I love it. I practically live it. Hell, I have my own hashtag for it. #RokeQueen (Although I am known by my nickname “B.B.” at most karaoke places.)
For someone like me with progressive hearing loss (hence the #DeafGirl), karaoke is the ONLY way I’m able to indulge my love of singing with my love of theatrics and not get booed. I am, for three and a half minutes at a time, a revered and applauded rock star. It doesn’t matter if I was in tune; it doesn’t matter how well I sang. What matters is that I picked a fun, energetic or beautifully moving song, was damned entertaining, and was courageous enough to get up in front of strangers and sing. And what also matters is when it comes time for other people to sing, I cheer and dance and interact during their time to shine.
That is what karaoke is: a chance to interact, be a little over dramatic (but in a good way), and not focus on whether or not someone has talent or skill. (Although we all enjoy when one of those remarkable singers just blows our socks off too.)
Given my – ah, let’s say – limitations of voice, it’s probably of little surprise that I am at karaoke often. Here in the Phoenix metro area, there are dozens of gin joints to choose from, and I’ve been to most, if not all, of them. It’s about time I take my passion for writing and combine it with my passion for karaoke.
I introduce to you: Of All The Gin Joints…Karaoke Review!
414! Pizza & Pub
414 S. Mill Ave.
One can’t ask for a friendlier, cooler atmosphere than 414! Pizza and Pub.
Delicious pizza, wings, and the traditional bar foods (think loaded fries, cheese steaks, and more), the prices on 414!’s food and drinks are incredibly reasonable, the taste is always superb, and the portions are generous – to say the least. Drink specials (with a good selection), holiday specials, and dance parties are always going on at this place. They really love to party!
For those of you who want sports, 414! still has you covered. With multiple TV screens, there is always something on to watch and the staff is great about finding you the specific game you’re looking for too. Sit at the bar, a table, or one of the comfortable horseshoe booths and relax with your favorite drink and a game.
Now, on to the karaoke!
414! offers karaoke 7 nights a week, making it, easily, one of my favorite gin joints in the Valley area. (It’s convenient location to my home is a huge plus as well.)
Spencer G, the owner, is the DJ. He has an impressive song collection. Just about anything I can think of (and I sing some pretty non-traditional fare like more obscure punk rock to international folk music) whether it is mainstream or eclectic, Spencer has it. And if he doesn’t? He will get it. He is more than happy to download any song you’ve found and sang at other places. He’ll even do it right there on the spot for you to sing that same night. Or, if you want several things (which I’ve done before), find them, let him know, and he will download those too. (Naturally, it is just polite to reimburse him for the downloads if, like me, you’re asking for a lot of stuff downloaded.)
There’s a fairly steady crowd of 414! karaoke regulars, but the joint is always rotating through people since it’s located right on Mill Ave at the heart of ASU (Arizona State University). It doesn’t matter if it’s a Friday night or a “slow” Tuesday, 414! always has people floating in and out, some for only a quick drink and a slice of pizza, or others who come for karaoke.
In my experience, when you enter a karaoke bar, you can usually judge what kind of a night it will be by the clientele and what the first three singers choose. Not at 414! Everyone is different, and song styles and choices vary widely depending on the crowd of the moment. There have been evenings when I’ve arrived and thought “Okay, it’s a musical type of crowd” and then 20 minutes later (or about 4-5 singers) the crowd has shifted and we’re all onto punk rock. It’s great and really keeps you entertained!
Service at 414! couldn’t be better. There are several mainstay bartenders who really know their job, are friendly and down to earth, and (when we’re really lucky) even entertain us by singing while pouring our drinks. And the waitstaff are johnny-on-the-spot with orders and drink refills. I’ve never had slow service, not even on the nights when the place has been so packed it’s standing room flooding out onto the smoking patio only.
The only piece of advice I can give about 414! is that, since the place is so popular, if you want to sing, Get There Early and get your name in the rotation first thing. While Spencer does try to make sure everyone gets a chance to sing, some nights it’s impossible to get everyone in to sing in a timely fashion, especially if you show up at 1:30 AM and want to sing (karaoke ends at 2 AM even though the bar is open until 4 AM for food). And I highly recommend you remember to tip your servers, your bartender, but also Spencer, your DJ. They all do an amazing job of making sure your night out is a true celebration, even if it’s just a plain ol’ Monday night you just felt the need to sing and dance a little.
Follow my blog for more karaoke bar reviews.