round-up of some of our favorite karaoke nights. They range from pop to hip-hop to metal, but the one thing all these karaoke DJs (or “KJs”) agree on is that karaoke should be a supportive experience, where everyone applauds everyone else, no matter how lacking the Celine Dion impersonation. They also agree that they would never prevent guests from singing any song in the machines…but take note: There is a lot of collective KJ-animosity toward Love Shack and Paradise by the Dashboard Light.
DJ FlimFlam of the Kings of Karaoke says, “We cater to the weirdos and dorks, the nerds, the unwanted, outsiders, haters and the hated, boozehounds, miscreants, and misfits.” If that describes you, here are a few places where you can go:
WHAT: Karaoke Killed the Cat
WHERE: Brooklyn Bowl, Williamsburg
WHO: Chris Goldteeth
SONGS HE’S SICK OF HEARING: Chris says, “The nice thing about karaoke is that even though you hear the same songs over and over again, the character of a song completely changes depending on who is singing. It’s nothing like listening to Journey on repeat, which I imagine after seven years of hosting karaoke would drive me to tears. And I say that as a Journey fan.”
HIS KARAOKE SONG: He has a lot, but he holds a soft spot in his heart for grimey southern hip-hop, which he breaks out when the time is right.
WHERE: The Woods, Williamsburg
WHO: DJ Johnny Dott, hosted by Anthony the Man in the Red Subaru
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Anthony is, as his nickname points out, that guy who you see driving around Williamsburg in a red Subaru, belting out doo-wop. If this doesn’t ring a bell with you, then you haven’t spent enough time on Bedford Ave.
SONGS THEY’RE SICK OF HEARING: Anything by Steely Dan.
WHAT: Live Band Karaoke
WHERE: Hank’s Saloon, Boerum Hill
WHO: Kelly, from Rock Star Karaoke NYC
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Hank’s Saloon attracts everyone from 70-year-old men, to local artists and musicians, to med school students (who sometimes perform choreographed dances). Fun because you get to front an actual live band.
SONG SHE’S SICK OF HEARING: I Want You to Want Me, by Cheap Trick
FAVORITE SONGS TO HEAR PEOPLE SING: Bad Romance, by Lady Gaga, or Separate Ways, by Journey
HER KARAOKE SONG: The Warrior, by Scandal
WHERE: Matchless, Greenpoint
WHO: DJ FlimFlam, hosted by Benny Bulldozer
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Ten years ago, DJ FlimFlam and a friend started the Kings of Karaoke collective, which now runs a number of beloved Brooklyn karaoke nights. This is the only one of their nights with a heavy metal focus–you get a free shot if you sing a metal song.
THEIR KARAOKE SONGS: Faith No More’s We Care A Lot, Run-D.M.C.’s It’s Tricky Pantera’s Walk. And every year on his birthday, DJ FlimFlam says he sings Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All–and dedicates it to himself.
WHERE: The Old Carriage Inn, Park Slope (also on Saturdays)
WHO: Mike, a.k.a. The Sisco Kid
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Mike has been a KJ for 12 years now. The Old Carriage Inn has hosted pretty much every sort of karaoke party–birthday parties, engagement parties, wedding parties, memorial parties…
SONGS HE’S SICK OF HEARING: Total Eclipse of the Heart, by Bonnie Tyler, The Rose, by Bette Midler, and Wind Beneath My Wings, by Bette Midler.
HIS KARAOKE SONG: Mike says, “Wow, this is tricky. I don’t want to do the same songs every week, I don’t want to do singer favorites, and I try not to do an artist that someone else sang before me. I asked my wife what my song is, and she couldn’t nail one down for me, either!”
WHAT: Viva La Karaoke!
WHERE: Papacitos, Greenpoint
WHO: DJ FlimFlam, hosted by Kenley Collins
SONGS THEY’RE SICK OF HEARING: Although he would never outlaw any song, DJ FlimFlam says, “I CANNOT STAND JOURNEY–DON’T STOP BELIEVING. I am so sick of it makes my skin crawl.” Also on his way-overplayed list: Total Eclipse of the Heart, Hotel California, Bohemian Rhapsody, All That Jazz, the score of “Rent,” I Will Survive, and long Meatloaf songs.
FRIDAYS AND SATURDAYS
WHAT: Late Night Karaoke
WHERE: Trash Bar, Williamsburg
WHO: Japanese Blackout, hosted by Jack Attack
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Host Jack Attack is also the MC for the monster-wrestling performance group Kaiju Big Battel.
SONGS THEY’RE SICK OF HEARING: Mr. Jones, by Counting Crows, and Semi-Charmed Life, by Third Eye Blind.
WHAT: Cap’n Goodtimes Karaoke
WHERE: The Cove, Williamsburg
WHO: Cap’n Goodtimes
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Cap’n Goodtimes has possibly the greatest karaoke website that we’ve seen (though it does not explain the difference in rank between “Captain” and “Cap’n”). As for the scene at the Cove, he says, “I’ve always thought of my karaoke night as a rag-tag bunch of karaoke misfits, like the kids in an 80’s summer camp movie.”
SONGS HE’S SICK OF HEARING: Love Shack, Paradise by the Dashboard Light, My Way, and American Pie.
HIS KARAOKE SONG: The Cap’n says, “My guilty pleasures are Part of Your World, from ‘The Little Mermaid’ (which is also kind of a metaphor for my recent move to Brooklyn), or Suddenly Seymour, from ‘Little Shop of Horrors.'”
Random nights and times and special performances
WHAT: The New Sound Karaoke
WHEN: They used to host weekly karaoke at the Alligator Lounge, before it got turned into a bikini wax salon (farewell, free pizzas!). For now they’re doing special events, like pornaoke at the Brick Theatre last month. Check out their website to learn where their next Brooklyn night will be.
WHO: Bobby Service and Black Waterfall (the only married KJ couple on this list)
SONGS THEY’RE SICK OF HEARING: Bohemian Rhapsody, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Wanted Dead or Alive. They’ve even gone so far as to erase Love Shack from their catalog. As Bobby puts it, “We only live once, so let us do something new!”
THEIR KARAOKE SONG: Bobby says, “Right now, our favorite track is Hotel Relax, a mash-up of Back to the Hotel and Relax. The 1980s documentary-style karaoke video shows what happens when my wife and I set out for a romantic leather-themed evening in a honeymoon suite only to find our room double booked with a newlywed couple. Needless to say, it’s a steamy karaoke smolder fest!”
WHAT: Hip Hop Karaoke
WHEN: Their next scheduled event in NYC is 6/25 at the Mercury Lounge. For upcoming Brooklyn nights, check out their website.
YOU SHOULD KNOW: J. New, Diggedy, and DJ Wex founded this event in December, 2004, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: 100 percent hip hop songs.
FAVORITE SONGS TO HEAR PEOPLE SING: anything by the Notorious BIG or A Tribe Called Quest.
THEIR KARAOKE SONGS: Award Tour, by A Tribe Called Quest, or anything by Big L because, as J. New says, “he had the best punchlines in the history of the genre. Period.”
Text by Leila Sales, sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Matt Coats via Flickr.