This week I checked out a new karaoke venue that is so one of its kind, I had to go back the following night for more. The show isn't fully put together yet and hardly anyone knows about it, but once this thing catches on it will lift the karaoke experience to a level no other k-bar can match. The spot I'm referring to is Keys On Main, the dueling piano bar in Lower Queen Anne (formally known as Chopstix) that recently added karaoke from Sunday to Tuesday and live piano-backed karaoke on Wednesday.
What makes this place so different, you ask? For starters, it's still primarily a piano bar, so there will always the safety net of free, live music if no one wants to sing. They don't need to hire a KJ to run the show, because they already have a deep bench of supremely talented and charismatic musicians who can host. Also, the Wednesday "rockaroke" piano singalong theme has the potential to explode into the biggest draw of all their nights.
I first stopped in around 10 p.m. last Tuesday and spent an hour hanging out with the bartender, Clay Baxley. It was beyond dead that night, and I was technically the only customer there. Big empty rooms always have a depressing feel to them, but I could easily picture this place being nothing short of spectacular on a busy night. It looks brand new and is perfectly set up for karaoke. A huge 70-inch plasma for lyrics hangs above the stage as well as three 32-inch monitors over the bar. And the top quality sound rocks as loud, if not louder, than most every other venue in town.Clay admitted he was never a big fan of karaoke but believed it to be the best way to attract a crowd during their non-dueling piano nights. They'll soon be premiering a contest called "Powerball Karaoke," where singers get a ball with their name placed in a lottery roller for every song they perform. Twice a night, if that singer is still around when their name is called, they win up to fifty bucks. If no one wins, the jackpot grows until someone does.
The artist hosting Tuesday night was a gorgeous blonde singer-songwriter named Zarni. Since there was nothing going on she was sitting in a back table hanging out with her boyfriend and a smoking hot brunette named Madison. A homeless guy came in and gave her a buck and some change to sing "Let It Be." I'll be damned if her performance wasn't one of the sexiest things I've ever seen. The homeless guy obviously felt the same, because he kept coming back every ten minutes from panhandling to pay her to perform the exact same number three more times.
Wednesday night was confirmation that Keys on Main is the karaoke bar of my dreams. Two minutes of witnessing what this show had to offer reduced every karaoke night I ever thought was awesome into something bush league by comparison.
Zach Valette was the performer who kicked off the night. He's a skinny guy in his late '20s with a long, flowing rocker mane. Not only did he blow us away with his skill, he was totally hilarious. He opened with a dead on impression of Scott Stapp singing Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." Then he tore through a slamming set of Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, AC/DC, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder numbers. Madison from the previous night also performed. She was brilliant, and her Adele and Journey offerings took my breath away. Things got packed around 10:30 p.m. and the show never let up until the time we left at 12:30. None of us that night bothered to sing. I was too chicken. But who needs to karaoke when you have awesome performers like that?
KEYS ON MAIN, 11 Roy Street, 270-4444, QUEEN ANNE