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Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Glaring Oversight in the New York Times' Coverage of Portland's Karaoke Scene

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM

I'm a big fan of Dan Kois' writing, and so for once I'm not gonna groan about seeing a story about Portland in the New York Times.

Even if that story—about Portland's popular Baby Ketten karaoke—does pose the question: "Is it possible that one of the most exciting music scenes in America is happening right now in Portland, and it doesn’t feature a single person playing an actual instrument?"

No, I don't think that's really possible, for the simple reason that I'm not sure a scene is defined solely by its participants, and karaoke isn't much of a spectator sport. A karaoke crowd is like a terrible conversationalist, never listening, always waiting for her turn to talk. But I like this piece, because it makes Portland's nightlife sound goofy and fun, instead of smug and elitist and full of people who bike-churn their own butter, which is how the New York Times usually makes us sound.

I've spent my fair share of time at Portland's karaoke bars—as an accomplice to Laura Hudson's 7-Day Karaoke-A-Thon Blogtown series—and on the periphery of the admittedly cult-like Baby Ketten scene. (Laura—whose social media updates about Portland karaoke inspired Kois' trip to Portland—also profiled Baby Ketten's John Brophy.) Kois perfectly captures the weird, fleeting euphoria of a fun karaoke night, as well as the way karaoke becomes a curiously self-affirming pursuit for some people. If there isn't already a karaoke-based self-help book out there... well, give it a year.

But I do have one question: How does any article about Portland karaoke fail to include mention of my boss Wm. Steven Humphrey's rendition of Taylor Swift's "Never Getting Back Together"???? You better believe I'm working on a letter to the editor.

In the mean time, can we have this printed on our state flag?

Mulkern swept his long hair over his shoulders and put his top hat back on. “People in Portland,” he declared, “are sillier than in other places.”

Read the article, if you like.

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