“I wanted people to be inside the music. I mean that’s why we do karaoke,” Martin Glenn told me, at what he said was the result of a dream he’s had for some twenty years: running a karaoke bar in Brooklyn. This past weekend was his first running AUX Karaoke Box, which he opened with his wife Hande, who he says works somewhere in the finance sector.
Before opening AUX, Glenn was an executive in the media world, working stints running branded content studios run by CBS and, most recently, the Future media brand. He had gotten his start as a producer at Fuse, producing interviews with names like Kendrick Lamar, Blink-182 and Nicki Minaj, as well as the network’s online “Crate Diggers” show. Glenn says he’s done with the corporate world.
“I believe in small business, and they are what make this city and other cities have a heartbeat and character, it feels really good to join those efforts,” says Glenn. “We wanted to do something in our own neighborhood,” he says.
His own neighborhood turned out to be Ocean Hill, where he says his new bar is the only private-room karaoke bar in any of the surrounding area, including Bushwick, Ridgewood and Bed-Stuy. While brand spankin’ new, the club already has the look and feel of a much older bar, complete with tiled ceilings and lights dimmed just enough. One wall is covered with concert photos, from Bruno Mars to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to the Beastie Boys, all taken by Glenn and his erstwhile business partner, Julie Ruiz; the pair used to run a full-service photography agency called A Horse With No Name.
Tucked away on the other side of the bar is a collection of figurines that date to around 1983, when Glenn was growing up, starting with a Michael Jackson action figure that Glenn says eventually grew into the vast collection of toys that now sits at his bar, alongside fellow icons like Prince and Elvis Presley.
Speaking of Prince and Elvis, not only is there a stage on the main floor for people to bust out their pipes, but there are also five private rooms, each designed as an homage to an idea of musical history, from Paisley Park to Graceland’s Jungle Room to western jukebox bars or Brooklyn brownstones.
Outside of every room is a looming, red recording light. The rooms can be rented out to groups, a dozen people maximum, at rates that vary from $55 to $100 an hour. The hallway outside is plastered with concert posters from what Martin tells me is his favorite venue, Forest Hills Stadium. In golden frames, names like Chance the Rapper, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Leon Bridges hang like gold records on the wall.
According to Glenn, his bar is the first karaoke bar in the city to use a kind of Finnish karaoke software called Singa that has over 80,000 songs, split in some 38 different genres and 41 different languages.
On opening night last week, an Ocean Hill local named Travis could be heard belting a passionate rendition of the Tevin Campbell 1993 hit “Can We Talk.” Not long after, the bouncing instrumentals of everything from Rihanna records to Beatles to Biggie to the Eagles could be heard.
“Two years ago, I said life is short, I want to do this, and now is the time,” Glenn told me.
“Let me tell you, Martin is the nicest, most genuine guy you will come across,” said Dave Morrissey Jr. who had stopped by to do his take on “Hotel California.” Morrissey used to work with Glenn at Future, where they worked for one its branded content arms.
If you look around hard enough, you’ll find a semi-secret speakeasy bar he also runs there, hidden behind a doorway maskingly slightly as a shelf and that can also be booked for the night as a private room.
“I wanted it to look and feel like a bar across the street that the jazz greats would go to after a show,” said Martin.
With a separate bar and bartender, the speakeasy is about half the size of the main room with plants and sparse lighting that keeps the mood cozy and mysterious. Outside of the speakeasy, you can also order from a menu of seven different grilled cheese sandwiches, all served on sourdough bread.
AUX Karaoke Box is located at 2142 Fulton Street. Keep up with their hours at their Instagram page.
Images taken by Shenal Tissera for Bushwick Daily.
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