by Josh Gross
January was a ghost town for live music in Boise. That turned out to be a great thing for the other kind of live music: karaoke. And that turned out to be a great thing for Neurolux, which needed something to put on stage. And that turned out to be drunken blowhards doing what they do best: belligerent covers of '80s music.
To begin with, Neurolux has all the benefits of a concert venue: a stage, good sound equipment, a dance floor and a culture of interest. The only other remotely similar space in town is Humpin' Hannah's karaoke on Thursdays, but the Neurolux crowd is more likely than the Hannah's to bust out a variety of hip modern classics.
An active audience improves the singing experience, which also generally improves the singing. It makes it more fun for everybody. And since Neurolux is already widely known as a late-night dance destination, the effect of the bar's recent forays into karaoke have been large-scale dance parties lorded over by a rotating cast of flamboyant singers instead of a DJ. Instead of being intermittently painful, karaoke at the Neurolux is great fun, even for people who usually go out of their way to avoid it.
It helps that the KJ hired to run Neurolux karaoke is Marty Zahn, whose high-quality equipment and books and professional demeanor make karaoke nights at Ha' Penny, Eastside Tavern and Old Chicago run so smoothly.
So far, karaoke at 'Lux has gone over so well, that the wait times to sing can be up to an hour, which is less than ideal. But that's the price one pays for attending a popular, well-run k-night. But If karaoke nights at the Neurolux have any substantial flaw, it's that not all of the singers yet really grasp the potential of the dance party atmosphere. Songs like "Total Eclipse of the Heart," and "Brand New Key," are moving classics but they don't do as much to get the party started as something from Billy Idol or even Marvin Gaye. While songs from Bonnie Tyler and Melanie may be well-suited to sit-down venues and dive bars, a packed dance floor is a hungry monster that demands sustenance. It eats driving beats and anthemic singalong choruses. It is bigger than just the singers urge to channel Meredith Brooks ("Bitch") and should be respected. If karaoke-crooners want to bare their souls, that's great, and there's no shortage of shitholes offering karaoke that are eager to sop up their tortured genius. But Neurolux ain't the place for it.
Still, even with the occasional flop in song choice, the electric atmosphere and high-quality infrastructure of Neurolux's karaoke nights have catapulted it high in the rankings of Boise's karaoke offerings. And since it has gone well so far, it appears Neurolux is going to keep it up as a go-to stage-filler on off nights. Well done, January. Well done.