Best Karaoke Crowd: Where zealous fanaticism is a good thing
Once you get outside the joyously overblown, prepackaged world of American Idol, it's hard to find a place whose every aspect -- down to the too-bright orange-and-yellow booths and the sweeping dancefloor -- is worth describing in superlatives. That is, until you discover Kimball's Carnival, the giant Jack London Square club whose Friday night karaoke event -- which has garnered a regular following via word of mouth alone -- is the closest thing you'll find to Idol-style pageantry here in the East Bay. And dude, the regulars are a trip. Ninety-nine percent of the time they're worth their salt -- good enough, at least, to give Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood a run for their money. And they comprise an interesting cast of characters to boot: weepy women who've mastered the whole melismatic-trill-endlessly-over-a-single-note thing; older guys who like to bum-rush the stage; even a fledgling anthropologist and erstwhile chanteuse who says she's writing a book on karaoke in the 'hood. The best singers have such a wallop that you'll feel as though you walked onto the set of Purple Rain, or The Wiz at the moment Diana Ross is coming to the peak of a crescendo. Their performances are gleefully and sometimes frighteningly over the top -- but that's how karaoke should be, right?