Karaoke in San Francisco

On my last night in San Francisco, I went out to a pizza restaurant with my immediate team; Delarosa is a mostly orange pizzeria near Market Street, where the only meat on pizza is pig-based, although that’s of little concern to me directly, and the crusts are just slightly thicker than I like (using Tokyo’s Pizza Strada as my gold standard). Thinking on it now, perhaps the reason they offer an orange wheat beer is to conform with their colour scheme. Even if it does come in a white and seafoam coloured can.

After dinner, I had planned to go back to the hotel to pack, or, if honest, I was scheming on going to watch Resident Evil at the cinema (I think this may have been the same cinema I saw Scary Movie in 2000, which shows a lamentable and consistent lack of taste on my part). But a friend from the New York office reached out to see if I wanted to get a drink, and as luck would have it he was sat in the restaurant next to Delarosa, so after the rest of my team had gone off to be sensible, I dropped by for a gin and tonic. My friend was there with two other colleagues, one of whom was sensibly going home to sleep.

After a couple, the remaining three of us trooped up to the bar on the top of the Hilton, and part way through another gin and tonic and while discussing how English may have adopted more words from India than China or Japan, the word “karaoke” was mentioned and a neon sign switched on in my head. Before much longer, we were in Ivy, a karaoke joint a long way up Market, and not karaoke as it’s understood in the East, small, civilised booths. No, this was Western karaoke, drunks massacring popular music.

I checked the big book of songs, and was astounded to find Chas and Dave’s “Rabbit” was listed. It’s some sort of strange miracle that a pair of Cockney muckers should end up being available in karaoke joints on both coasts of America (back in 2011, just after we got married, my wife and I were in a Korean karaoke joint in New York and I was singing the same song). What is the appeal to Americans of this deracinated music hall turn?

Not very much, it turns out, as the DJ noted afterwards, wiping tears of laughter from his cheeks. In twenty years, nobody has ever requested that song before. Well, you don’t say.

After that and a mandatory rendition of “Let It Go” we decamped to a second karaoke joint (Japanese, in the basement of a restaurant) where we had an hour in the Hokkaido room before we got kicked out, and then back to another search for karaoke, which ended up with us at a trans bar at kicking out time (San Francisco shuts at 2am on a Thursday, apparently) which Google claims has karaoke but looked more burlesque than that. They were very helpful recommending alternatives (the Silvercloud is rumoured to dispense all night karaoke) but at this point sense prevailed, and we all returned to our hotels.

As hoped and expected, packing is much faster and more efficient when you’re three sheets to the wind. I hope when I reopen my suitcase I won’t be too disappointed with the results.


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