Monday, January 14, 2013

Does Size Really Matter?

Yes, that's what she said!  There is one bane to this industry, one weakness that always makes us falter at one time or another.  The dreaded "do you have this song in your song collection?  I didn't see it in your song book..."  The answer depends.  "Yes, I do have it I just haven't updated my books recently."  They're happy.  I'm happy.  You put up their song, and they're content.

If you answer no, usually the normally intoxicated patron will ask, "why not?"  Every KJ loathes and dreads this question.  "Were you born with that hair color?  What's wrong with your natural hair color?  Why don't you go somewhere else where they DO have the song you desire to sing; otherwise YOU can buy the song yourself on cd, and bring it next time you stop in so you CAN sing it whenever wherever you go to ensure you'll always be able to sing it?"  I can't say that, but sometimes I really wish I could when they're obviously spoilt, used to getting their way, and flaunting like they have wealth, but are NOT tipping me at all after making ridiculous demands for the past hour or so making it that hour seem more like an eternity.

Tip me the cost of the track, and I'll GLADLY download it for you.  What I WILL say to that annoying patron is, "no, I don't have it, but let me see if it's even available in karaoke format for download.  Sometimes it may take months for a top 40 hit to make it to cdg3 format if ever."  Bam!  Answers both questions before they even ask, "why?"  It's not cute when your toddler asks, and it's especially not cute when drunk people do it too.

I have talked to some guys in the industry about who is rumored to have the largest (ahem) list...  Well, I'm on a mission to set that record straight.  I've pestered everyone to submit their track count without duplicates and typos to me, so I can put up the top 5 largest songlists in the Bay Area.  It's in the forefront of my mind right now because I just recently completed cleaning up my database, and it was TEDIOUS.  Sharing stories with other fellow karaoke jockeys in the industry about cleaning up your books has made me see why it is so time consuming and tedious.  Currently I'm also asking around who has the best and most economical program out there for organizing your list for you, so you don't have to go through manually and update your list every time you add new songs.

So welcome to another year of karaoke!  In my next blog, I will address the age old question.  Does the size of your list really matter or is it the quality of the songs in your list and knowing your demographic all that counts?  I want to be the girl with the most cake!  Don't you?  How can having too many songs be a bad thing after all?  It makes sense bigger would be better, right?  We shall see.  I'm still compiling data, but coming soon, we will all know once and for all who has the largest... um... list. :D

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Karaoke and Prostitution

It is not unusual for karaoke and escorts to go together in other countries.  In fact, after talking to one of the club managers I work for after this story aired on KTVU, he said it was quite customary in other Asian countries for girls to be sold for the night to a patron and much like a geisha pour his drinks, play bar games with him, and let him do pretty much whatever he wants to her all night.  It is common practice and it is CHEAP in Asia.  That is why Vandal Tran broke away and opened Pandora Karaoke Lounge HIS way and didn't want his establishment to be associated with such business practices, and more power to him.

Read on...

Posted: 10:31 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012

OPD officers frequent karaoke bar suspected of condoning prostitution

opd club 1029
opd club 1029
OAKLAND, Calif. — 
Some members of the Oakland Police Department have taken an unusual interest in a private room karaoke bar. A place neighbors worry could be involved in prostitution.
KTVU first investigated the business after discovering a Port of Oakland official spent public money there.
Over four nights, we watched the same scene play out at Cafe Juliet on 14th street, in Mid-Town, Oakland. Each night, our camera recorded women in skimpy clothing filing into the downstairs business that bills itself as a private room karaoke bar. A mini-van dropped off as many as seven women at a time.
"We're like, what's going on down there? is this some kind of weird prostitution thing going on?" said neighbor Anca Mosoiu.
She and others say the scene we observed has been going on for years. But she told us it's not just the women and mostly male clientele that have her concerned.
"We've seen a police officer kind of go in and out, sometimes at night. Sometimes there's a police car parked out here for a couple of hours," said Mosoiu.
On KTUV’s first night outside the bar, a marked Oakland police cruiser parked right in front of us. Moments later, we watched Sgt. Warren Young go inside. Shortly after he left, the women began arriving.
On the next night, Young's cruiser was back again but it was another uniformed officer who parked and went inside. Officer Barry Ko made two visits to Cafe Juliet that night. The second visit lasted 27 minutes. As soon as Ko left, just before midnight, Sergeant Young returned.
On his third stop of the night, Young drove though the parking lot, next to Cafe Juliet using his spotlight on the cars.
KTVU reporter Eric Rasmussen asked Sgt. Young about his stops at Cafe Juliet.
  • Eric Rasmussen: "Sergeant, Eric with Channel Two. Just a quick question for you. Cafe Juliet on 14th street."
  • Sgt. Young: "Yes. What about it?"
  • Eric Rasmussen: "Why are you there night after night?"
  • Sgt. Young: "Because my friend works there."
  • Eric Rasmussen: "Are you doing this as a favor to your friend?"
  • Sgt. Young: "No, no. My friend works there. Works there. Not owner, not anything else."
  • Eric Rasmussen: "But is that the reason you're giving this, what seems to be, a lot of your time?"
  • Sgt. Young: "No, because I only go down there when I'm off and I stay there for a length of time."
  • Sgt. Young: "When I'm working. I do a security check there. Because what happens is that. Can we talk off camera for a second and I'll tell you what's going on."
Sgt. Young said he couldn't elaborate because of an investigation. But he insists there's nothing illegal happening inside Cafe Juliet.
  • Eric Rasmussen: "I had a regular tell me, flat out, you can get girls here. Does that concern you to hear that?"
  • Sgt. Young: "No, no. That is completely untrue. Well, I can't say that for a fact because I don't follow those people home, right?"
We showed our video to former Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer.
"Police officer should know, as you and I should know, what's going on in there and it's not singing karaoke."
Plummer says the Oakland Poluce Department shpuld be questioning what its officers are doing here.
"I would start an immediate investigation. Absolutely, right now," said Plummer.
Plummer, with more than 50 years in law enforcement, doesn't believe we stumbled into an on-going investigation. "If they were checking on this place, it wouldn't be in uniform. If they were doing it, it would be plain clthes people," said Plummer.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan says she expects Police Chief Howard Jordon will investigate. "If he has this information, has these tapes, he will investigate it and I have confidence that if there is any misconduct he will do the right thing," said Quan.
So far, Chief Jordan has not responded to our requests to interview him, Officer Ko, or anyone with the department's command staff.

Friday, May 25, 2012

One Week Left to Compete and Qualify for Finals next month @ Carlos Club!

May 3 at 9:00pm until June 8 at 12:00am

Come down and enter our Thursday Night Karaoke Contest!

*Five week preliminaries:
THURSDAY, MAY 3rd through MAY 31st - 9 PM.
Two contestants (per week) will advance to the finals by 'audience response'.


Ten finalists will be judged by (judges to be announced):
Singing Ability = 1 - 10 points
Stage Presence (dress to impress) = 1 - 10 points
Showmanship (dance moves - "Wow the crowd") = 1 - 10 points
Audience Response = 1 - 10 points
Highest number of points = 40.

The top three winners to be awarded cash and/or prizes.
*To be determine by club management.

Bring your friends to The Carlos Club for fun and competition!

Drink Specials! Drink Specials! Drink Specials! Drink Specials!

The Carlos Club - 612 El Camino Real, San Carlos

Carlos Club in San Carlos

I haven’t been to Carlos Club in many years since I 1st lived in Redwood City back in 2003.  It has always been reknowned as a hot spot for karaoke for as long as I can remember.  I didn’t have many good experiences here in the past because it was just too busy and full of youngsters for me to really get a song in if at all!  It was poppin’ for sure, but still I’m not here for the scene.  I’m here to sing, mama!  Now that Patti & Gus of Center Stage Live have taken over the karaoke show here, it attracts an older more mature crowd which is great because the cops don’t trawl here so much anymore on Thursday nights.  I remember when it was a hot bed of police activity here on El Camino and San Carlos Avenues.  Add alcohol and young twenty somethings, and it just gets stupid.

Now it’s not nearly as packed and feels less claustrophobic than I remember.  Also the drinks are WAY better!  1st time I ordered a kamikaze here it took FOREVER to get to me, and it was all sour mix and ice.  BLECH!  Although I had a bad experience with my first drink ordered in nine years, I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt.  It was still a good drink because it was EXACTLY what I ordered.  It was just the price that I objected to.  I would definitely go for the drink specials if they were my type of drinks.  I’m a beer and whiskey kinda gal not a fruity drink gal.  The fruitiest drink I’ll order is a vodka cran, or screwdriver, maybe a greyhound.  I drink like an old man with a hard liver when inclined to do so, but those moments are rare and far between.  It depends on if I just broke up with someone.  Anyway, that’s why I sing karaoke for stress relief!  I digress as usual…

Patrick the singing bartender here on karaoke Thursday nights is really sweet.  He likes to sing oldies and the boy is younger than ME.  Oldies, I never tire of them, and they really never get “old.”  Everyone knows them, and every patron no matter what age can appreciate it.  That’s how I knew I was going to forgive him for the drink sitch, but honestly if someone asks you the price of a drink up front, it means they’re on a budget, and you should seriously give them a quote before pouring the drink, or I would have ordered something else cheaper.  He totally made it up to me tonight too by comping me a drink. J  I love that boy more and more.  Think I’ll sing him an oldies song tonight!

The great thing about this club is that it’s right across the street from San Carlos Caltrain station and there’s a bus stop right in front of the bar.  They also have a taxi service with Carlos Club’s name on the side and everything just like the Swinging Door which is smart because my last boyfriend got a DUI leaving here one night.  The cops in San Carlos and Belmont do NOT mess around.  If you are drunk and driving, they WILL catch you.  Samtrans doesn’t run very frequently because as far as I have been riding back and forth from here on many a night, I have yet to see a bus even pass ME on my side of the street EVER.  I’ll see a bunch people waiting for a bus, but nary a one will be in sight.  From San Bruno to San Carlos in either direction it takes an hour for me by bicycle.  It’s good exercise, and I enjoy night riding because it’s less stressful since the streets aren’t congested with crazy drivers.

You should seriously come check this venue out.  Their sound system is great.  Couches line the walls.  I dig the porthole fishbowl feeling of sitting in front of the round window facing El Camino too.  They have a nice modern vibe and décor.  It’s a lot more chill than it it used to be, and I’d like to see it back to its full glory again with people dancing and singing having a great time on the dance floor.  It’s a dance club any other night of the week if that’s your thing.  I’m a singer not a dancer, but I’ve been there for both.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Valley Tavern with KJ Kendo

Valley Tavern with KJ Kendo is every Thursday of the month.  Guess what?  This bar is pretty rad!  It’s got girl power written ALL over it!  As it should, it’s in the heart of Noe Valley on 24th between Noe and Castro Streets.  My god it was tough gettin’ my fat ass up here!  I thought Bernal and Potrero were bad… try CASTRO and NOE from 18th UPWARD.

If you live in the City, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.  Pick up a topography map if you don’t.  I’m amazed that I had the strength to dance and sing after that.  I was just so HAPPY I made it finally after HOW long Ken’s worked here?  I kept promising that I’d come sometime SOMEday.  Well, HERE I am, and goddess bless it’s a SLOW night!  I am not eager to go tackle these hills in reverse yet, so I’ll sit a spell with this raucous birthday party who are keeping this bar alive right now.  I even got TWO songs in which is usually unheard of at this hour of the night.  I clocked in at a little before 1 am.

They have very amicable bartenders and patrons here.  Local art on the walls of chicks spray painting murals on expanses of long empty walls that can only exist in Los Angeles showcasing tagged up vans with awesome rural art on them and of course the staple low rider.  Photos with dyed, pierced, and tattooed ladies donning honey brown sun kissed skin much like my own.  You know what’s up!  Girl’s rule this school!  I fit RIGHT in with the decor except I took my piercings out for an interview earlier this week, and I haven’t put them back in yet.

I would like to come here again on another night where I’m NOT touring and have more strength to make this hill a LOT easier and earlier in the evening.  I can see why KJ Kendo likes this venue so much.  It reminds me of his other site, the Blackthorn Tavern in the Inner Sunset that he has Tuesday nights which I used to live near back in 1998 early in my career here in SF after my Freshmen year of college.

I love bars that have a lot of wood paneling and a LONG bar!  That means there’s plenty of room for EVERYONE in the neighborhood and you can always squeeze in SOMEWHERE to order libations.  The booths are very nice for groups of a medium to large size.  I myself had the first booth all to myself camped out there 'til closing time with my laptop up blogging to my heart's content.  They even have a smoking booth for patrons.  How neat!  I thought these were all obsolete because even Benders took theirs out, and if you're old enough to remember the AIRPORT used to have them too!

This tavern is tucked away in a very nice neighborhood, so you DEFINITELY don’t need to worry too much about break ins, and as a cyclist, I know DAMN well no bike thief is gonna ride his ass up here to take MY whip.  He’d have to come with a big white panel van to take my baby away, and Christine is parked right outside this window behind KJ Kendo, so I’m TOTALLY keepin’ an eye on her though unnecessary.

Thanks to Dana, a karaoke friend and new rookie KJ, like myself, I found this bar in the Valley as it is aptly named.  I don’t think I’ll make it to Jack’s tonight, but I will make it to Lookout and El Rio with Burlesque at another time because trust me I’ve been to Jack’s Club when I lived a block up from there.  I know what it’s about, but I REALLY wanted to see KJ Paul there since I haven't seen him in SO long.  He's got some of the best older artistic bohemian following I've ever seen.  I’m just hoping the food is better there now than before.  I LOVE spice, and most foods are made for a more sensitive palate which makes for less heat in my food than I’d like because if I’m eating Jumbalaya I want my mouth to BURN!  Mmmm Andouille and prawns... my mouth waters just THINKING about it!

I’m STOKED because I broke my 4 karaoke venue record tonight with 5 karaoke bars.  Next time I’ll plan better because established bars like Deco can take a lot longer than usual to get your turn up, but it all depends on the night really.  I stopped in to Pandora before Deco too, but the rotation there was faster.  At Deco, unlike other bars, the patrons sitting at the bar in the other room are all signed up to sing too not JUST the patrons on the stage side.

You can never predict a really busy night or a really SLOW night where you can get 10 songs in at one sitting.  Here is where the karaoke bicycle tour sadly ends.  I can’t wait to bomb down this hill back to Bernal Heights from the Mission and tackle one more hill for the last time!  I'm going to make Cortland my bitch!  Watch me.  I'm gonna be sore tomorrow!  Ta for now, all!  Happy Karaoke-ing!

Showdown with DJ Purple

Showdown formerly known as Matador is right next to my FAVORITE Vietnamese restaurant, Tu Lan, on 6th Street between Stevenson & Market Streets.  They now have Karaoke Dance Parties with DJ Purple of Make Out Room infamy every 3rd Thursday night now from 9:30pm to 1:30am.  Let me start by saying his Dance Party is unlike MOST karaoke gigs because he wants you to DANCE not JUST sing.  He attracts a younger 20 somethings crowd.

High energy is his modus operandi, so if you were expecting his usual set list of songs, you are mistaken to come on this night.  He has a special book for Dance Party nights, so that you can't choose a slow song allowing the energy level to drop.  He does play his signature sax during solos in between verses and choruses as usual, but the interludes between songs can be a bit longer to encourage the youths to get on that floor and shake it like it was BROKEN.

I've been back to this bar since last night, crime scene scene of the crime... hehehe :)  After all I used to live a stumble and crawl away from there, and my girlfriends still live around the corner.  When I'm in the area, the FIRST thing I do is hit up Tu Lan if I'm not too late before closing time.  I definitely like the stencils on the back black walls better than the way they were blank and ominous before.  Lots of illegal brown bagging happened in here before it changed hands, and who knows WHAT else when it was the Matador.

I kind of dig the dark cavelike feel to this venue.  It definitely smells LESS like a toilet now than it did before, THANK GOD!  I like what they’ve done behind the bar regarding the décor as well.  Did I mention the pours here are GENEROUS!  The mixologists here are really good compared to before when it was beer or shots only because you REALLY didn't want to try the concoction they'd mix before.  Blech is putting it MILDLY!

Don’t be deterred by the Skid Row status & reputation of the neighborhood.  Take public transportation!  Ride a bike!  If you MUST drive here, park somewhere better, safer, well lit, and look for broken glass on the ground.  Use your common sense.  I know common sense isn't so common anymore, but try to practice.  Broken glass is ALWAYS an indicator that this particular spot is popular for break ins and you WILL be hit if you leave your car there for an extended period of time.  TRUST me.  This is my old hood!

I ran into a rare duet partner of mine who I've seen a couple of times at Bender's on the last Friday of every month for Punk Rock & Shlock with Lady Eileen.  He's too adorable, and in his young 20's probably gayer than a May Day Parade, and I could be wrong.  Maybe he's just that cute, nerdy, and metro.  Who cares!  It's San Francisco, and that boy can SANG, mama!  I love singing Lita and Ozzy with him.  I gave him homework the first night we met.  We mutually admired each other's performances, and I handed him a karaoke sign up slip with a homework assignment on the back instead of a request for the KJ, a duet.  "Close My Eyes Forever" by Lita Ford featuring Ozzy Osborne.

I told Carlos that the next time I saw him there I expected him to know the song, and be ready to sing it with me then.  I gave him the assignment because we spoke briefly earlier, and he had NEVER heard of this duet before.  He's a fan of his, after all, and if he's to complete his rock and metal education, he must stretch, I felt.  I love when people challenge ME as a singer to grow out of the same old stuff I always do.  Why not pass on the favor to others?

He took my words to heart because the next time I saw the young man 1 - 2 months later, he was ready for me!  It was a pleasure making the acquaintance of his friend Danny too tonight.  Delightful young lads.  Danny and I are brainstorming web design ideas, and we're excited to start working together on a project to create a webpage for me that I'd maintenance, but he'd create for me since he IS a web designer.  He would create the calendar feature I mentioned previously in my blog regarding Rocketfish and hopefully go live with it before the 3rd quarter of this year. :)

Rocketfish Thursdays not just one KJ FOUR Rotate on Alternating Weeks

Rocketffish formerly Lingba Lounge here on 18th & Connecticut Streets is at karaoke again Thursday nights not that it ever really STOPPED except for a brief moment when it changed ownership!  Every 3rd Thursday of the month KJ Paul swaps shifts with Roger Niner of Butter & Swinging Door fame.  You can usually catch KJ Paul here on other Thursday nights, but on this particular Thursday he’s working at Jack’s Club on 24th & Utah Streets.

The same high energy and AMAZING song list that you’ve come to expect from Mr. Niner and his Lady Lala are present here tonight.  They make such a cute couple and team.  Love and karaoke stories, I’m a sucker for them!  To think they started out in Colorado transplanted here to California and made it is a success story untold.  They took a big risk, and they came out better for it, I’m sure.  They sure seem genuinely happy!

This bar has totally changed from the old wicker light fixtures laden with matching wicker hangin’ monkeys.  I loved those things!  The mural on the back wall of rainforest wild animals has been replaced with a brown wash that gives it a more warm rustic feel.  The curtains between the bathrooms and the main dining area are a very NICE touch giving it a more MODERN feel not to mention a more pleasant transition from bathroom to dining area where the karaoke equipment must sit!  The high ceilings give it drama, and the big metal art rocketfish above the bar grew on me as I've been back since it changed hands.

It always irked me how it was set up before.  I always felt I was intruding when karaoke was set up between the lavatory and central floor when KJ Kendo used to work here when it was an Asian Pan Pacific fusion restaurant/bar.  Now they are a sushi bar.  The staff is very genuinely courteous.  The artwork on the walls belong to local artists and rotates.  I love that!  The food has improved IMMENSELY here, I’m proud to state!  I don't know WHAT that last sushi roll was, but it had this nutty quality to it that just put it over the top of the previous favorite I had which had this fresh crisp watery flavor that hints at cilantro salsa almost.  DELICIOUS!

That they don’t harass a broke critic to buy a drink or food is nice because I HATE that.  They don’t know that I’m doing them a solid reviewing them favorably.  They will someday…  I’m here for karaoke, and I understand that you have it to attract paying customers, but when I come into my own YOU WILL TOO.  If you pester me, you won’t get a high recommendation from me!  That’s for damn sure!  See my past blog “The Critic vs The Bartender,” and read about me and Vlad.  Oh yes… he’s still there too… my nemesis!

Also subbing in for KJ Paul on Thursday nights will be Glenny Kravitz Karaoke Shark and DJ Purple according to my sources in the Karaoke Mafia.  I'll update you as soon as I have the rotation schedule down.  I'll be posting a brand new calendar of all the Bay Area karaoke spots from the Peninsula, East Bay, and San Francisco.  As soon as your critic gets a new to her motorcycle, I'll be able to give current accounts on South Bay venues and Contra Costa county sites as well.  Exciting stuff going down!  I'll keep you all abreast of it.  As soon as I know YOU'LL know. ;)