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The Mint: All Karaoke, All the Time 

Wednesday, Apr 29 2015

There's no denying that the Mint is a classic, a staple of after-work office gatherings and messy birthdays. It's all karaoke, all the time, and more pop-culture-oriented than Martuni's, the piano bar that's only a block away. The glassware is plastic, the carpet is as graphically dazzling as the Saved by the Bell intro, and you can withdraw money from the ATM in Korean.

Pointing to the songbook, my friend Dylan notes, "There's this much Michael Bublé, and no Velvet Underground." Then he gets up and nails "Rock Lobster" in a perfect Fred Schneider imitation.

While not a gay bar per se, the Mint's format and its proximity to the Castro ensure a plurality-LGBT crowd, and that cuts two ways. This bar's problem is that it is, in a word, basic. Spend an hour in here, and you'll invariably be treated to "Don't Stop Believin.'" Spend two hours more and you'll hear "Hooked on a Feeling," "Bad Romance," "Sweet Caroline," and a butchered duet of "A Whole New World" from Disney's Aladdin. You can see some amazing riot grrrls rocking out, but the trade-off is that someone might curl your toes with Kenny Loggins' treacly "Return to Pooh Corner."

We're sitting under a wall of credentials, festooned like the waiting room of an illustrious plastic surgeon. Apparently, Japan Amusement Monthly took note of the Mint, and approved. It's still happy hour, so the place is mostly empty, which means it's possible to get some songs in before the Gleek invasion. The host, who is drinking, nods benevolently when I tip him before launching into Exile's "Kiss You All Over," which gets some attention from a knot of people who clearly came straight from an workplace with a dress code.

The bar's other notable features are the wall of lights that makes the stage look like you're on American Idol, and the closed-circuit broadcast that enables people way in the back to see who's up there. The effects don't translate too well, though, so it's like the digital equivalent of those bendy blowup figures outside a used car dealership.

And isn't that what karaoke is, really? The used car dealership of music?

Karaoke City

DJ Purple, Emperor of Karaoke

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

Come Sing for Mama

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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