Wednesday night Kung Fu Karaoke at Ba Bar on 12th Avenue on Capitol Hill is Vietnamese-style karaoke at its finest. The venue is gorgeous, they have a built-in dinner crowd that stays late into the night, and the base of their song catalog is that classic Asian-produced karaoke with the cheesy dated '80s videos and music that sounds like it was made by a Commodore 64.
I met up with some friends there around 10:15 p.m. one night last week. It was a young crowd. Every seat at the bar was occupied, and most of the tables on the floor were as well. The place was nice and dim, and the multicolored laser and disco lights circling all around indicated the show had begun, but no singers had signed up yet. The song books dispersed throughout the room were only about an inch thick and organized by song title. The first half was English selections, and the other half was all Vietnamese songs. I've come full-circle when it comes to the size of catalog I prefer. Yes, it's always better to have as big a song library as possible, but enormous binders are a huge pain in the ass to negotiate, and 70 percent of the songs in them are numbers no one will ever give a shit to do. A condensed list of proven favorites makes it so much easier to decide on something. Within three minutes of beginning my search, I already had four slips filled out.
A dude in his '20s named Scott has been the host since this show started a few months back. We caught him on his last night. He was training his replacement, Thaddeus. Both guys were very friendly, and Scott opened the show with a nice monologue asking the audience to remember to applaud every singer who takes the stage.At 10:30, things finally got going, and I was the first singer called. It was a mellow crowd, so I opened with something appropriate for the vibe: "Peaceful Easy Feeling" by the Eagles. It's one of the best songs I do, and I love singing it because it brings smiles to people's faces. My friend Chelsea, who was celebrating her birthday that night, took things in a completely different direction and totally nailed R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)."
The bartender poured my Bombay Sapphire and sodas very stiff, and by the third one I was tugging them down in three big slurps. By 11 p.m., I felt so good I wanted to stay there until the end of the night. The second rotation brought a lot of singers picking newer selections that weren't in the book. The KJs do a trick here I've only seen done at the Kona Kitchen: They pull karaoke versions of songs off YouTube. At times, the sound quality of some of the links they found wasn't very good, and a couple of the numbers showed lyrics but didn't shade over them, which caused some performers to get lost in the verses, but for the most part, Scott was able to come through with every song requested of him.
When midnight hit, even more people were there than when we'd first arrived, but the rotation stayed at around six singers. My favorite performance of the evening was by a guy who turned in a perfect rendition of "Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red. Scott put himself in the mix toward the end of the night and chose Van Morrison's "Moondance" as his swan song. He was really good.
BA BAR, 550 12th Ave., 328-2030, CAPITOL HILL