In spite of its name, Karaoke Kafe offers a lot more than singing. "We're like Sun Studios meets American Bandstand," says co-owner Brian Leviticus. Leviticus, who only uses his stage name, has a black goatee braided into two inverted horns on either side of his chin and looks more like the lead singer of a death-metal band than the owner of a karaoke club.
Karaoke Kafe, which opened a couple weeks ago at 26 South Main, is a recording studio with full CD and DVD capabilities, a restaurant offering lunch and finger foods, a coffee shop, a wireless Internet cafe, a late-night music store, an art gallery, and, obviously, a karaoke bar. You can even bring items to post on eBay, and Leviticus and co-owner Dan Graves will do the selling.
But the cafe's specialty remains karaoke. Patrons can get onstage and sing their favorite tunes from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. from a list offering about 134,000 songs.
"You name it, we've got it," says Graves, a Vietnam veteran-turned-rocker with long, gray hair and a beard. "I'd say we probably have the largest selection in the nation. It would take 3,000 pages to print our catalog."
Many other Memphis bars offer regular karaoke nights , but what sets Karaoke Kafe apart is its ability to record and produce CDs of faithful karaoke fans singing their hearts out. Anyone can come in, choose ABBA's "Dancing Queen," and walk out with a CD of themselves doing their best Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
Graves says they'll also record original songs performed by individuals, bands, or choirs, or if you'd rather see yourself sing, he can record the performance onto a high-definition DVD.
"You can have the audience watch you as you're recorded, or we do have an isolation booth if you'd rather not be watched," Graves says.
Graves also hopes to produce television shows of the venue's Friday- and Saturday-night performances. The shows would feature mostly live music performed by people who audition to be included.
A live band plays every day during lunch, and although the cafe offers pub grub, such as chicken wings, mini-pizzas, jalapeno poppers, and cheesesticks, patrons are welcome to brown-bag it.
"We're not just here to make a buck," Graves says. "We're here because we love music, and we want people to come in and see bands play."
Karaoke Kafe also sells artwork by local artists, along with guitar strings and drum sticks. In addition, there are several computers, where customers can use the wireless In-ternet service for an hourly fee. Patrons with laptops can log on for free. As for the eBay service, all Graves and Leviticus ask for is a little commission when the items are sold.
"Everybody has junk they want to get rid of, but many people don't do it correctly," Graves says. "It's a hassle to take the pictures, post them on eBay, and then try to squeeze the money out of the buyer. But you can come in here with an item, tell us a minimum price, and we'll put it on eBay for you."
Graves says he and Leviticus spent two years developing the concept for the cafe, "where the audience could participate" rather than just sit back and watch bands play. The Memphis location is the first of 10 Karaoke Kafes planned nationwide within the next two years. •
Karaoke is featured at the Karaoke Kafe (26 South Main) from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Bands play lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily.