Sing It, Champ
Trying to pick a karaoke bar in Honolulu is like trying to pick the best Michael Bolton song to sing when you get there. Since Honolulu boasts more than 40 places to be a diva, we asked our favorite singers to help us narrow it down.
A musician in Francis Knife and event wizard at Mercury Bar, Bidigare says his favorite karaoke spot is, well, Mercury. Specifically, Botoroke, a karaoke night held the last Tuesday of every month there, “because it’s fucking sweet karaoke.” A concept created by Bidigare and Johnny Boto, Botoroke lets singers pick any song for free. “With Johnny hosting, it’s fun, humorous and lighthearted,” he says.
Bidigare’s go-to song: “I always pick the song that ruins everybody’s night. I would say ‘Brandy’ by Looking Glass. Or a Johnny Cash song, which is actually talking more than singing, so that’s better for me,” he laughs.
Aly Ishikuni of indie pop band Alt/Air and too-busy cutie about town says Nocturna Lounge is her favorite karaoke spot, without even thinking about it. “It’s got the best song selection; it’s the most up to date. It’s my go-to place for some low-key fun.” Plus, with social gaming consoles on huge screens, it’s like a Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups. It has a large main room, with private rooms accommodating up to 24 people.
Aly’s go-to song: “99 Red Balloons” by Nena.
Singer Raiatea Helm approves of Nocturna Lounge’s sound system. She admits, “I’m not too much of a karaoke singer, but I’ve been to pretty much every place on the island. To me, the most important thing is the sound quality.” Currently, Helm is singing in the studio, recording her next album–a mix of traditional Hawaiian music, songs from the 1930s and some original compositions. Like her on facebook for updates ([facebook.com]).
Helm’s go-to song: “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion.
John Cruz’s choice is Karaoke Hut, but if he goes, he’ll take a private room. Believe it or not, Cruz says he gets anxious singing in the main room of a karaoke bar. “When there’s a famous singer in the room, it makes people self-conscious and they won’t sing. I’m trying to inspire people to sing, so it’s the opposite of what I want,” he says, laughing. If you ever get caught belting “Island Style” and he walks into the room, take note: “I love to hear people sing my songs. I’m so blessed that they even know my songs.” Cruz says the private rooms are still a good choice if you want to sing out of the spotlight.
Cruz’s go-to songs: “Love and Honesty” by Hawaiian Style Band or “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
John Ridgeway, of bluegrass outfit Discord & Rye, says his favorite karaoke is at Smith’s Union Smitty’s, “because I am a huge Star Wars fan, and before they changed the interior it reminded me of the cantina on Tatooine. Now, it’s where I can run into Chinatown’s finest off-duty bartenders.”
Ridgeway’s go-to song: “I’m Just a Gigolo” by David Lee Roth.
Singer-songwriter Johnny Helm says he has never been to a karaoke joint in his life, but would “immediately go to the cheesiest Liberace songs,” or “Beaches” by Barbra Streisand, because, “I really like her nose.” I’m sure there’s a Streisnose-Lover club out there for you, Johnny. We recommend Aloha Lounge to get acquainted with the fine art of karaoke. Calm your nerves with free snacks, good drinks and a supportive crowd.