Last Tuesday, after catching a few hours of NBA playoff action at Auto Battery on Capitol Hill, my buddy Juan and I tried to check out karaoke a few blocks away at Ba Bar, a stylish Vietnamese restaurant on 12th Avenue. Since early March they've advertized a Tuesday-Wednesday show called "Kung Fu Karaoke" on their website. Unfortunately, I made the mistake (same one I always make) of not calling in advance to confirm the karaoke was actually happening, so we learned upon arrival they'd dropped the Tuesday show. Wednesdays are my favorite weeknight to sing but I rarely ever get out on that night anymore (because I'm usually up before dawn Thursday mornings cramming to get this column done). My initial plan was to head back to Ba Bar that next night, but I woke up the following morning with thoughts of another Wednesday venue that I very much wanted to check out instead, a sports bar on the southern edge of downtown Bellevue called The Spot Off Main.
Don't call him daughter.
Some may consider it an odd choice by me to favor a locale on the so-called "soulless" Eastside over a voguish venue in one of the trendier parts of Seattle. But I've spent many nights singing in both settings and have come to understand that the variables that contribute to a k-bar's success have little to do with which side (or end) of the lake they're on. Good song selection and sound quality is always important, but it really boils down to having a popular host who has the ability to draw in a consistent crowd. Ba Bar dropping one of their karaoke nights after only two months tells me there are issues they need to work out.The Spot Off Main's show, on the other hand, is run by Karr Productions, a well-established karaoke company that has been in some of the most popular venues in and around Seattle. Most notably, the Little Red Hen (hosted by Robert, a.k.a. "DJ Forrest Gump"), whose Wednesday shows are still, to this day, the busiest, craziest karaoke nights I have ever experienced.
Just like the night before, Juan and I hooked up early to watch playoff hoops. We got to The Spot at around 7:30 and took our seats in the main bar area just outside of the big room where their karaoke stage is set. It was a busy night, with over 40 people there. It's a fantastic place to watch a game. They have three huge projection TVs. At 9 p.m., as the Clippers-Grizzlies game was winding down, a sultry voice came echoing from the other room. It was the host, Aury, kicking off the night with a super loungy version of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are." We quickly relocated to a table in that room and found it was already full of people. It was a young crowd, lots of girls in their '20s, which made it clear that this literally is the spot to hang out in downtown Bellevue.
The dudes that night could really sing. This guy Josh had pure crooner pipes and masterfully delivered Sinatra and Bublé numbers as Aury scatted behind him. Later he and his buddy sang a killer doo-wop duet of The Marcels' "Blue Moon." Juan singing Lenny Kravitz's "Get Away" followed by a dude singing a great rendition of 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite" inspired me to sing some '90s of my own. I did "Daughter" by Pearl Jam and smoked it. The sound quality there is phenomenal. I'll give Ba Bar another chance soon, but I definitely made the right call this week.
THE SPOT OFF MAIN, 20 103rd Ave. NE, (425) 646-6434, BELLEVUE