Pass the Mic

Karaoke used to be a guilty pleasure for the drunk and tuneless. Now it’s a cottage industry glutted with cocky pros and spotlight hogs. Still, we believe everyone’s entitled to a chance at embarrassing themselves—which isn’t to say we actually like your Steve Perry impersonation—and at least a few joints in town foster a similarly inclusive philosophy and serve plenty of liquid courage to help you find your groove.


You’re singing: “Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
A dollop of spit clings to the old man’s grin as he hands you a note. He’d tried to convey the awesomeness of your rendition of “Burning Love” with words, but his toothlessness muffled everything in gummy gibberish. You squint down at his chicken scratch: “No Obama! Damn! What soup!” You assume it’s English. You also assume it’s a compliment. His continued chortles confirm this. One of the last stoic holdouts in the gentrifying Mayberry of St Johns, Slim’s still clings to its grizzled past like a scalded cat might cling to your leg. There’ll be none of that nü-metal here. No rap. Just barnacled classic rock and country standards. And you’re up next. Perhaps you and your lady friend are headed down to Jackson. She’ll be dancing on a pony keg; you’ll have your tail tucked between your legs. And both of you will bring the house down. What soup, indeed. (8635 N Lombard St, 503-286-3854)

You’re singing: “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen
Unless you regularly troll for great places to dump a body, you’ll miss it. But there, tucked in the shadows of NE Columbia Boulevard’s industrial grime, is the best-kept secret on the local karaoke scene. No insufferable crowds. No elitist KJs. No cross-armed deconstruction of your take on “Sister Christian.” Just blue-collar bawlers who’ve outgrown the acoustics of their showers. (535 NE Columbia Blvd, 503-226-1181)

You’re singing: “Band on the Run” by Wings
It’s attached to a Travelodge and the parquet has more scratches than a meth addict. But don’t cry for Suki’s: With a lively cast of mic fiends and no waiting, it’s a party outlet for sleepy Southwesties. Besides, you can get pancakes till 8. And nothing goes with “Brown Sugar” like a short stack. (2401 SW Fourth Ave, 503-226-1121)


You’re singing: “Hold on Loosely” by 38 Special
You’ve been bouncing around the circuit for a while and now you’re ready for the big time: fronting a live band. With 400 songs in their arsenal, the Karaoke From Hell band can fulfill your Foreigner fantasy. On Mondays at Dante’s (1 SW Third Ave) and Thursdays at Tiger Bar (317 NW Broadway), canned tracks are napalmed in favor of living, breathing rock ’n’ roll, giving the devil’s music the dangerous edge it so richly deserves.