Karaoke Spots: Where You're the Next American Idol, High Note Be Damned

— by Caroline on Crack


Your lights are on, but you’re not home. Your mind is not your own. Your heart sweats, your body shakes…Another song is what it takes.

Sounds like torture but some people can’t get enough of karaoke. The great thing about it is that you finally get to sing that song you’ve mastered in the shower and perform it for a captive audience and no one expects you to be the next American Idol. And as long as you own your performance and aren’t apologetic, you will own the stage. Just don’t go up there with 20 of your friends. After three times of seeing group karaoke, it just gets annoying. If I see another group of girls singing “Like a Virgin” at the top of their lungs, I’m going to have to start throwing down.

The following are just some of the karaoke bars I’ve been to. They vary in their venue, from dive bars to your own private booth to a velvet-curtained stage. Take your pick. And I’ve rated them by degree of difficulty, on a scale of 1 to 5 — 1 for first-timers and 5 for burgeoning American Idols.

Dimples: degree of difficulty — 5

The country’s oldest karaoke bar. And it’s definitely not for the timid. “Virgins” receive special treatment: a “Virgin” sign over their head and a free audiotape of their first Dimples performance. It’s also a huge usually crowded bar, the spotlights are on you and you’re up on all the video monitors…broadcasted on the Dimples Web site, local access channels….and on the 9×12-foot screen mounted on the roof.

Service here isn’t so great and the long line of people waiting for their turn on stage (unless you duke the MC) is a turn-off as well. Online reviews complain of expensive, weak drinks. But Dimples is an experience you shouldn’t miss out on. Once you make it on stage, you have wigs and props at your disposal. Pick a rainbow wig and just have fun. The crowd is usually supportive.

3413 West Olive
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 842-2336
Cross Street: Riverside Drive

Smog Cutter: degree of difficulty — 4

This Silverlake dive bar is easier to take in than Dimples only because of the fact that there isn’t a stage. There’s just a cleared space in front of a TV monitor and you don’t have to look at your audience as you can just stare at the screen and sing the lyrics. But there’s smoking in here, a two-drink minimum and barflies whose impressive performances will surely intimidate you.

864 N Virgil Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029-2941
(323) 660-4626

Boardwalk 11: degree of difficulty — 3

Yes, you may be on stage but with the spotlights shining on your face you can’t really see your audience in the darkened bar. What’s also great about this karaoke spot is that on the TV monitors, instead of your performance, they show the lyrics to the song you’re singing so your audience can sing along with you. And there are huge binders filled with song choices. However, there is a cover or a two-drink minimum. You also will get up there faster if you tip the MC.

10433 National Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 837-5245

The Gaslite: degree of difficulty — 5

It’s a small, packed bar so you FEEL everyone’s eyes on you. The sound system isn’t so great as I’ve gotten a headache every time I’ve witnessed karaoke here. Bad performances seem amplified. But the drinks are strong and the audience of Westsiders is very forgiving.

2030 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 829-2382
Cross Street: 21st Street

Peppermint California: degree of difficulty — 1

Here, you get a “private” booth and just your audience of friends. You get to sing whenever the mood strikes you and “perform” from your seat. There’s also a menu for food and drinks to fuel your little party. But the food is only so-so and ranges from quesadillas to pizza, coming from the neighboring Muse Brasserie restaurant. Also, if it’s a busy night, the walls are so thin that you can hear the performances in the other rooms, especially when it’s a group of people belting out in a small room.

11301 W Olympic Blvd Ste 117
Los Angeles, CA 90064-1652
(310) 575-3623
Cross Street: Sawtelle Boulevard

Other karaoke spots I’ve heard about that sound really good for private booth performances:

3900 W. 6th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 251-8886
Cross Street: Western Avenue

From LA.com:

The 18 luxurious rooms upstairs are equipped with multiple flat-screen televisions, surround-sound equipment and an expansive music video library in English, Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, Tagalog and Japanese. Renting your own room means you’re choosing your audience, and there’s a “butler button” to order food and drinks (there are more than 100 martinis to choose from) without getting interrupted. Just remember, the rooms are for singing, not misdeeds.

Vermont Music Cafe
191 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 385-3337
Cross Street: Third Street

From DailyCandy:

[The small room] came with our very own disco ball. We ordered up a round of fruity soju cocktails and nibbled on the free shrimp chips while Trixie hogged the mic, trying to choose from 5,000 songs in seven languages.