I have never been a forthcoming karaoker. In fact, until very recently, I was downright terrified to get onstage at the Galaxy or Chopsticks and belt one out in front of Portland's late-night hipster glitterati. I was happy to grab a bourbon and cheer my friends on, but I very seldom scrawled my own name on one of those paper slips and took to the mic. I had karaoke stage fright—until I discovered private karaoke rooms.
My first experience at a “karaoke box”—the most popular type of karaoke venue in Asia, according to Wikipedia—took place during a visit to Boston last spring. I went in totally sober and less than enthused; I came out totally exhilarated and wishing the place was open all night. Sure, private karaoke's hallmarks—no audience (besides your immediate group), no booze (really, no booze!) and small, performance-limiting spaces—probably sound awkward, or at least less fun, to the average American karaoke fan. But if you're relatively reserved, like me, those aspects are a relief. They're why I actually sang that night in Boston—and why I've been searching for private karaoke in Portland ever since.
Then, a few months ago, a WW intern mentioned having once “karaoke-boxed” in the Southwest 'burbs. I went on a mad Google hunt and found Rumor Karaoke Studio in downtown Beaverton. Marked by a purple saxophone logo (what else?) on its illuminated sign, Rumor features seven rooms—the largest of which comfortably hosts 15—complete with wraparound couches, modest, slightly elevated stages and walls blacklight-painted with scenes ranging in motif from aquarial to celestial. Owner Ray Kim says the quaint space, which has been open for nine years, attracts everyone from Portland twentysomethings to local teens and grade-school birthday parties. He charges eager crooners $25 an hour (not bad with a bigger group and no bar tab) to dim the lights, enjoy the tropical vacation- and sailing-themed videos, grab that giant remote and forage through the mostly Asian-language songbook.
But that's part of the awesomeness, really: The in-English songs are so limited that you're forced to just find something you know and go with it—which, if you're me, leads you to singing mostly the Beatles, butt-rock and early Madonna (turns out “Cherish” is totally my song). Rumors, like a karaoke practice space, boils the act down to the basics, removing the hamming-it-up-factor of an audience and the courage-adding bar. Then again, despite the “No Alcohol” sign in the lobby, there seems to be a don't ask/don't tell policy in effect; either that, or the employees thought I was expecting a 40-shaped baby on a recent visit. Best of all, Rumor champions what's fun about karaoke in the first place: singing!
Rumor Karaoke Studio, 12770 SW 1st St., Beaverton, 644-2727, is open 6 pm-2 am Monday-Thursday, until 4 am Friday and Saturday, and until 1 am Sundays. $25 per hour. All ages. Photo: by Tom Oliver.