The Very Best Karaoke Bars in the East Bay
Ah, devil karaoke…the unspoken eighth deadly sin. In what other setting can some random kook off the street pick up a microphone, stand in front of a semi-rapt audience of strangers and let it rip to “2 Become 1” and become a vocal god for four minutes and one second? I love karaoke. I love it more than some of my family members and I am totally chill with that. So on that note, take my hand and together let us explore some of the finest establishments in the East Bay where you can croon to your little black heart’s content.
I’m going to come clean, I don’t like Berkeley. I don’t go there unless I have to OR I get to go to Nick’s Lounge. Unlike places that only occasionally do karaoke, Nick’s offers up a solid helping of karaoke seven nights a week. Its constant sing-a-long combined with dark lighting and divey décor ensure it an unquestionable number-one ranking in my book. Go reserve a table, or just walk in and hammer out a few tunes with your buddies, and then stick around because this place is home to some karaoke PROS- I once saw a man do a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “It’s A Wonderful World” and it made me and everyone at my table cry.
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Oh sweet, sweet baby Satan, this place. Let’s just say this, when you have been 86’d from all the other karaoke haunts in town Jaguar Karaoke will still put a cordless mic in your hands and shove you and as many friends that can fit into a pay-by-hour private room and then just let you implode into a sea of heavy jams. Oh boy. I have gone to some off-the-hook parties here, some of them started small and then explode into ragers of epic proportion. Honestly, I’m not sure if they let you in here if you aren’t ready to tear it up. Jaguar is open until hella late and while I’m not saying you can’t sneak booze in, I AM saying if they catch you with it they won’t be stoked. To add to their rad factor they also have locations in Pleasant Hill and Berkeley.
Don’t give me that shit about how you don’t like country music, because once you get about five beers in you and you either just got your ass dumped or you are feeling ruckus as hell, you know you LOVE country music. So take a shot of the bummers and mix it up with a tall glass of fiasco and drop it in front of a microphone and SHAZAM! Karaoke party at Overland every Tuesday! It’s country karaoke like no other- you’ll see people you would never expect getting down to some Kenny, Wynonna, Willie, and Hank. The best part is they have it all: old country, new country, weird country. They also boast a full menu, great drinks, and the owner once showed up on a fucking horse. There, go.
If you are looking for an old time cocktail karaoke bar in the East Bay, Mel-O-Dee Lounge is what I am 99% certain what you want. Mel-O-Dee is in all my friends’ top three East Bay karaoke bars, and with good reason. They have balls-to-the-wall karaoke Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Thursday night being “Ladies Night,” which I am fully down for… They also have free hot dog night on Mondays, which is decidedly not a karaoke night, but whatevs. Hot dogs! The interior is just wonderful: original red and gold wall paper from the 60s, black wrap around booths, and a full cocktail menu. Don’t let the fact it is in El Cerrito stop you from going, this place is well worth the safari.
The White Horse Bar
East Bay mainstay the White Horse Bar, lovingly called the White Ho by regulars, opened its doors approximately in 1933 and proudly boast being one of the oldest continually operational gay and lesbian bars in the United States (very rad). In addition to this awesome history, they also have one of the flashiest karaoke nights I have ever been to. It’s every Monday, which I know is a drag, but it is worth it- even if you aren’t singing. Karaoke takes place in the back room which is dark and cool and invites a fantastic shit show of a good time. Not everyone who picks up the mic is good, but you wouldn’t know that by the way the crowd reacts.
I know, I know, I have told you guys about the Ruby Room, and it’s not that I hang out there all the time, but they do have the lock on fun when it comes to their regular Tuesday rock and roll karaoke nights and every third Tuesday meatal karaoke night. I’m not going to lie, the resident hesher bartender MIGHT grab the mic out of your hand and take over your song, but don’t let that stand in your way. Order a stiff drink and let your inner King Diamond take the reins. Don’t worry, it’s hella dark in there, no one will remember what you look like, so go nuts.
All photos taken from venue social media sites