There are scores of singing options in every part of town every night of the work week. But when the weekend hits, the heart of Seattle's karaoke scene is Lower Queen Anne. It's been that way for years. You're not going to find two venues more slammed with singers than Ozzie's or Hula Hula on a Friday or Saturday night. Problem is, they're too busy. Granted, weekends are when I like to find the biggest audience to strut my stuff, but I hate two-hour waits to sing. That's why it's always great when an alternative opens in the area.
Last spring, The Spectator on Queen Anne Avenue began hosting karaoke Thursday through Saturday. Last Friday, I arrived around 9:30--just before the show started. It's a nice, wide-open space, and it was just crowded enough. The bar is to the left, and a long series of red, crescent-shaped booths and mirrors line the wall to the right. The stage is located at the end of the room in an elevated couch area. The couches are definitely the prime spots to sit and watch the show.
A stack of songbooks that read "Baby Ketten Karaoke" on the cover were located at a table just below the KJ station, stage right. There was the main catalog and a smaller supplement that had just been updated in July. The main catalog wasn't the thickest I'd ever seen, but the fact that it was an actual paperback book (as opposed to the usual three-ring binder) told me there might be something special contained therein.
I've been reviewing karaoke bars for two years now, and I was positive I'd sung every available song by my four favorite artists. I turned to the Beatles pages just as the host, Ivan, opened the night with "Hey Bulldog." I'd never seen that one done before. That was the first surprise of many that night. The next surprise was counting 65 other Beatles songs I never knew existed for karaoke in that book. I couldn't believe it. Then I looked up the Stones and Tom Petty, and both of their lists had over 10 songs I'd never seen anywhere else either. I read the back cover of the book, and Baby Ketten prides itself on having the rarest collection of songs anywhere. And they encourage singers to sing "something that hasn't already been beaten to the ground."
Most every singer that night followed that suggestion. This cute Asian gal sang an awesome rendition of "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People. The next singer made me jealous as hell when he sang the mid-'90s Pavement classic, "Shady Lane." I wished I'd found it first. I've maybe seen one Pavement in a karaoke catalog before. This book had six.
For the first time ever, I saw someone (besides me) sing Springsteen's "Thunder Road," and he was pretty good. When I turned to the Springsteen section I came across a number I have literally prayed to come available someday, "One Step Up." It's the song that really triggered my obsession for Springsteen's music. Getting the chance to finally sing it was a dream come true, and I nailed it the way I always knew I could.
The Spectator, 529 Queen Anne Ave N., 599-4263, QUEEN ANNE