Five St. Louis Karaoke Bars in Five Days: The Diary of a Sing-Along Addict

When the KJ finally returns, my friend practically jumps him to ask where we can find the songbooks and request slips. The response: The songs are listed online, and you can just walk up and tell him what you want whenever you feel like it.

Whatever. We tell him our songs, and after another twenty minutes, we're finally treated to some singing -- by the KJ. My professional KJ brain is exploding, but I'm determined not to fink on my challenge this first night. Finishing his song by the fake INXS of the mid-2000s, the KJ calls one of my friends up to sing some MGMT. Our relief is short-lived, however, because the KJ again heads outside immediately afterward. I dramatically slump over the table until he returns to summon me at 11:21 p.m. Ready for this nightmare to be over, I perform my song, barely noting that the sound is way too loud but the large wall-mounted monitor is easy on the eyes. My friends are waiting to leave the second I put down the mic. I love them.

Night 2: Just John Nightclub, 4112 Manchester

Bias: I've never had a bad time with Teh Gayz.
Chance of return: Sunny, with a chance of rainbows.

After a horrible first night, I figure showtunes at Just John will keep my experimental karaoke train from crashing. I give myself a midnight curfew and head to the Grove, where my friends grab a table at 10 p.m., pick up a songbook and start submitting requests to the KJ. When the first eight singers select '90s R&B love songs, I worry that my expectations for a peppy evening are misplaced, but we're soon rewarded with an inspired rendition of CeCe Peniston's "Finally." The KJ calls me up at 11:10 -- not bad, considering the high number of singers out on a Tuesday. Many of the JJ patrons sing along fiercely with my Alanis imitation and hug me afterward. I feel your pain, ladies, I feel your pain.

My friends are summoned for their turns, and the crowd joins us in cheering for their versions of Queen and Justin Timberlake. Yeah, we know our audience. We head back to our table to dig further through the songbook and watch more of Logo TV's That Sex Show on the flat screens. In the meantime, I'm impressed with the singers' confidence, jealous of their prowess at doing Michael Jackson moves without falling off the stage.

The KJ keeps the show moving without much video filler between songs, and I'm called up three more times. One friend finally forces my hand with some Broadway action, and as we perform "Suddenly Seymour," my mind flashes back to that one episode of Head of the Class. Filled with good cheer and good booze, the bar sings along, and I can't lie -- the effect is kind of magical. A gay friend dubs the night "Fairy-oke," and I declare Just John my favorite place ever. We're definitely over the rainbow in the best way possible.

By the way, fuck that curfew. Our happy asses are shutting the place down.

Night 3: Double D's Karaoke, 1740 S. Brentwood

Bias: Sleepy-crabby and expecting the worst.
Chance of return: Pretty high on a Wednesday, but hell no to other nights.

I'm freaking tired. I've had a full day of client meetings and networking events with no time for dinner, and I'm not excited about going all the way out to a place that had wall-to-wall cougar/frat boy action the last time I was there. Besides, my body is still screaming at me from last night's Just John party, and I really want to get this over with so I can crash at home like the old lady I am. Grrr, argh.

I join my friends at Double D's shortly before 9 p.m. anyway, wondering how the hell the twentysomethings do this "party every night" thing. Inside, I get a little hopeful for the evening -- there aren't many people here, and no one my mom's age is sucking face with a newbie. Wow, it's a completely different atmosphere here on a Wednesday! Buoyed with the knowledge that it won't take long for me to get on the stage, my mood brightens. We take a table at the front, order some drinks and garlic fries and start paging through the songbooks, which are newly printed and brilliantly clean. So far, so good.

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