Karaoke fad takes off in area bars

Owners of local bars said they welcome the extra business karaoke brings.

SBY Megan Dejaeger
Special to the Daily
Several area bars and restaurants cater to students on school nights, offering a wide array of drink, food and music specials to bring in business.

But some university students said karaoke is taking off on campus in place of the cheap drinks or appetizers that most establishments use to lure students on traditionally slower weeknights.

“My friends made me do it,” said Katie Meyer, a University of Illinois student and first-time karaoke singer, after taking the stage to perform a rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Bobby Magee” at Burrito Loco in Dinkytown.

“I am a performer, and I felt like karaoke was kind of a joke, but it’s fun,” she said.

Meyer is not the only one joining the fun. Students and bar-goers are patronizing an increasing number of karaoke venues. Anywhere from Dinkytown to Roseville, Minn., dozens of establishments are giving patrons the chance to buy a few drinks and sing their favorite songs.

For Katrina Kranchenko, a University of Minnesota psychology student, the number of times she sings depends on how many people attend, she said.

“Karaoke seems to be the only thing hot right now,” said Kranchenko, a repeat karaoke performer at Blarney Pub and Grill. “If I am lucky, I can sing five times, if I am here early. If I am not so lucky, four.”

Happy singers means big business

The owners of these businesses said they welcome the patronage karaoke brings.

“Attendance (is) around 500 people on Thursdays, close to the same amount on weekend nights,” said Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney Pub and Grill.

The pub, along with several other establishments that feature karaoke nights, offers drink specials – or in some cases, free drinks – to singers on these nights. Mulrooney said the popularity of karaoke stems from the combination of these “drink specials and the atmosphere of the staff.”

Pete Koski, who watched singers perform at the pub but did not take the stage himself, said, “Alcohol is key. Do you think there was karaoke during prohibition?”

Even Goldy’s Gameroom in Coffman Union has recognized karaoke’s popularity, offering singers free fountain drinks every Thursday night.

During Homecoming Week, Goldy’s Gameroom hosted “Gopher Idol,” an “American Idol” spoof that had students competing in a karaoke contest. Ben Vogel, recreational facilities manager of Coffman Union, said “it was extremely well-attended, with 500 or more students there.”

Some enjoy watching, others live for the rush.

Jodi Ludwigson, a psychology student and bartender at Sportsman’s Pub, said the karaoke nights “definitely provide a different atmosphere than on other nights.” She said there’s a group of regulars that arrives before karaoke starts.

“By 11:30, it gets pretty busy,” she said. “The karaoke room can definitely get packed.”

Many said karaoke nights are as fun for the nonsingers as they are for those holding the microphone. Koski said part of the draw is a singer’s lack of talent.

“It’s fun to laugh at the people that suck,” he said.

Molly Kennefick, a family social science senior, said she agreed.

“I like to hear people who sing worse than me,” she said.

Drew Druckrey, an Augsburg College student and first-time karaoke singer, said karaoke is about having a good time.

“Not everyone is good at it. (We) just came in to have a drink and didn’t realize there was karaoke,” he said.

Druckrey returned to the stage several times throughout the evening.

For others, karaoke’s appeal has nothing to do with appearing like a fool, but with the rush of performing.

“You get up there and start singing, and it’s just like singing at a concert,” said University of Minnesota graduate Ryan Lear, who sings in a band.

Former University of Minnesota student Jules Jeffrey said, “It’s definitely a rush. I don’t do drugs or alcohol, but I do karaoke.”

– Freelance Editor Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]