“Let’s go sing karaoke” is a phrase that’s never commanded before 7PM — it’s a late night afterthought fueled by cheap sake and several liters of Sapporo. It’s an idea that pleases a slim audience, but when blood alcohol levels rise and inhibitions are lost, a gaggle of off-key enthusiasts can be found making its way toward Tokyo Beat.
Up on the second floor of the Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo, Tokyo Beat is a karaoke bar where Star Search dreams are reawakened and moments of social suicide never go unnoticed. At any given moment the mic can be found gripped within the palm of a singer — in passion or in fear — as he or she bellows the illuminated lyrics on screen. For a small bar, these performances are intimate, exclusive, and sometimes off-putting. The crowd can react with an applaud or in an uproar at the helm of every crescendo — and the volatility is enchanting. Patrons who take the mic give it their best and sing like nothing matters, eyes closed and wide stance, because in that moment nobody cares what others think and that’s the right attitude for a great bar.
On Friday and Saturday nights, karaoke is hosted in the main room but for those who prefer to make a fool out of themselves in front of a select group of friends, there are two private rooms available to rent any day of the week. In the comfort of your own torment, select through a binder full of oldies and top 40 songs and sing like nobody has ever told you ‘no.’ But when your confidence starts to go dry, reach for the button in the middle of a table and summon a waiter to bring you an additional 8oz glass of courage. You’ll soon find out after a few back to back performances, vocal chords may get sore and spectators may get bitter, so take a break and soothe yourself with a bowl of steaming hot ramen prepared fresh from the kitchen. Let the sodium kick in and queue up another song.
DJs turn up the main room Sunday-Thursday and comedy night on Mondays. With a dance floor so modest, it just takes a couple people to get the crowd going. There will be B-boys, there will be shuffling, and there will be attempts at The Sprinkler. All sweat, no blood. Open daily from 8:30pm-3am, Tokyo Beat isn’t necessarily a group effort. Roll in solo and enjoy the free entertainment. After all, the American Idol auditions were the best part of the show.
Written by Janica de Guzman
Photographed by Eric Cacioppo