Six Nights with the Kings of Karaoke
For four minutes and seventeen seconds, nothing else mattered.
I won’t go so far as to say that I didn’t think of anything else. I had all the usual karaoke thoughts – “is this really what I sound like?” - but it can’t be argued that there’s a better way to make yourself focus than to put yourself as far out of your own skin as only a microphone and a room full of strangers can.
Last week’s six-day karaoke bender started for me as most benders do – a few drinks in when the whole scene seemed loud, new, and fun. It was my first night at that hidden (which truth be told describes the better part of creation for me) gem of a bar, Onyx, hanging out with a bunch comprised mostly of The Greenpointers staff. Karaoke had long since broken into a steady stride, with the musical selections from the crowd covering a broad swath – your standard barroom hits interspersed with some surprising selections, most notably Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights and a rendition of Avenue Q’s More You Ruv Someone, both of which were pulled off with style and gusto. Although talent was amazingly strong on Monday, there was still room for me to butcher (half) of Islands in the Stream, and the vibe was overwhelmingly friendly and energetic.
The real show-stopper, though, was the energy generated by the night’s MC, Nithya, which was powerful enough to destroy sensitive electronics and stun small mammals. After watching as she killed songs in a way that made you want to kill one too (she’s actually not a tough act to follow, despite being singularly talented at karaoke), we struck up a conversation in which it was discovered that Jen G. had actually photographed her in the past. After feeling the energy in the room and hearing about The Kings of Karaoke’s six-night weekly tour, I knew what I was doing that week: going deaf and loving it.
Rock on after the jump.
My second night of karaoke found me at St. Vitus, whose well-known metal theme extends to the stage. I participated in the nightly slaughter of the good name of Ronnie James Dio and other metal greats just for the chance to get on that stage, which was definitely the best of the week – being raised above the room with the lights in your eyes, the video going, and the whiskey free-flowing – it’s almost enough to make you forget that you can’t sing. It was here, too, that I learned one of the cardinal truths of karaoke – it doesn’t matter if you suck. It only matters that you’re into it, and no one is more into it – and making sure that you’re into it, too – than the man behind the current Kings of Karaoke, Jason, or DJ FlimFlam, who I got the chance to meet that night.
Jason got his start in the Karaoke biz alongside his good friend and one of the current owners of Papacito’s, Colin. After the death of a friend catalyzed Jason to quit his job without much in the way of plans, he began DJing at Colin’s karaoke party at Lit. Feeling like an impostor behind the turntables – hence, DJ FlimFlam – didn’t stop him from taking up the crown when Colin abdicated to become more involved at Papacito’s. Jason’s kingdom has expanded to include fifteen parties a week and twenty staff, of which seven or eight manage to rock out full-time. He’s drawn a business, his staff, and a wide array of friends from the stages he runs, which I think speaks volumes about his ability to throw a party. If the bartenders like your karaoke night every week, you’ve got to be doing something right.
The week progressed to Matchless on Wednesday, which, to use Jason’s own concise description, was “plain old SICK.” I think I have to vote Matchless as being the most well put-together night of the week, both in terms of the operation and the crowd itself. Tucked onto a small stage by the front of the bar, it felt a little more intimate than St. Vitus and a little more epic than Onyx, and the crowd – I’ll just assume you’ve been to Matchless and know what I mean when I say that few crowds polish grit into a conscious look quite like they do at Matchless. I was glad to note a few faces I’d recognized on earlier nights – The Kings, it seems, have a court.
Following this were three consecutive nights at Papacitos which, truth be told, was when the nightly schedule of hearing damage started to catch up to my daily schedule of required early rises. Papacitos, if you’ve been there, might raise the question of where one puts a karaoke setup in such a space, and rightly so. The answer they came up with is by the door, turning the middle of the room into an impromptu stage. This presents an underutilized (as far as I saw, at least) opportunity to work the room with some Sinatra, walking from table to table. Instead, musical choices here seemed to run the gamut from the standard Johnny Cash picks to some of the only reggae I heard all week. In all honesty, the space at Papacitos was a bit awkward, and I think this stems from their attempt to simultaneously run a restaurant and a bar at the same time. Even Matchless’s focus isn’t on food by the time karaoke kicks in, and it seemed like the karaoke ran more smoothly at Papacitos as the night progressed and the plates were cleared. By the time late Saturday night rolled around all was forgiven on this front. The Kings were back in full swing.
Still, though, that time on stage; four minutes and change. The lines you know are so short, and the guitar solos are so long. Hurry tonight, you can probably still make it.
Monday: Onyx (278 Nassau) 10pm
Tuesday: Saint Vitus (1120 Manhattan Avenue) 10pm
Wednesday: Bar Matchless (557 Manhattan) 10:30pm
Thursday, Friday & Saturday: Papacito’s (999 Manhattan) 11pm
The Kings of Karaoke throw lots of other parties in Williamsburg, but I focused on Greenpoint, because, well look at the URL. They are always looking to expand so if you run or know of a venue that’d rock a karaoke night, contact (at ) thekingsofkaraoke.com.