For years, John Brophy has been a nightlife impresario without a nightclub.

Of course, he never seemed hindered. In 2013, his roving sing-along party, Baby Ketten, was declared "America's greatest karaoke night" in a glowing New York Times profile celebrating his technique for handcrafting instrumental tracks for alt-tunes otherwise unavailable or unwieldy. The sheer reach and consistency of his KJ empire might seem the best argument against tying one's star to the success of any brick-and-mortar concern.

But if Baby Ketten never needed a permanent home, the space that houses Brophy's new bar—a famously snake-bitten former poker room and downmarket disco on lower Southeast Powell Boulevard—certainly needed Baby Ketten.

(Rocky Burnside)
(Rocky Burnside)

While the food and drink options at Baby Ketten Klub revolve around fryer-friendly practicalities and sugary cocktails, there's a singular joy to reading lyrics off the wood-framed flat screens hung about the bar. Private rooms designed to accentuate sepia-tinged '70s swank or '80s chrome-chic aesthetics linger as impossibly lovely make-out rooms. The pinball- and video game-stocked entertainment center appears bizarrely misplaced, but the bar hopes to bring in a family-friendly crowd for limited access during early evening hours. In any event, eventually transforming an overlit prefab mini-arcade into the '90s Room should go smoothly.

(Rocky Burnside)
(Rocky Burnside)

All the same, despite Brophy's famously backward-leaning songbook, the tracks chosen on a recent Friday night weren't notably different from those at any other Portland karaoke night, and those few exceptions hardly advertised the benefits of more left-field song choices. Spectators respected anyone taking the craft seriously, but only truly put their hands together when a performer hit the precise measure of  proficiency and personality, no matter the track—see the roar when the husky post-punk nailed the high note in "Take On Me."

(Rocky Burnside)
(Rocky Burnside)

To paraphrase an early Stones B-side—offered, perhaps uniquely, by Baby Ketten—any success depends upon the singers, not the songs.

Three Baby Ketten Songs I Wish People Would Sing More, By John Brophy

1. Cibo Matto, “Birthday Cake”

The distorted screaming part always makes me happy.

2. Death Grips, “Get Got”

It's a pretty difficult song that I haven't heard attempted more than once: "Get get get get/got got got got" is stuck in my head always.

3. Todd Terje (with Bryan Ferry), “Johnny & Mary”

This amazing Robert Palmer cover includes the music video and it's beautiful and sprawling and I may have tears.

DRINK: Baby Ketten Klub, 2433 SE Powell Blvd., 503-444-7903, 8 pm-2:30 am daily.