When I was in high school, I played in a rock band with my brother. We played at pep rallies, charity events, city festivals and birthday parties. We even recorded a few songs with locally-known producer Casey Di Iorio at Valve Studios. I have played acoustic/electric guitar and bass since I was 15 years old and sang since I was probably six (I'm 31 now), but my last real gig was my second year of college (2000). So after nearly 11 years of not doing much with music (read: sitting at home and serenading crickets), I decided in the summer of 2011 that I wanted to get back into performing for audiences. After I decided that my voice would be my primary instrument, it seemed like overnight I became a Dallas Karaoke King and/or a karaoke connoisseur of sorts and embarked on a Dallas karaoke quest. Now almost a year later, I bring to you the fruits of my quest.
My reason for this karaoke article: After performing dozens of Google searches and finding the same sites that seemed to have a list of places that are: no longer doing karaoke, closed, out in the suburbs (even as far as Fort Worth), I decided to make an ultimate Dallas karaoke list night of the week with strictly Dallas proper addresses. This was for my own reference and now yours. I also wanted to take it a step further and give you, the reader, some insight to each spot instead of just creating a laundry list.
Unlike many of the other lists you'll find when you Google Dallas karaoke on such and such night, I hope to keep this article as up-to-date as possible. Just as in life, places, DJs, and management change, so might this list over time. I recommend you bookmark this article now for reference and follow the hashtag #DallasKaraokeQuest or the ILiveInDallas Twitter handle for future recommendations and karaoke adventures.
My Dallas Karaoke Quest Criteria
With my quest, there had to be a scope. I didn't want to close my mind to places I'd never been before, even if they sounded shady/out of my comfort zone. Here was my methodology: as with all events, businesses, and things to do in Dallas listed on this site 1) Every place I visited had to be in Dallas proper. 2) Each place on the list is the best for that night, it may not be the best all-around, but great for that particular night. Since many of the clubs I visited have karaoke two or more times a week, they could not be chosen for more than one night. 3) I gave at least three karaoke spots a shot at competing for the best karaoke for each particular night. 4) No all-night karaoke rooms or seven-day a week karaoke clubs could compete. Conversely, I did not include karaoke clubs that only participate once a month or every other week in this best of contest (I wanted to make sure if you found this list you could go that night). I realize this isn't a 100% scientific assessment, but I'm just one guy and my quest needed a time limit. How well I liked the KJ, his/her friendliness, and their attitude was a big part of decision, especially where there was a close 2nd. I have linked to each KJ's contact info in case you'd like to hire him/her for a party. In order to see all places for each night, just click on the sub-title of the night and you'll see more Dallas karaoke clubs by night.
Best Karaoke Spot: Crown & Harp
Best Karaoke DJ: Leslie Ann Bass
Leslie is a ball of energy. She is the ring leader of the side show that comes in every Sunday at the Crown and Harp, and her other gigs at Lena's, Absinthe Lounge, and sometimes The MAT. She keeps it entertaining and she will even sing with you upon request. She is excellent at reminding her fans and regular karaoke patrons of her upcoming shows via text. Book Leslie for your next party.
Atmosphere: It's a very dark Irish bar.
Crowd: Very encouraging with lots of regulars.
Wait Time: Fast, and even faster if you tip.
Best Karaoke Spot: Stan's Blue Note
Best Karaoke DJ: Hector Castellanos of RSVP Productions. Hector is a consummate professional. I originally saw his show at Backyard Beach Bar several times before it closed. He always does a great job. Leslie was his protégé while she was getting her business off the ground. You might also find him at a new place in town called Velvet Elvis. He's very good at Facebook marketing. Book Hector.
Atmosphere: It's very warm and homey on the inside.
Crowd: Mostly sports-watching folk that happen to be there on karaoke night, regular karaoke patrons.
Wait Time: Ten to fifteen minutes.
Best Karaoke DJ: Randy Brannon
Randy is the best KJ I've ever met. He was the first KJ I've ever seen that made it a practice to approach and ask patrons what they want to sing. He makes everyone feel comfortable, especially the new singers that need it the most. He is great at Facebook marketing and has people that follow him around town to all of his shows even if they have to drive to the sticks. Book Randy.
Atmosphere: Restaurant patio. Great service. Pretty good cajun food.
Crowd: Karaoke regulars range from people in their 20s to 60s. A whole cast of characters from metal heads to Sinatra to Kenny Chesney fans.
Wait Time: Usually 15 minutes max. You can sing three or four times during a three hour period if you're inclined.
Best Karaoke Spot: The Old Crow
Best Karaoke DJ: David Coke
David is great. He keeps the night alive with his between-singer commentary. There seems to be a Dallas KJ community that all know each other. I met him through other KJs - he supports their shows on their nights by coming out and singing. He's a great singer and works for the Granada Theater when he's not KJing. Contact the The Old Crow for David's information.
Atmosphere: Dark does not begin to describe it. It's clean with wide open space, and a nice small stage.
Crowd: It's much larger now than when I first started going. The word has gotten out.
Wait Time: 20 minutes.
Best Karaoke Spot: Arcade Bar
Best Karaoke DJ: Dan Gargiulo
Sometimes going by the moniker "Pickled Evil," Dan is the funniest and most random of all the KJs I encountered. He sings some obscure songs between patrons in a low baritone voice. Dan is a smart (has a degree from Rice University) and quirky guy and is the epitome of all that is Lakewood where he does his show on Thursdays and Saturdays. He too supports other KJs and regularly shows up to Leslie's show at the Crown and Harp. Write on Dan's Facebook wall.
Atmosphere: Small hole-in-the-wall under the Balcony Club and next to Lakewood Theater.
Crowd: Laid back and Lakewoody. Very supportive, sing-along-types.
Wait Time: It can get busy later in the night. 15 - 20 minutes.
Best Karaoke Spot: One Nostalgia Place
Best Karaoke DJ: Nancy "Le Hat"
Nancy is a fun KJ that wears a signature cowboy hat and usually some sort of brightly colored pair of jeans (they were orange the last time I visited). She has her hands full with the older gentlemen that patron this spot. Book Nancy.
Atmosphere: Extremely divey, with pool, shuffle board, and old sports trophies.
Crowd: Much older crowd (30+ - 70+)
Wait Time: 15 - 20 minutes
Best Spot: Mckinney Avenue Tavern (The MAT)
Best Karaoke DJ: Varies
Atmosphere: Sports bar with lots of large plasma TVs and a high density of people and lines.
Crowd: Loud and boisterous Uptown crowd. You will see at least one bachelorette party, if not three or four, per weekend night.
Wait Time: 20+ minutes
A sampling of the songs I sang in alphabetical order:
Animal - Neon Trees
Away - Toadies
Bitter Sweet - Fuel
Blurry - Puddle of Mudd
Control - Puddle of Mudd
Don't Dream It's Over - Crowded House
Don't You Want Me - The Human League
Drive - Incubus
Everything Counts - Depeche Mode
Eyes Without a Face - Billy Idol
Hemorrhage (In my Hands) - Fuel
How Soon is Now - Morrissey
Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran
I Hate Everything About You - Three Days Grace
If You Could Only See - Tonic
In the Midnight Hour - Billy Idol
Interstate Love Song - Stone Temple Pilots
It's No Good - Depeche Mode
Killing Moon - Echo & the Bunnymen
Let's Dance - David Bowie
Possum Kingdom - Toadies
Rooster - Alice in Chains
Tear Away - Drowning Pool
Love My Way - Psychedelic Furs
Like a Stone - Audio Slave
My Own Worst Enemy - Lit
Promises, Promises - Naked Eyes
Rusty Cage - Soundgarden
Savior - Rise Against
Send the Pain Below - Chevelle
I'd also like to thank all the people that came on my Dallas karaoke quest over the last year when I wasn't flying solo: Frances Matteck (@FrancesMatteck), Danielle Glick (@Dallas_Foodie), Bev Garvin (@UrbanEpicurious), Bret Coccocia (@BretCo), Carrissa Hernandez (@TheCariland), Julie Proctor, Marcella Das, Jenny Vorochilova, Rob Carpenter (@RobMCarpenter), Jason Chanell (@El_Fenix), Jon Hall, Russell Miller, Nikki Taylor, Olivia Espinosa, Steven Espinosa, Brienna Becker (@BriennaMichelle) Christie Peucker (@30days30years), Chris Kopenec (@Lucky_Topher), Penny Sue Kim (@PennyKim), and last, but in no way least, Ty Griffin (@tygriffinETO ).
The following places won their respective nights, but closed in the length of time it took to investigate this article.
Backyard Beach Bar