In Japanese, karaoke literally means “Empty Orchestra.” In Montreal, karaoke means empty shot glasses and making a fool of yourself for the enjoyment of your friends and many strangers. Montreal not only has a few iconic and dedicated Karaoke bars, but lots of bars have weekly or monthly karaoke nights!
Before I present the list, here are a few Karaoke tips to consider: 1.) We will not survive if you do “I Will Survive”. Yes it’s classic karaoke, but just please not again! 2.) Keep it under four minutes. With Don McLean’s “American Pie” clocking in at 8 minutes and 37 seconds, you’ll be wishing you picked a shorter song come the 7th verse after the novelty of your wailing rendition wears off and the crowd gets bored and starts booing. 3.) Celine is Queen in Quebec Karaoke. Do her proud.
La Boîte à Karaoké (2071 Sainte-Catherine West): This place is located amongst some of the best Asian food in city (yes, some foodies will argue even better than Chinatown proper) and let me tell you, they’ve perfected the formula for karaoke. Cheap Pitchers + Huge Music List + Rowdy Regulars = no shame, all fun karaoke experience. La Boite a Karaoke is like a happy neighbourhood jukebox. Try: Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” (The Glee Version).
Lipster @ Royal Phoenix (5788 Saint-Laurent): Hosted by the most glam duo in the Montreal Queer scene, Michael and Julie (Julie also hosts the insanely fun Bingo night at Royal Phoenix), Lipster drains all pretension out of Karaoke and just has a good time. They get you loose with their $4 Pabst tallboys or 5 shots for $10 specials and then puts a microphone in the hands of anyone who wants their Idol moment. Group sing-alongs very common.
Pang Pang (1226 Mackay): Love it, hate it, Pang Pang is a Concordia area institution and doesn’t really care what you think. Seriously, the woman at the front desk literally could not care less, but this place is fun regardless. Pang Pang is one of those “private room” karaoke places. The list is so extensive you might spend more time trying to decide what to sing than actually singing. At least you can enjoy strong drinks (available by pressing a button to call the waiter) and dance on the table because nobody is going to judge you. Some people call Pang Pang way overpriced, but some people argue it’s worth the hefty bill. Watch the 2011 Queer of the Year contestants break it down at Pang Pang!
Club Date Karaoke and Piano Bar (1218 Sainte-Catherine East): Club Date is all about balance. On one side this place is not the best looking, washrooms could use a good scrubbing, and the bartender needs an attitude adjustment. But on the other side the crowd is friendly, I made more friends in one hour than I had made all month, and the regulars who come here can actually belt out a tune and give the original artist a run for their money. People are relaxed and into the music, so if you’re killing a song, you’ll have people run up and join you on stage to be the wind beneath your wings. Even though it’s located in the heart of the Gay Village, the crowd is very mixed with straights, gays, and the odd drag queen.
Hip Hop Karaoke @ The Belmont (4483 Saint-Laurent): Maybe you want to throw down and show those haters what you’re made of, or maybe you just want a hearty giggle. Either way, Hip Hop Karaoke is returning to Montreal on November 15. This monthly event is where the stage is set and the audience is ready for some action. Have you got what it takes to reign Hip Hop’s Karaoke King? Try: Eminem’s “8 Mile”.