Karaoke, long a tradition in Japan, has finally clawed its way across the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, found its way to the Schuylkill River and died on the front step of the city we call home. Philly just picked up its remains and peppered a little American culture onto the brilliant tradition. Philadelphia, unlike Japan, may not have a karaoke bar open until 6 a.m., but some of the spots that have picked up karaoke one or two nights a week provide an amusing musical, adventure.
913 Arch St.
Go ahead, get a room. At Remi KTV the rooms are cheap. Just bring your vocal chords and some friends.
In Chinatown between 9th and 10th and Arch Streets, Remi KTV is a Chinese-run karaoke hangout with rooms by the hour and $3 bubble teas and $1 sodas instead of cocktails.
“If you want to see the more updated karaoke rooms, you have to go to Asia,” Andrew Lee of Remi KTV said. “This is very basic.”
Basic or not, Remi KTV has all that is needed for a cheap night of self-provided entertainment.
At first glance, the spot seems minimally furnished with an entrance holding only a bar top, stools and a picture here or there. But its hallway is filled with noise, and its karaoke machine with four different languages.
“We have Chinese songs in two dialects and Korean, Japanese and American, too,” Lee said. “We get quite a few Americans, and the [karaoke machine] menu is in Chinese, so I have to help them.”
Remi KTV has seven rooms ranging from small to VIP. A small room holds six or seven people and a VIP room holds up to 20.
Each room is equipped with a karaoke machine, a flat screen and, depending on the rooms size, a fluctuating number of couches and tables.
Room prices depend on the day and time. The cheapest rate is offered on weekdays, with small rooms starting at $8 an hour. The most expensive rate is a weekend night, with VIP rooms at $60 an hour.
Their busiest hours typically fall on weekends, which is when the place gets very crowded, according to Lee.
“Getting by in the hallway is really hard when it is busy,” Lee said. “When all the rooms are packed, it’s a madhouse.”
For some clean, fun singing with friends or a last-call pit stop, Remi KTV is a good place to hang out in.
Remi KTV is open for karaoke Monday through Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 3 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 a.m.
202 S. 13th St.
It was a Monday night at Woody’s, and everyone was out – some in more ways than one.
A boyish, twentysomething took the stage. He gleamed in his taut, white, slim-fitting denims. He takes one look at the words streaming across the karaoke screen and decided that he had words of his own.
“I see the boys walk by dressed in their summer clothes,” he said singing, with a half-grin on his face.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards may have not been singing about boys, but a lot of the boys at Woody’s are.
Located on 13th Street in the middle of the “gayborhood,” a Monday night trip to Woody’s promises a disco ball, a drag queen and a crowd pickled with cocktails.
“It needs a drag queen to spice it up,” karaoke host DJ Salotta Tea said, laughing. “We bring the happy back into gay.”
Tea, bedecked in black leather knee-high boots, a minidress and teased red hair to match her spunky attitude, is a perfect fit for the mixed crowd.
“I’m already a diva,” she said. “I’m here to help them be divas.”
One of the regular Woody’s divas is self proclaimed singer, dancer, comedian and model Barbara Rocco of South Philadelphia, who sings every Monday night, in a heavily applauded show.
“I have been developing more of a style with karaoke; more-so than with a band,” Rocco said. “The gay community has been very enthusiastic.”
With a club-like atmosphere and a lot of hidden talent, Woody’s karaoke night is a night to entertain or be entertained.
From 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., Woody’s hosts karaoke
every Monday night.
McGillin’s Old Ale House
1310 Drury St.
They can be heard from around the corner, blasting off entire sets of Journey, Johnny Cash, Madonna, Oasis and the occasional Kelly Clarkson. They are the karaoke buffs. Grouped in twos, sixes, and some in fifteens, they are the McGillin’s karaoke crowd. The bar and tables are filled with domestic
pitchers, and so is the crowd.
“It’s one of our best nights,” manager Kate Newcomer said. “All the young people come in for the pitchers.”
Located at 1310 Drury St., between Chestnut and Sansom streets, McGillin’s Old Ale House is like a club you belong to as soon as you walk in the door. Manager Kate Newcomer might even remember your name.
“See that girl on stage in the blue?” she asked. “That’s Amy. She’s a Park Ranger.”
College students and professional twenty-somethings pack the bar, united in their drinking habits. Some look to be entertained, others embarrassed and a few with vocal chords to boast.
“We have a lot of really good regulars who are really serious about the karaoke,” Newcomer said.
Park Ranger Amy McDougall is a Wednesday and Friday night karaoke regular, but she comes for the singing.
“I love to sing,” McDougall said. “[McGillin’s] is an outlet for my passion of singing.”
With a combination of drinking patrons and singing talent who exploit themselves for the entertainment of others, this is a staple Philadelphia karaoke bar.
McGillin’s hosts karaoke both Wednesday and Friday nights from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Jillian Bauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.