Any other night of the week, Nithya Rajendran might get lost in the crowd of black jeans, T-shirts, tattoos and Budweiser tall boys at Bar Matchless.
However, Wednesday nights at the Greenpoint, Brooklyn establishment are the domain of the 4-foot, 11-inch tall Rajendran, otherwise knows as “The Nynja.”
She too donned her uniform of a dark wash jeans and black, appropriately themed T-shirt. Unlike everyone else, Rajendran, 34, wields the mic at one of the longest-running heavy-metal karaoke nights in New York City.
Within Rajendran’s small frame is a hardcore beast who can blast her way through a catalogue of metal discographies, something that comes in handy as host of Heavy Metal Parking Lot Karaoke.
The night has been a Brooklyn staple since 2008, when The Kings of Karaoke began hosting the weekly pop-up party. The group since grew large enough to host at least one party every day of the week, with the metal night holding firm every Wednesday night.
Three-ring binder songbooks tossed around the bar offer thousands of songs to choose from. That said, metal is merely encouraged with a free whiskey shot for those who can pull it off.
“We want to get people out of their comfort zone,” Rajendran said, admitting that some nights can be less metal than others.
Even so, she also gets moments like when an unassuming young woman came up to the mic for a Black Sabbath song and the lyrics on a TV screen above the bar — her first foray into metal in public.
That’s not to say a beanie-wearing bearded man’s rendition of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” or a young, blonde couple’s off-key, giggle-filled take on “Drunk in Love” from Beyonce and Jay-Z aren’t welcome.
The Kings of Karaoke also host a second metal night in Greenpoint at St. Vitus bar, a decidedly more metal bar. Both have Rajendran as host and both are operate under the same guiding principle.
“It’s more about the spirt of the night, Rajendran said, “being kind of wild and rowdy and making sure people sing with abandon.”
Rajendran knows about uninhibited performance — it’s what got her the gig.
Jason Gersch, a founder The King of Karaoke, said it was Rajendran’s interpretation of Metallica’s “Sad But True” that sealed the deal.
That night, Rajendran walked through the bar’s glass double doors on the corner of Driggs and Manhattan avenues in her work attire, heels and pencil skirt included. A few drinks in, she didn’t remember what song she signed up for.
In came the bass line and out came “The Nynja.”
“I just went, ‘Who-the-hell-is-this girl-you’re-hired,” Gersch, 36, said.
Gersch, who DJ’d the party until 2011, remembers Rajendran as a regular to the night. Even then, she embodied the spirt of the night.
“We just always want to to be rowdy,” he said. “If it meant breaking our on TV, we would do that and just replace the TV.”
Recently taking the mantle as a manager for The Kings of Karaoke, Rajendran’s previous life in marketing for the music industry went eventually went by the wayside.
Luckily, the other regulars to the metal karaoke have not. Even on a slow night, a handful of familiar faces trickle in almost seven years later.
Rajendran she attributes the loyalty to the sense of community and camaraderie between fans of metal and karaoke alike. That, and the off chance to share an unexpected moment.
“I think it’s the element of surprise. People still have the ability to surprise you,” she said. “Whether it’s a hippy girls singing Black Sabbath or a dude singing Barbara Streisand.”
Nithya’s Tips on How to Build Your Karaoke Mettle
- Don’t hold back and don’t be passive
- Let your metalhead flag fly high
- Feel free to engage with the audience
- Don’t get too drunk before taking the mic
- Do not — do not — drop the mic
- Bon Jovi is not metal
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