Karaoke Underground is the kind of event that almost perfectly defines the Austin experience. With an ever-growing list currently at over 500 songs, Karaoke Underground does for punk and indie music what normal bar karaoke has been doing for pop-rock standards for decades. Feel like singing Iggy Pop? They’ve got it. Got a hankerin’ to belt out a little Fugazi? They’ve got it. The Descendants, Bad Religion, They Might Be Giants, Modest Mouse, The Mountain Goats, they’ve got it and you can sing it.
Last night ended up at Nomad bar for Karaoke Underground with my girlfriend Libby and my buddy George, but it wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been to KU a couple times before, once at Nomad and another time at Dive on Guadalupe. For a karaoke junky like me, who also loves punk and indie music, it’s always a great experience. It’s one thing for me to belt out Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” at the Canary Roost on any given Saturday night, but being able to give At The Drive-In’s “Transatlantic Foe” the same treatment is another thing altogether. I always feel like something of a minor indie celebrity when I come off stage KU, where songs that would garner quizzical glares at any other karaoke venue (were they even on offer) are crowd pleasers. Making the whole experience feel that much more inviting is KU’s host (and co-founder) Kaleb. I’ve never signed up for a song that he didn’t sound extraordinarily excited about hearing me sing and I’ve never come off stage without hearing his enthusiastic cheers behind me. I’d like to think that I’m just that good, but I think it may be more accurate to say that Kaleb just loves KU and the music he’s configured for use during the performances just that much.
My set last night was composed of a fairly conservative collection of songs for me. For instance, I didn’t try to sing The Dismemberment Plan’s “Back and Forth” this time, although the last time I did, I didn’t quite fall on my face. I started the night off with the aforementioned “Transatlantic Foe”, the closer to At The Drive-In’s In/Casino/Out Album. My next time up I did Jawbreaker’s “Do You Still Hate Me” and I closed out my night with none other than Hot Snake’s “Plenty For All”. I haven’t been to KU as much as I’ve wanted to since discovering it last summer, but every time I go I enjoy myself. It’s a nice break from the usual karaoke scene for those of us who lean more toward the punk and indie spectrum of music and like so much else in Austin, the people running it as well as the people who turn out are great company. Whether you live in Austin or are just passing through, I highly recommend checking Karaoke Underground out. I guarantee a good time.