How many of you ever stepped up to the stage on “Karaoke Night” at your favorite bar or nightclub (usually after more than a few drinks) and sang your little heart out to one of your favorite songs? OK, I see a lot of hands going up. Cool.
Now, how many of you have done the whole karaoke thing backed by a kickass live band? Hmmm, I don’t see a whole lot of hands. Well, that’s because you probably never found yourself at Carroll Place in New York City on a Wednesday night some time after 9pm. If you had, you’d know exactly what it’s like.
Blood Sugar Live Band Karaoke takes place every Wednesday night from 9pm – 12am at Carroll Place on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. With a selection of over 250 songs, an iPad for lyrics, a host keeping the party moving, a room full of people singing along, and a live band that includes some of the best musicians in NYC – this is karaoke on a whole other level.
I was back in NYC last week with my daughter, and my lil brother (aka “The Pope of Greenwich Village”) brought us to Carroll Place’s back room to witness what was as intense a session of karaoke as I’ve ever seen (the pictures pretty much tell the story, no?). I mean, these people (a glorious mix of New York’s most colorful characters) weren’t playing around – this was their American Idol moment!
And no, none of them would have passed an American Idol audition but isn’t that what makes karaoke so great (or not so great)? And speaking of karaoke, do you know how and where it started? Look to the east, my friends.
Karaoke has its roots in the Japanese custom of providing musical entertainment for guests during dinners or parties(*). Daisuke Inoue, a Japanese musician, is credited as the titular creator of the first karaoke machine in 1971, in response to requests for private recordings of his performances from guests at the Utagoe coffeehouses where he performed.
“Kara” comes from the word “karappo”, which means empty or void. “Oke” comes from the word “okesutra” which means orchestra.
These coffeehouses were venues where like-minded patrons would sing songs together, usually politically-themed, and were very popular for two decades stretching from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies. With recordings of his works, the Utagoe patrons could sing along with music even when Inoue was absent.
As karaoke spread to become a global industry, it reflected the technology of the day(*). First relying on cassettes and 8-track tape players and accompanied by lyric sheets printed on paper, the standard “karaoke machine” evolved to incorporate first laserdisc, and then compact disc technology with the development by Phillips and Sony of the “CD+G”, or compact disc plus graphics standard.
The history of the karaoke bar in the U.S. is said to have begun with Los Angeles bar Dimples in 1982, a famed establishment that has since closed its doors. Soon afterwards, nightclubs and bars the world over began offering karaoke nights to their clientele, disc jockeys added karaoke to their repertoire, and specialized “karaoke jockeys” (“KJ’s”) began plying their trade as demand for the phenomenon increased.
Karaoke has become so popular since the start of the millennium that there is now a Karaoke World Championships! It originated in Finland in 2003 and involved 7 countries but has now grown to 30 countries. And what is the most popular karaoke song? “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.
Should you live or find yourself in NYC (and if you never have, you really should) head over to Carroll Place and check out Blood Sugar Live Band Karaoke. And after a few drinks (and a dare) you might just find yourself backed by a live band and singing “I Will Survive” at the top of your lungs. Now, wouldn’t that be awesome?
Carroll Place is a 6700 sq. foot cocktail bar, American-Italian restaurant and live music venue. It was formerly known as Kenny’s Castaways music club. From 1976 to 2012, Kenny’s Castaways hosted music shows by folk, blues, jazz, rock, hip-hop and punk performers, including greats like Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, and more.
The name ‘Carroll Place’ is the original 1830′s name for the section of Bleecker Street between Thompson Street and La Guardia Place, developed by Thomas E. Davis as a prestigious residential neighborhood.
Named in honor of Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, it was home to well to-do New Yorkers who thrived on the elite social and real estate scene of Bleecker Street during the era.
By the 1850′s immigrants began to settle in the area, and many of the Bleecker Street properties were being converted into boarding houses. In the late 1800′s/early 1900′s, 157 Bleecker Street was known as the “Slide Club”, an early gay bar and speakeasy called “the wickedest place in New York” according to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Carroll Place offers family-style dining, weekend brunch, and late nights on Fridays and Saturdays.