When you check the website, Limelight Stage and Studios says that “live band karaoke” is on Thursdays from 10pm to 2am. If you wanted to confirm beforehand, the phone number would lead you nowhere. You get an answering service that tells you to leave a message. If you try to find a calendar of events, the website asks you to sign up for an email listserve.
As such, the only way to really find out what is going on at this karaoke pit-stop is to actually go in person. Located on Tremont Street near the Boston Common, it is a relatively bustling area, with a real college crowd. The neighborhood is always packed, with plenty of opportunity. However, finding Limelight, right across the street from Emerson College, proved to be quite a feat. I stopped and stared at the small sign, with absolutely no neon to draw the casual eye. “You have to be kidding me,” I thought to myself.
Inside Limelight is quite another story. The doorman that night, Rory Ballou, greeted me as I came in the door. He almost immediately directed me to speak to the General Manager, Jeff Quates. As I walked through the main stage room, which boasted a decent number of tables and a giant screen behind the stage which played trance-inducing images, I counted at least 3 or 4 private rooms with couches and individual karaoke machines.
Quates himself is an interesting character. Hailing from the city of New Orleans, he is a kind and accommodating newlywed. Without much prodding, he was induced to share the story of how he had met his wife of 4 months while bartending at the Jazz Emporium on Bourbon Street. Ashley was completing an internship at a law firm, and walked into his bar one night on a whim. “She only came in that one night, she wasn’t gonna come back. And I was only working there two days a week. Luckily, we started talking that night,” he said with a half-grin on his face. Three months later he was searching for a job and a place to stay in Boston.
Limelight hired Quates as a bartender in 2008, though the job was just a way to get by financially. After the manager left, his boss approached him and offered him the position. He has been the General Manager for the last 3 years, and estimates their staff to be about 13─15 members with 4 emcees that run the music, including Yujing, who was working that night. “My wife works here too. She’s a bartender on the weekends. I asked her to help out one night, and I hate to say, but she’s pretty good at it,” he said shaking his head and smiling.
The karaoke bar has been in business for over 7 years. They upgraded their music selection interface a few months back, and are currently working out the kinks, but Quates was happy with the addition of the Apple iPads, and felt they would be a better system in the long run. When asked what he thought drove people to come in to sing at Limelight, as opposed to any other karaoke bar in the city, he told me with confidence, “I think it’s the private rooms. People can get a room with their friends and sing, and we serve alcohol in the private rooms, too. There isn’t any other bar in Boston that will do that.”
Limelight is also open to booking private parties, and has a number of companies that rent out the floor for corporate parties. “Pyara is having their holiday party here on Saturday, the place is going to be packed. They reserved the place for 120 people,” Quates informed me. Pyara Spa and Salon is located in Cambridge, and received the Best of Boston award in 2011 from Boston magazine. The Spa has had several of its parties at Limelight, and is a loyal patron.