In most instances, a night out singing karaoke offers an opportunity to howl a few songs with friends, basically to show how low your inhibitions can get after a few drinks. In Music City, however, sometimes it can feel like a showcase for some extremely talented singers who are apparently looking to score a recording contract. While some karaokists do take their hobby dead seriously, there are still plenty of spots in Nashville where girls (and boys) just wanna have fun.
Open until 3:00 a.m. most nights inside the rollicking Tequila Cowboy on Lower Broad, WannaB’s Karaoke Bar offers the most extravagant karaoke experience downtown. You’re not just tucked into some dark corner under a single light bulb when you get your name drawn out of the hat to sing your song at WannaB’s. Instead, expect a full-on performance experience with a raised stage, professional lighting and a large dance floor full of supportive fans clapping and wailing along with the brave singers who grace the stage. In between songs, trained Karaoke Jockeys (KJs) who are often professional singers in their own right keep the party pumping with their renditions of popular songs. They’re also helpful and supportive to the more timid volunteers that need a little push to show out on stage.
Santa’s Pub is a local favorite in a neighborhood near the Fairgrounds where most tourists would never even think to venture. But if you want to experience karaoke in its purest form, this is the place to hang. The building is basically a humble doublewide trailer where it’s Christmas every day thanks to the gloriously tacky holiday decorations and murals that stay up all year. The proprietor does indeed resemble St. Nick, but his real name is Denzel. (Don’t bother calling him that. He answers to “Santa” when he’s on duty.) Santa does enforce a few rules: the bar is cash only (there’s an ATM if you need it) they only serve beer because Santa says “whiskey makes people stupid,” and there’s no cussin’ in Santa’s bar. Basically, be nice! The small stage hosts karaoke every evening, and there’s a live band on Sunday nights before the amateurs take the stage if you want something to compare yourself to.
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The Lipstick Lounge in East Nashville is the city’s favorite “alternative” karaoke bar. The vibe is equally welcoming to same sex or opposite sex couples, or singles or any size group that’s looking to enjoy cold beer, fantastic cocktails, live bands and entertaining karaoke performances. The Lipstick Lounges prides itself on creating a supportive environment. Thursdays are the specific night of the week when the patrons take over the stage to sing, so if you’re looking for a place to try out your pipes in front of an audience that will lift you up instead of tearing you down, take a trip to Lipstick City.
While no less friendly than The Lipstick Lounge, Lonnie’s Western Room can be one of those places where folks get pretty darned serious about their karaoke. So don’t be intimidated if the singer before you shows up in full Nudie Suit regalia to deliver a note-perfect version of a Marty Robbins’ song. Just steps from legendary Printers Alley, Lonnie’s attracts visitors from all over the world to share the tiny stage with cases of liquor and beer bottles waiting to restock the busy bar, and they’re open to just about any genre of music from country to rock to hip hop. Don’t believe us yet? Check out this video of Jimmy Fallon on stage during a visit to Lonnie’s howling out a Doors song just like any other brave and happy patron.
Fran’s Eastside Tavern is definitely a neighborhood hang, but visitors can feel right at home too, as long as they don’t mind a good old smokey dive bar where folks sing karaoke with abandon. Don’t go for the food at this cash-only establishment; popcorn and buckets of cold long-neck beers are the standard fare. But you’re here for the entertainment, right? And also to be part of the show by singing your own version of your favorite song. Another pro user tip: walk in the side door instead of the front unless you want to find yourself walking directly on the stage before you’ve primed yourself with a couple bottles of “liquid courage.”
Ms. Kelli started out as a cocktail waitress in Printers Alley in the early ‘90’s and has stuck around the the party block ever since. Now the proprietress at Ms. Kelli’s Karaoke Bar, she runs one of the best shows in town where you provide the entertainment. In addition to DJs, comedy nights, a big dance floor and one of the best sound systems in town, Ms. Kelli’s offers a full bar of affordable cocktails, beers and shots to get you in the mood to jump up on stage. Bring your A-game though, because there is often some serious talent to compete with!
While every floor of Alan Jackson’s AJ’s Good Time Bar offers fantastic entertainment featuring all sorts of the singer’s memorabilia and some of the best live music in town, you’re the star on the third floor. Karaoke kicks off every night at 7:00 and attracts a more mature crowd than some of the other multi-story party complexes on Lower Broad. Perhaps the older crowd is attracted to the fact that the building that houses AJ’s is the oldest in the neighborhood. It acted as a hospital during the Civil War and through the years was home to Nashville’s first used record store and to Bullet Records, a label from the 1940’s. Channel the history and the music through your performance to put on the show of your life!