Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where to Sing Your Heart Out

At first, I was afraid.

I was petrified.

But as soon as I clasped that microphone in my hand for the first time, squinting in the glare of the spotlight, a wave of adrenaline-manufactured invincibility washed over me and I belted out the lyrics of "I Will Survive" like a Broadway star (well, in my mind, at least).

Yes, the first time I ever tried my hand at karaoke, the endorphins so rushed my brain that I felt dizzy, impervious to pain, and so utterly glorious that it's a high I've been chasing ever since. Who needs coke when you've got a stage and a three-chord pop melody???

And, I should note, karaoke is an entirely legal high, and one that, as long as you remain clothed on stage, you can partake in without any fear of repercussions/blackmail photos later -- an important consideration for those in D.C., who slave away for congressmen in windowless offices on the Hill in order to one day become their replacements.

So, seeing as Samantha wrote about her favorite songs to, ahem, enjoy yesterday, are you now looking for a place to let your proverbial hair down? Check out these spots for an awesome evening of karaoke:


Your options:

Every other Tuesday at  Wonderland Ballroom, 1101 Kenyon St. NW

Every Wednesday at Hill Country BBQ, 410 7th St. NW

Every Thursday at Ri Ra Irish Pub, 2915 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA

Hari Karaoke at Wonderland Ballroom

If you've always dreamed of being a rock star, here's your chance: The Hari Karaoke Band is a LIVE BAND that will accompany you while you belt out the hits. There's a limited selection of songs, naturally (the band can only learn so much), but the musicians are AMAZING at following you if you skip a verse or otherwise mess up. It's exhilarating!

Careful not to mess up too much, though -- the price of stardom comes with a gong that can be rung via popular audience vote if you suck. That's pretty rare, though.

ROCK-IT GRILL, 1319 King St., Alexandria, VA

It's not just a clever name: The sole purpose of Rock-It Grill is karaoke, which it has seven nights a week, even holidays!

It's a popular destination for an eclectic clientele -- regulars range from typical D.C. bachelorette parties to strapping young airmen from Andrews Air Force Base to country folk driving in from the heart of Virginia for a city-fied weekend -- but that just adds to its charm. That said, it can get crowded, meaning on Friday and Saturday nights you'll wait for an hour or more for your chance to shine. But the people are friendly and the dance floor is hoppin', so give Rock-It a shot.

FREDDIE'S BEACH BAR, 555 23rd St. S., Arlington, VA

Oh, the glorious purple paradise that is Freddie's Beach Bar in Crystal City, aka the oldest gay bar in Northern Virginia. Here is an awesome photo of me singing karaoke at Freddie's on Halloween, when I won $100 in a costume contest there:

I was Rosie the Riveter
Freddie's doubles as a drag bar, so if you've got a flair for the dramatic, you'll fit right in. Karaoke happens most nights of the week, so long as there's not a drag show going on (and even then, it generally turns into karaoke after the show is over).


Keeping with the gay-bar theme, another spot you shouldn't miss for karaoke is Dupont Italian Kitchen, where the appletinis are a-flowin' and the mic is hot. Dupont Italian Kitchen has karaoke on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and features older gay gentlemen crooning the best showtunes south of Manhattan.

This is a singer's karaoke bar, so don't go here unless you plan to take the mic and be serious about it. All the other places I've mentioned are great for big drunken groups screaming to "Sweet Caroline," but the clientele here quickly tires of karaoke screw-ups -- you can't dick around at D.I.K. (zing! See what I did there?) I've also heard people muttering about "all the breeders here tonight," so that's another reason to not go with a huge, loud group.


If it's Thursday in D.C., you should head to Sticky Rice on H Street for their Mighty, Mighty Karaoke Night.

This place boasts a generally jovial crowd out to just have a good time, and you can't help but be swept up in the fervor.

Also, tots.

For a crowd favorite, but not mine...


Your options:

First and third Wednesdays at Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar, 1104 H St. NE

Second and fourth Wednesdays at Solly's U Street Tavern, 1942 11th St. NW

Me singing Kostume Karaoke at Solly's. I felt stupid in that robe.
I've never really enjoyed Kostume Karaoke -- I dislike the venues (Solly's doesn't have taps and Little Miss Whiskey's doesn't take credit cards), and the idea of donning outfits worn by god knows who else in D.C., dry-cleaned or no, does NOT appeal to me -- but its fans are among the most rabid in the karaoke world, so I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it.

Moreover, Kostume Karaoke makes a point of sponsoring charities around D.C., so I guess I shouldn't be too hard on them.

And one to definitely skip...


It's got great beer and it's Metro-accessible from Farragut North, meaning that most of you probably work somewhere right around here. But don't be tempted to stay out for Friday Karaoke Night at Recessions -- it sucks. The deejay takes too long to queue up performers, meaning that your half hour wait to sing anywhere else turns into an hour wait here. And, to make matters worse, if you get even the least bit antsy about when it will be your turn, he gets combative. NO THANK YOU.

So, take these suggestions and prepare to let your inner diva shine! I'll probably be singing right there with you.


  1. I really need to get to Hari Karaoke

  2. No love for LA Bar and Grill, 2530 Columbia Pike on Saturday nights?

    1. I've actually never tried their karaoke, but if you say it's great, I will definitely give it a whirl. Thanks!

    2. I'm actually not a huge karaoke singer, but I have a friend who used to love it there before she moved. I like to hear your take on it!

    3. In determining karaoke quality, there's a few things on which to judge:

      1. Crowd size -- you want it to be medium-big. Too small feels awkward; too large means you wait FOREVER to sing.

      2. DJ quality -- You want someone who knows what they're doing, someone who has songs in the queue ready so there's not a lot of downtime between singers. Also, I have no problem with a DJ taking his "star turn" at the mike, but when it's every hour on the hour, it becomes excessive. You're paid to be there for US to sing, not the other way around.

      3. Song list -- the more variety, the better.

      4. Crowd quality -- happy crowd, happy karaoke.

      Knowing what I know about LA Bar & Grill, I'm guessing it's not terribly crowded, which is a plus. I'm also guessing the crowd is friendly -- also good. Now, song variety/DJ quality? Who knows, but it's worth looking into.

    4. Good to know! I may have to see what it's like.