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Karaoke City 

Wednesday, Apr 29 2015
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The Bay Area is a karaoke kind of place. Large Asian-American communities, a population of hipsters smitten with retro power jams, and a veritable galaxy of dive bars that need more than Duck Hunt to get people in the door on a foggy Tuesday night all conspire to make karaoke a nightlife mainstay.

And karaoke is fun — for hams and divas and people who love a good train wreck, anyway. People afflicted with stage fright, and anyone whose hammers, anvils, and stirrups are highly sensitive to off-key caterwauling might disagree. But there is something about a tone-deaf person holding the stage with indestructible confidence that should help us all face our fears better.

Athena Miller, who runs a karaoke night every second Tuesday at Beauty Bar (and another each month for homeless and at-risk women at the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center), calls karaoke "extremely therapeutic."

"Even after a night of hosting when I might have one too many glasses of gin, I wake up the next day feeling alive and revitalized," she said. "I don't play an instrument, never learned, so for me it's the perfect way to express myself musically."

Her song list, being heavy on '70s smooth hits and '80s rock, is curated rather than comprehensive. It differs from the usual Yellow Pages-size laminated binder you might find in Japantown.

"But I'm in the business of crowd-pleasing, so if people want more current hits, I do my best to find them," Miller said.

Small-d democratic and exhilarating, karaoke rewards the brave and gives all people a chance to be their own hero, but the scene is incredibly diverse. It's San Francisco's favorite way to set the night on fire.

DJ Purple, Emperor of Karaoke

Mel-o-dee Karaoke: 'Gem of the East Bay'

Come Sing for Mama

The Mint: All Karaoke, All the Time

Monday Night Karaoke in Japantown's Hostess Bars

Ballads Are a No-No

Karaoke Kounterpoint: You are hereby found guilty of crimes against humility.


About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.

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