What's a bar without music? An abomination, that's what. Tampa Bay area proprietors understand the importance of adding a melody to the drinking experience, and offer everything from live music to letting you be the DJ.
But only a handful really understand the magical unicorn of great drinking music: Karaoke.
Nothing goes better together with a pitcher of beer than a warbling version of Paradise City complete with awkward shuffle dancing. Whether you like an audience, want to show off for your closest friends or you want to sing in front of something truly risque, there's something to satisfy all tastes. A few Tampa Bay bars do it, differently, but all of them seem right.
The new karaoke kid on the block is Tampa Karaoke VIP Room (930 E Fletcher Ave.; facebook.com/tampakaraokevip), which has been open less than a year. It's a traditional Asian-style private room karaoke bar, complete with service buttons, couches, tambourines and multiple microphones. For $20 an hour — $10 at happy hour from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. — you and your closest friends can chug beer and wine and belt out a non-stop barrage of your favorite tunes without having to hear that weird guy's rendition of My Way.
Tampa Karaoke VIP Room's song selection features pop standards, K-Pop, J-Pop and digital monthly update of what's hot on radio. Owners went for a slick, modern setup with wall murals dedicated to singers, glass doors and plenty of performance space in the front of the room for the real showstoppers. Weekends are easier if you make reservations, but being open until 3 a.m. means the party can go on as long as you'd like to sing.
An old favorite, Wednesday night Pornaoke at the Pegasus Lounge (10008 N 30th St., Tampa; pegasusniteclub.com), is still alive and kicking with a diverse crowd with even more diverse musical tastes. At just after 11 p.m., Laser Ray cranks up the solo scenes of beautiful vixens making hardcore love to themselves as two pool games clatter on in the background. Singers do so for free at the smoky but still comfortable Pegasus, and Laser Ray accepts tips. The song choices range from Snoop Dogg to Cake, and no one feels pressure to match the mood of the very XXX video playing on the big screen behind them.
And for those who are looking for karaoke with the bells and whistles of rock stardom, St. Pete's Octave (661 Central Ave., octavestpete.com) is tough to beat. With a huge song selection that's even searchable on the bar's website, Octave is where the Bay area's most ambitious wailers take their show to engage the friendliest crowd in town. The full liquor bar, drink specials and promotions keep the liquid courage coming.
When you're sick of off-key anthems, Octave even weaves in performances by professionals — both local and touring — to keep the party going. And the mother of all karaokes, the live band performance, graces the Octave stage as well.
It's really up to how you feel each night. Sing however you want; there is a place for your terrible Baby Got Back, too.