The Best Outside-The-Box Karaoke Parties In Los Angeles
Karaoke in Los Angeles is extremely popular and plentiful. It can pack a place almost any night of the week, because a lot of people think they can sing or simply don’t care if they can’t. Whether you’re one of the tone deaf types or a pitch-perfect show-stopper, there are many staples around town where you can croon your tune. There is, for instance, Brass Monkey in K-Town, Backstage Bar in Culver City, the Good Nite in Burbank, Smog Cutter in Silver Lake, and the multitude of private studios around town. But for those who are looking for something new, we’ve complied a different assortment of auto-aural amusements—the sing alongs with something a little different; a mix of cool, clubby environments; alternative styles/themes and band-driven musical mayhem. Here are the best raucous karaoke locales and nights (live and automated) that are anything but basic; we've broken them down into separate categories, so that you can find one that suits your taste.
RAGE WITH THE MACHINE
Sign up, choose your song from a digital controller or printed list, and wait for the screen to lead you down a path that's full of anything but the typical pop hits. When the familiar anthems do get picked at these places, you can usually expect novel or ironic renditions for a cooler-than-usual crowd.
Everyday isn’t like Sunday, but it should be like Thursday at Eastside Luv! Some of the most interesting artist-inspired karaoke in town takes place at this Boyle Heights boite where, depending on which Thursdays you go, you’ll find a mixed but mostly Latino crowd singing the melodious music of Juan Gabriel (“JuangaOKE”), Selena (“SelenaOKE”) and the most beloved of gringo of all time, The Moz and The Smiths (“Morrissey-oke”).
Eastside Luv is at 1835 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights. (213) 626-7442.
At New Wave Restaurant & Bar (Photo courtesy of Courtesy Jay Tando/New Wave Bar)
New Wave Restaurant & Bar
It’s off the beaten path from central LA, but for fans of the guy-linered 80s, it’s worth the trek to this colorful new wave wonderland, especially for the karaoke nights hosted by Jay Tando (Sunday through Thursday) and KJ Fnord on other nights. Be on the lookout for a special Halloween karaoke night where the freaks are sure to come out and kill it on the mic with all your fave retro raves. Check their schedule for updates.
New Wave Restaurant & Bar is at 17847 Lakewood Blvd. Bellflower. (562) 790-8274.
PRIVATE EYES (AND EARS)
Club and restaurant environments that also feature rentable rooms so only your friends and guests can hear you feebly roar or beautifully soar on your favorite party jams.
Another 80s mecca, this K-Town bar from the Houston Brothers (Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, Harvard & Stone, La Descarga) has it all: DJs, video games, live cover bands, leg-warmed dancers ala Flashdance, and private karaoke rooms decked out in 80s splendor like the club itself. This spot may have the Houston’s signature hidden entrance, but it’s no secret to anyone in L.A. at this point. Still, it deserves mention here for the hip birthday bashes that seem to happen nightly, even though most celebrating weren’t even born when Frankie first said “relax.”
Breakroom 86 is at 630 S Ardmore Ave. (behind the Line Hotel), Koreatown. (213) 368-3056.
A karaoke room at The Venue. (Photo courtesy of The Venue/Facebook)
It’s hidden amid K-Town’s office building bounty, complete with a hard to find entryway, but when you finally find this luxe restaurant and nightclub it’s a marvel to behold, even before you get to the fancy karaoke rooms. Modern American cuisine by chef Kayson Chong (formerly at BOA), inventive cocktails by Devon Espinosa (No Vacancy), and whimsically decorated private karaoke rooms make this subterranean dining and DJ-driven destination something pretty special. Don’t let the generic name fool you, the venue is an exemplary place to grab a drink, a bite, and the mic.
The Venue is at 3470 Wilshire Blvd. Koreatown. (213) 221-1251.
Sing Or Die at Blind Dragon
A fave on the celebrity circuit, Blind Dragon—from the H-Wood group (Delilah’s, The Nice Guy, Peppermint Club, Poppy’s) and Innovative Dining Group—offers Asian fare, fruity fun cocktails, and a real club hub on weekends. The private karaoke rooms deserve their own praise, each featuring over-the-top decor by interior designer John Sofio. Its “Sing Or Die” branded karaoke, hosted by Wade Crescent and Nik Mojo, have a rowdy and rockin’ vibe, attracting real rappers and rockers, both in the exclusive suites and on the small public stage in the middle of the lounge, which also features “live band karaoke” most nights.
Blind Dragon is at 9201 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood. (310) 595-1091.
ALL THE WAY LIVE
Forget about soul-less recordings and light-up lyrics to follow, there’s nothing like being backed by a real band when you want to belt one out with rockstar-style bombast.
At Skinny's. (Photo courtesy of Rock-a-holic Karaoke)
Rock-a-holic Karaoke at Skinny’s
Also known as a “metal karaoke jam” this wild wingding is usually the climax to live band bookings on Wednesdays at the NoHo hotspot. The live backing band is called RAHK, and they do, as do the usually black-nail polished heshers and hair-flingers who take turns fronting them—often guys and gals from the local metal scene and sometimes big bands too. Anyone who jots their name down on the list can take a stab at “Shout At the Devil” and “Dirty Deeds,” and it’s better than dirt cheap to do so… the whole night is free (just tip the band).
Skinny’s is at 4923 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood. (818) 763-6581.
Rockaraoke at the Down & Out (Photo via Down & Out Rockaraoke/Facebook)
Rockaraoke at The Down N Out
Tuesday nights really do get down in downtown L.A. when this live one gets going, and the later the better as far as we’re concerned. Rockaraoke presents a great chance to watch a random mix of rockers singing and screaming their lungs out. House band The Down & Outs provide the instrumentation, you provide the front person ferocity, and hosts Gypsy and Chris provide some semblance of structure to a sauced-up song-a-thon with over 300 tempestuous tracks to choose from.
The Down N Outis at 501 S. Spring St., downtown LA. (213) 221-7595.
Corey-oke at Residuals
The Coreys left an indelible mark on pop culture, so a karaoke night devoted to them is a no-brainer. The “Coreys”, of course, refers to one Mr. Corey Feldman and his pal (the sadly departed) Corey Haim—the actors who had a monopoly on movies of the time (think: The Goonies, The Lost Boys, Lucas, and Stand By Me). Dressed like the guys with wigs and skinny ties and such, the band at Corey-oke plays all the rock and pop hits of the '80s for an eager and devoted procession of retro-mongers on the mic. The party takes place every first Thursday in the Valley, and it's like totally awesome.
Residuals is at 11042 Ventura Blvd, Studio City. (818) 761-8301.
More vocal vamping with real (and pretty talented) players behind you can be found at this K-Town bar. The songlist has endless English language choices, which you’ll hear most of on weekends. Call ahead and reserve a table but take note that it’ll cost you $8 each time you take the stage. Gives whole new meaning to the term “pay to play,” huh?
Jam Club is at 3981 W 6th St., Koreatown. (213) 382-3388.
Microphone Heroes at Sagebrush (Photo via Microphone Heroes/Facebook)
Microphone Heroes at Sagebrush Cantina
In the Valley and got the urge to get your rocks off? Sagebrush Cantina wants you to be the star with a full live backing band called the “Microphone Heroes”, who also play other venues on the outskirts of L.A. Sagebrush is their most popular spot, with the band providing sonic support and harmonic rapport for the 818 set. This one’s a good example of what sets live karaoke apart from the digital display; they make you sound good and help you out even if you suck or happen to be struck by a sudden case of lyrical memory loss.
Sagebrush Cantina is at 23527 Calabasas Rd, Calabasas. (818) 222-6062.
Casual Encounters at Hard Rock Café Hollywood
Casual Encounters plays venues out in the O.C. and Oxnard (see their schedule for shows) but their Hollywood residency is the one to catch. Hollywood Boulevard's random mix of tourists, eccentrics and would-be superstars are all represented here, and the restaurant's famous memorabilia seems to inspire people to really get into it, like it’s an American Idol or The Voice audition or something. Because of its proximity to the former home of Idol, Kimmel et al, the restaurant actually attracts some real powerhouses (not to be confused with the old bar down the street).
The Hard Rock Café Hollywood is at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood. (323) 464-7625.
Punk Rock Karaoke (various venues)
When it comes to raw-powered, musical-miscreant pretend time, nothing beats fronting the legends who actually lived the lifestyle and played the music. Punk Rock Karaoke—currently featuring Greg Hetson (former Bad Religion) , Eric Melvin (NOFX), Stan Lee (The Dickies), Steve Soto (Agent Orange), Darrin Pfeiffer (Goldfinger), and Eddie Tatar (D.I.)—has been providing the opportunity to be punk AF (if only for a song) since 1996, playing punk classics and offering a spot on their stage for whoever has the guts to join them and try to keep up. In L.A. they’re often at the Viper Room. The next local-ish date right now is in Fullerton on Oct. 20. Check here for a full schedule.