Once a year, someone from my work will coordinate a karaoke night somewhere. Obviously, they can always count me in. This time it was my buddy, Huot. Huot is Asian like me, which means he's inclined to just know about obscure karaoke venues. He'd been telling me for months about this Korean-owned private room place in Federal Way called 1st Avenue Karaoke. It always sounded great to me, but I wondered how he was going to be able to convince our co-workers to rally all the way down there. After weeks of campaigning them individually, he was able get a dozen of us to meet up last Saturday.
KK is automatic supersonic hypnotic funky fresh
After stuffing ourselves at Mika Japanese Buffet down the street, we arrived at the venue 45 minutes before our 9 p.m. reservations. Oddly enough, the place isn't on 1st Avenue at all. It's actually on Highway 99 right and shares a parking lot with Star Bar & Grill, my favorite venue to sing in Federal Way. I was stoked because for the first time ever, I would get to compare the experience of public versus private karaoke on the same very night.
We took over a table at the back end of Star Bar. At that point I had just started drinking, but pretty much everyone in my party had a good two hour head start on me. I had to play catch-up by shooting this disgusting blue-tinted tequila liqueur called Tarantula. It turned my stomach at first, but five minutes after the second shot it jacked me up enough to deliver a very solid rendition of "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls to open the night.
Then our buddy Fred and my girlfriend, Kristin, followed with "Our House" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and we were primed to take the place over. Aside from us, there were only two other performers on the list, but the audience was very attentive. The last time I was here, it was a busy Friday and I arrived as the show was in full swing and had to wait through a full 15-singer rotation. I was so tempted to stick around, but we went through with the original plan and moved it to the private room. It ended up being totally the right call.
1st Ave Karaoke is next door on the second floor. Outside the venue are wall-sized studio shots of young attractive Asians singing. From the deck is a great view of the highway and surrounding strip malls. There is a lobby where you check in. The big rooms rent at $35 per hour. It's a family-owned establishment, and the people were very nice. They set us up in the suite in the corner of the building. The room was very spacious and luxurious. Their couches were the most comfortable of any private room venue I had ever been. They had two big 52-inch LCDs for lyrics and a very fancy karaoke receiver that was built into the back wall. Two leather-bound song catalogs were provided, as well as a high tech remote control to plug in our song requests. The screen displayed the upcoming selections and a meter that showed how many minutes of singing time we had remaining.
It took us a bit of time to find songs, as the book was a mix of English and Korean numbers, but as soon as we caught our stride, it was non-stop. I just remember looking at the timer showing "115" as servers brought in a half rack of Hite beer and plates of peanuts and shrimp chips, then blinking my eyes and realizing we were down to 40 minutes. Two hours does not cut it here. There was once a time when I didn't see the value in this type of karaoke but now I really believe this is the only way to go if you're in a group of six or more. It was insanely fun.
Everyone sang at least five times. Their selection was actually very good. The biggest advantage to the private rooms is trying numbers you would never do in a public bar. My buddies Bret and Juan serenaded each other with a beautiful duet of "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men. Huot is a karaoke maniac and his picks were all over the place. He sang everything from the Backstreet Boys to Glen Frye. The gals went off on the pop and country cuts. Joy sang an awesome "1,2 Step" by Ciara; Cassie and Erica delivered with "Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks; and Bret's wife dazzled us all with Jason Derulo's "Ridin' Solo."
When our friend Grady showed up with less than 20 minutes to go we all cheered; partly because we were excited to see he made it, but mostly because it meant we got to re-up another hour.
1st AVENUE KARAOKE, 31220 Pacific Hwy S. # 10, 253-946-6244, FEDERAL WAY