Karaoke nights are like eating pizza: inconsistent, pretty cheesy, but when all the components meet in harmony, you've struck gold. These nights are somewhat of an enigma in the nightlife biz. The crowd turnout is usually pretty hit or miss, and it's hard to pinpoint the catalyst for a successful night versus an unsuccessful one.
So how do you define the best? We narrowed down the key characteristics of a good karaoke bar: entertainment value, crowd, quality of singers, music selection, sound quality, screen view-ability, MC/DJ, props, and even instruments.
Here are the Valley's best karaoke bars.
414 Pub & Pizza
414 South Mill Avenue, #118, Tempe
Many places are swallowed up in the roar of Mill Avenue, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, but not often 414 Pub & Pizza. The narrow pizza joint hosts raucous karaoke nights that you can often hear from the street thanks to a multitude of outdoor speakers. The song list is deep, and pro tip: You can jump on platforms behind the booths for extra showmanship during “Love Shack.” Karaoke starts at 9 p.m. daily.
Brigett's Last Laugh
17222 North Cave Creek Road
Go here if you're in need of a place to belt it out in the north Valley. At Brigett's, there are multiple screens, the sound quality is decent, and the interior is dark (although there was a disco ball). This karaoke night has the reputation for being one of the wilder ones out there. Karaoke starts at 9 p.m. every night.
4747 East Elliot Road, #2
If you’ve dreamed of ever singing with a live band, Cactus Jack's is going to be your kind of place. The Zen Lunatics host Rockaoke at Cactus Jack's every week. Rockaoke substitutes a DJ for a live cover band and gives bar patrons a chance to live out their inner rock star fantasy. Go full experience from 8:30 p.m. to midnight every Thursday night.
Ernie's in Scottsdale
10443 North Scottsdale Road
If you like a crowd, but don't want to deal with Old Town, go here. Ernie's karaoke space is pretty large and attracts a mixed crowd of young and old. The set-up at Ernie's is professional, with lighting, a large main screen, and four smaller screens hanging below each side of the square-shaped bar. An up-to-date sound system is in place, and there’s also an extensive song library. This sports-bar-meets-karaoke spot has been family-owned since 1973, and they welcome karaoke singers and spectators on a nightly basis starting at 8 p.m.
Geisha A Go-Go
7150 East Sixth Avenue, Scottsdale
To change things up a bit, we recommend Geisha A Go-Go for that private karaoke experience. There’s free private karaoke from 3 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and weekends until 7 p.m. There are also some rules in place, like minimum spending requirements and a two-hour minimum rental for private rooms during primetime karaoke, when a fee structure applies.
The Grapevine Restaurant & Karaoke Bar
4013 North Brown Avenue, Scottsdale
Grapevine has been a long-standing top pick for karaoke in the Valley. The two-story bar and restaurant offers patios upstairs and down, with the main bar, seating, and karaoke inside the downstairs portion of the venue. Go on a Saturday and the place will be packed wall-to-wall. Grapevine seems to attract an older, rowdy crowd of decent singers and the usual bachelorette party scene. Karaoke happens nightly from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and till 2 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
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3110 North Central Avenue, #125
If you love karaoke but aren't into dives, Kobalt is a lively gay bar tucked away off Central Avenue in Park Central Mall. They offer a fun and friendly karaoke night, where the crowd is definitely there to sing. The songbook has plenty of showtunes, Disney songs, and '80s hits. There's also free popcorn and condoms at the door. Karaoke goes from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and Thursdays in season.
3223 South Mill Avenue, Tempe
Most bar-hosted karaoke nights are more or less slapped together, but at Monkey Pants, the practice is a major staple of their weekly calendar. Held Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at 8 p.m. till close, Monkey Pants offer their singers and drinkers a full stage — complete with that Roseanne living room aesthetic — two mic stands, multiple screens from which to see the lyrics, a spotlight, and a disco ball. All in all, karaoke at the Pants is not for the faint of heart. Get ready for same local renditions of Tool, Notorious B.I.G., and pretty much everything from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Palo Verde Lounge
1015 West Broadway Road, Tempe
This Tempe dive doesn’t necessarily scream karaoke bar, but if you stop by on a Monday night — oh, you’ll hear screaming all right. The recently launched Monday night karaoke events put some familiar Palo faces on the other side of the bar to emcee as patrons try their hand at everything from Weezer to Blondie to oldies and beyond. But remember to bring your billfold, as Palo Verde Lounge is cash only at the bar. Karaoke starts at 9 p.m., and there’s never a cover charge. See the Palo Verde Lounge Facebook page for up-to-date information.
940 North Alma School Road, #109, Chandler
Dig a sports-bar setting? Dig singing in a sports-bar setting even more? Stadium Club sports bar offers karaoke every night but Monday. The bar itself is pretty big, with pool tables and games in the back, separate from the main karaoke area. Karaoke starts at 9 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday nights.