Thursday, March 27, 2014

Peter Styles confirmed Wednesdays at Jazz Bistro

For Peter Styles fans, news: I've received firm confirmation from the Sinatra of Karaoke himself that he'll be doing Wednesday nights at the Jazz Bistro (http://www.jazzbistro.ca).

Address: 251 Victoria Street
Toronto, Ontario M5B 1T8
Phone: 416.363.5299

I have some high hopes for this venue as it appears to be a place truly focused on the Jazz Scene, and a great mix for Peter's Style. (Pun intended). He'll be on the top floor starting April 2nd (Wednseday). I'll be there to do a review of the place. Later today I'll a late lunch there.  I'll keep you Peter Styles fans on top of what is going on with him. They'll also be a karaoke database makeover (busy with a few other projects but hopefully by Monday I'll have it done) seeing as Peter is no longer at the Gladstone and his song selection has increased. Some mobile optimizations I hope to be in the mix as time permits. Stay tuned for additional info and reviews!

Update: I've been to the venue during a sound check. Looks VERY nice. I can't officially post a review yet but, the sound there will be very good to exceptional (depending on final setup). It feels like you're the star in a professional jazz club rather than a bar which is a nice feeling. Karaoke will be from 9 PM to 12 AM (maybe 1 AM...). In my opinion this is an excellent time as paying customers have to go to work the next day. I am cautiously optimistic.. 

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Karaoke Review: Danny's Cash Karaoke at Garage

Review Date: March 26, 2014

My first review after a 3 year hiatus. Man of man many things have changed. Fortunately I'm not out of the loop. What made it easier to do this review is I live only a few block away from this location. Wednesday nights are never exactly an easy one to fill;people working are tired or (like me) still working to meet deadlines. So I give credit to places that are able to keep Wednesday nights going with Karaoke. That said, let's get down to, "The Good, The Bad, and of course, The Ugly"

The Good: The location is easy enough to reach at the corner of Church and Wellsley (1 block south, East side to be exact).

Danny's equipment sounds as good as Jason Rolland who has always kept top notch equipment.

The average KJ has upped the ante on the song count and Danny is no exception. With roughly about 26k songs (rounding up) the classics and new hits are covered with only a few minor gaps in Weird Al Yankovic. :D They'll be a few odd classics you may miss but very few. The song selection is decent. (Yet to find anyone with a better selection than Jason Rolland however).

Balance is excellent. You'll sound like a pro here hands down. I'm amazed given I didn't see a sound check before things started off (a few short "ah,ah"'s, most KJ do one song to be sure.

The food service is excellent: friendly, fast and courteous.

Food selection is fairly good for a bar. Standard sandwiches, steaks, fish/chips with some exotic specials.

The Bad: Unfortunate  "the bad" elements negate the positive aspects of  "the good". The stage setup is among the worst I'd seen in years: The monitor is on the bar?!? I've no idea who came up with that idea but not only is your back to the glass garage doors (which faces Church street) but to the audience as well. And to make matters worse, people have to work/dodge around you to submit their selection.

KJs, many of you seem to miss the fact there are LCD Monitor Stands you can purchase from AV shops, including tripod variations (which are the most stable). Putting a desktop monitor on the bar is a really bad choice for a setup.

Karaoke stated 30 minutes late as well. The first 2 things everyone should remember in this business are "Time is Money", and "Never waste the customer's time". By telling everyone Karaoke starts at 10 PM and starting at 10:30, you tell people who arrive on time they are not valued and that creates irritation. Rightly so. As a consequence I deduct 1 point for every 15 minutes a karaoke host starts late. After all, it's not like the host will go an extra 30 minutes late to compensate, and on Wednesday nights people usually have to work in the morning. It's just bad form, especially on a weeknight.

 To top this off, Danny seems to have trouble getting song selections in. On average it was around 1-2 minutes between each singer after they were done. I didn't look carefully at the software but it looked advanced enough to have a back queue. And even if it wasn't 1 minute between singers is a bit awkward/long especially when starting late. I did "Video Killed the Radio Star" and left the stage when my lyrics finished. There is a somewhat long outtro which I improve with sometimes. But to save time I got off the stage quickly, but Danny kept the track running the full length; 1-2 minutes after I had put down the mike and sat down. Why didn't he fade out?  (or cut it short) for the next performer?. "Never waste the customer's time".



The Mixed: The food quality is an extremely mixed bag here. Ordered the lamb burger. Fries were excellent, but the lamb burger had raw fragments in it. Had to send it back. The server tried to convince me that for lamb this was okay (I've had lots lamb burgers, okay, raw chunks in the middle is undercooked) but they did bring me another one. Hopefully this is a simple matter of bad luck and no one else will experience it, but still. First time I actually sent food back. The better cooked burger was better. The food prices are a bit above average. $12 for a burger + fries for example. You won't be getting any bargains here. The lettuce/tomatoes on my burger were very fresh to Garage's credit, but at the prices for food I'd expect no less.

The decor is minimal but will be nice in he summer as 1/2 of the walls are garage doors which open up to the patio and perhaps they are optimizing for the summer months.Danny's style isn't the worst I'd seen, but there was little to no personality that I could see. I didn't stick around long enough to see the "Cash content" as I had work to do (school night) but that part won't be the biggest concern to true karaoke fans.  I'd like to see more of the person behind the laptop. Perhaps it was just a weird night.

Layout of the restaurant will make it hard for people to reach the stage if the place is filled up. On Wednesday nights based on the low numbers I saw it may not come up as often as the owner would like. But if it does there will be pushing/shoving to through the narrow isle to get the stage and submit song requests from the back.

Summary: There are good things and not so good things. The equipment is top notch as is the balance. Song selection is certainly on par, and I'd even venture to say slightly above. The food prices are bit high and while the quality of the food is probably good, I managed to find a big chink in the armor in the food preparation quality, so the above average prices felt even more expensive. The stage setup makes for an awkward experience as your back is to people who are swarming around you to put in their selections, and simply because it was deemed to much trouble to get a monitor stand for better placement. (Again, on the bar is the WORST choice to put the lyrics monitor). Late starting times on a weeknight and long intervals between singers will greatly reduce the number of songs you'll get to sing, and take up time many of us don't have on a weeknight. Hope Danny will improve these issues quickly. Things as they are, Garage's karaoke feels like they have a DJ trying to figure out the KJ business, and contrary to popular believe, a good DJ doesn't make for a good KJ. There is potential, but the experience is at present a very mixed bag. Not exactly what people in the middle of a long work need are looking for when taking time to do karaoke on a Wednesday.

Summary Scores:

Facilities: 5.5 Not a large venue. Would estimate 200 tops. During the summer I'd add 2 points when the doors are opened.

Equipment: 8.0 (Good quality mikes. Wireless would be even cooler but not really a big deal. A 2nd mike for couples/duets would be welcome (and is fairly standard) but the quality and the sound is exceptionally good.)

Song Selection: 7.5 (It's on par with very few gaps. Doesn't quite match the selection of Rolland or Styles yet, but it's very good.)

Wait time: 6.0 (Long periods between singers, and failure to fade/cut out of long outtros. Not a good use of the customer's time. If it ever gets really crowded there will be many justified complaints.)

Food Prices: 6.0 (A bit above average and given the mixed food prep quality, not the best experience.)

Food Quality: 6.5 (What they do well, they do very well, but signs of carelessness on the lamb burger prep left irritation. Hopefully just a one time thing. But hard to be sure.

Food selection: 7.5 It's pretty good, but nothing amazing. The specials may catch your interest.

Service: 7.9 (Service was actually excellent, but I had to take 0.2 points for excuses made for the undercooked lamb burger)

Final Grade: C/C+ (There is potential for this place to be an excellent karaoke venue, but it's got some work to do to achieve it. May go back for a 2nd run review with hopes of improvement)

Venue Information: 
Garage
477 Church Street
Toronto, ON
M4Y 2C6
(647) 352-5508
Karaoke: Wednesdays 10 PM to 2 AM (may start late)

KJ Information:
Danny's Karaoke
(416) 631-9102 








Monday, March 24, 2014

A Tribute

A Man of Styles

In my scribblings of places where humble amateurs,
give voices to the music which to their heart stirs,
There was this one fellow who was quite unique,
to this very day another of his ilk I've yet to meet,
his back was oft seen 'bove the wide window tiles
of the Gladstreet Hotel stage, this was Peter Styles


A skilled troubadour during his younger days,
and then for 12 years at karaoke shows stayed,
dressing in full tuxedos; cumberbuns, shirts and suits,
perhaps some had thought his style just a little aloof,
yet, where other hosts found lacking and often crass,
on and off the Gladstone stage Peter kept up his class


A man who strived to be true to his given word,
often at his expense was the humor I'd heard,
his audiences he treated as colleagues of his own,
as he shared on the stage mikes of his mighty throne,
a crooner himself his voice theirs oft enhanced
many others, some with lessor voices perchance


Inspiring classiness in others both far and near,
people came to his aid, for they all found him dear,
technology was added, his song collections grew,
both a library and web portal all came anew,
from the skills freely added where his own were gray,
"hey, I'm just the talent" is what he'd always say


the only man to this day hoisting an "applaud" sign,
he believed in this spirit despite of our jaded times,
like the motherland he believed that full participation,
was the key to success, as was a fair rotation,
like that great distant land with flag of the rising sun,
he kept the show pure and with great spirited fun


Yet as oft changes came and in recent times marred,
twas management, not video killed this karaoke star,
once before it was tried but the audiences wailed,
which kept Peter's loved show for a time off the rails,
but as main pipes burst later, t'was finally contrived,
Peter's show's termination, the Gladstone's Music died


We fans and I for one will not give up hope,
for the spirit still stands, and we shall not mope,
like the phoenix we'll bring back our beloved Style(s) anew,
as the Gladstone declines slowly, may write further reviews,
Closer to downtown, there I may have some cause,
to keep propped up my smile, there have been several calls


So Peter as I write this, please know I am so glad,
to have shared with so many, the good times that we've had,
the unique quality presence, that showed us the stuff,
that all karaoke shows should I believe be made of,
at greener pastures I trust your show shall be renewed,
thank you for your Styles, and for sticking this through

Back with sad tidings..Gladstone Karaoke is no more

First of all folks...I'm back. Been living life as we all do but I'm back. Why, well...thought others were taking on the quest for up to date karaoke venue news. But not so much recently. And on top of all that, the Gladstone killed the Karaoke Star Peter Styles. Truth be told I watched the place move the karaoke from 10 to 11 (which people did not appreciate) and I always feared they were trying to kill it with that move. Whether or not that was the intention it didn't help. At the same time the food quality dropped significantly, food selection dropped about as much (had the driest fries I ever had one day and COLD), and food prices went up almost as much as the food selection dropped. A bit above par whereas it was quite decent before. So someone had some interesting ideas there. In the end the only reason I showed up in the last 1.5 years was Peter himself. But that is now gone. Have a strange feeling the Gladstone will start it up again with someone new but time will tell.

In any case...time to get back in the game. I'll be doing Karaoke Review about every two weeks Maybe more..Could really use donations to help offset the costs as food prices have increased in general by 30%. So, if you like reading my blog again, please consider helping to off set my costs. Believe it or not every review costs an average of $25 to write, and it also means time off from my day job. (I often work at night as well). Of course I'll let you know when Peter is up and running again. As Peter himself would say, "Don't forget the tip jar". Unlike the musicians, there are no ads, no one to buy my review ratings (and I've had offers). Please and thanks. Before my first posting on Thursday, it's cheesy but I figured I'd write up a tribute to Peter. And to literary critics, I realize I'm not a professional writer; please be kind. :D Thanks. See you in the reviews.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Gladstone Hotel Renovations: What new changes mean for Gladstone Karaoke

Folks, I’ve gotten to see the renovations at the Gladstone Hotel and learn about the changes going on there. The renovations themselves actually give the Melody Bar a nice face lift. Like many restaurants today they are going for the night lounge motif. This makes party events easier to host and facilitates more mingling. The booths on the east side are gone in favor of a longer bench with separation tables making it easier to seat more people. The couch in the back is replaced with a small lounge seat and longer tables. The front has low table made of 3 large stumps slices giving a more formal look. The center now has a stand up table to expand the bar and some fashionable muffling material has been mounted on the ceiling to improve sound/noise levels.

The Melody Bar alterations I found positive but what will be disturbing for karaoke fans are the karaoke schedule changes:

Old Schedule: 10 AM to 2 AM
New Schedule: 12 AM to 2:30 AM

This cuts the karaoke show in half! Live Acts are being moved from 8 PM to 10 PM. This is a grievous turn for karaoke loves. Almost feels like they intend to eventually cut the karaoke all together. And with it could happen. This is the second change to the karaoke schedule in as many years. Earlier they cut the Thursday night karaoke although Thursdays don't draw really a large crowds on average. I spoke to one of the Gladstone managers about the changes and what motivated them. The response was the Gladstone is looking to generate more revenue from the dining crowd and requests had been made for more dining. The schedule change were the response.

We karaoke fans know most shows start at between 10 to 11 PM for the reason that they draw better crowds. Midnight shows tend to get people drifting in from nightclubs and few of those dine and often had had plenty to drink elsewhere. In my experience late start times like this draw a lessor crowd. A lower attendance may give the Gladstone a reason to cut the karaoke completely and thus reduce thus budget. Many places are under pressure to cut costs due to people dining out less on average owing to concerns about the economy. My fear is this could backfire on the Gladstone in terms of attendance and revenue. It will certainly hurt karaoke lovers. The best case scenario is the same audience attendence, inability to sing due to reduced show times and same long queue. The most likely case is karaoke lovers are turned off because of the later start time and reduced duration and go elsewhere. (Most Karaoke Restaurants start at 10 PM and there are numerous examples on this blog)

The food is still amazing (sampled quite of bit of the new food, I especially recommend the nachos) and I’m told an expanded menu has been done to draw more diners to the Gladstone.

If, like me, you feel that this schedule shift at the Melody Bar is not ideal for karaoke lovers or their business in general, please write to the Gladstone Management and owner and let them know what you think. Best people to e-mail to are Alec Badley, the Hotel Manager at alec at gladstonehotel.com, and Christina Ziedler, Hotel President at Christina at gladstonehotel.com. Hopefully we can convince the Gladstone management to find another way to allow people to enjoy the dining without endangering one of the great karaoke traditions in Toronto.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Karaoke Review Update: Gladstone Hotel w/ Peter Styles

** BEST KARAOKE BAR MC 2010 **
** BEST QUALITY FOOD AT A KARAOKE VENUE 2010 **

January 29th, 2011

The Gladstone Hotel has a Karaoke Champion in Peter Styles who is probably as much of an enthusiast as I am. Don't get the idea that this automatically makes for a good review. While it may be voted best karaoke place by Now Magazine, well as much as I like Now Magazine, I don't always agree with their reviewers, so I'm writing my own. That said, I'm updating the review as there are a number of details that have changed, some good some not so good.

The Good: The Gladstone Hotel has Peter hosting on Friday-Saturday nights. This as cut back from the original Wednesday-Saturday which pains me and many I suspect. Mr. Styles is STILL as good as rumoured: He's EXCELLENT at working the crowd, and being a professional singer himself when he does his vocal intro, people perk their ears. And the energy feels genuine. He's probably the greatest asset of this venue. Song selection is now second ONLY to Jason Rolland!! There are over 30k Songs in his collection. A few duplicates being sorted out, but make no mistake. Peter has upped the ante! Drink prices are quite reasonable and there is no cover charge. The location is fairly convenient: You can get there by Streetcar quite easily and there is street side parking available.

They've added food and the food is first rate! All produce home grown in Ontario. The selection is not as large as many other restaurants but there is enough for most people and specials that change enough keep you coming back. Food quality is second to none, save perhaps on the Sweet Potato fries which are a touch dry for me taste.

The monitors (there are now 3) are in a good a position as I could think of given the layout. The LCD monitor for the singer is mounted above your head (it had been knocked down a number of times), and the LCD Project er makes it easy to see your lyrics while appearing to look into the crowd. Which is actually quite cool.

The Bad: Service unfortunately needs a little work. Its been from fair to poor. Larger tables will get preferences and sometime smaller tables go entirely unnoticed.

The mixed: The facilities are fairly large but the configuration makes it difficult to balance sound. If you sit in the front, be prepared for LOUD volume. At times it was actually hurting my ears (the volume gets louder the later the evening goes) so I suggest the mid section. At the back its much harder to hear because speakers can't be positioned there. On the plus side, if you tell Peter its too loud he'll take the volume down a notch.

Peter has a sound engineer at the back who for some reasons isn't paying attention to balance levels much of the time. Peter has commented several times on this. Too frequently the sound engineer let balances go entirely to the point you couldn't hear the singer. Sometimes he's got the balance, but sometimes its as if he lets sounds levels go on automatic pilot.

In all fairness Peter tries his best to give everyone in a very large crowd a chance, but sometimes a new person coming at the last hour would come in front someone who waited for 1.5 hours.

While the selection is the best or 2nd best in Toronto, its not reflected in his books! The only books available have 7k songs out of the 30k and the old song codes which he doesn't really use much anymore (not he queries the songs based on author and title). I'm assured a book is being compiled with the new selections, but its a weak spot. There is a website you can view on your computer or mobile phone (done by yours truly) at http://www.evolveit.ca/gladstone_karaoke/karaoke_song_query.php, but its not well advertised. (I'm getting a new URL to make it easier).

The verdict: The Gladstone Hotel with Peter Styles is overall still a excellent venue (mostly) with significant improvements. While I'd say its in the top 3, a few things still need to be done to make the undisputed champ of the karaoke pub world.

1. A sound engineer that pays more attention to volume levels (I've had complaints about it at the Toronto Karaoke Meetup Group, that is how bad he is sometimes)

2. Printed books or at least a kiosk where people can have FULL viewing access to the songs he has instead of asking if he has a song (80% change he has it)

3. Wait staff need a bit of polishing up and not neglecting patrons at small tables.

What is good is VERY VERY good. Peter is still the only guy with an applause sign I've seen so far. (and its a powerful tool). You WILL have fun at the Gladstone in spite of a few rough edges.

Final Grade: B+
Excellent Host, fantastic song selection, amazing quality food. Sound balance between the front and back could be improved. Sound engineer that pays more attention to balance is badly needed. Wait times are tricky, popularity has its price.

Score Summary:
Facilities: 7.5 (Lots of Space, sound however is unbalanced in different sections)
Equipment: 8.0 (New speakers installed, but sound engineer needs to be more alert)
Location: 7.5 (Easy to spot, moderately easy to get to using the Queen St. Streetcar)
Song Selection: 9.0 (The spot for best selection is within the Gladstone's reach)
Wait Times: 7 (scaled:public venue,Peter will try to shuffle within reasons if asked)
Host: 9.5 (VERY entertaining, Pays attention to the crowd, you'll love this guy)
Food Prices: 7.5 (Prices are slightly higher than average but the food quality is well above)
Food Quality: 9
Food Selection: 7 (slightly limited in selection)

Venue Information:
Friday-Saturday
10 PM - 1 AM
The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON
Phone: 416 531 4635
http://www.peterstyles.info
Info on the Host: http://www.peterstyles.info

Karaoke Review Update: Bar + Karaoke

January 22nd, 2011

Seeing the need to update reviews and venues change I'll start with the one Closest to where I live (because its easy :D) When I checked Bar + Karaoke There were positives and negatives. I had chatted with the owner about them both so let's see how its come along since then.

This is the first karaoke box I'd seen with either LCD or plasma screens. I'm happy to say this so far is the cleanest Karaoke box I've seen to day as well as the most convenient for me. I had made some comments on the equipment last time I was here. There have been a few improvement in the years since I write my first review of this venue.


The Good
: Well the plasma screens were all in excellent order and the computer selection by song number makes it easy to add, remove or switch order of songs. The look of the place felt like karaoke box meets night club feel to it. The looks of the interior was actually very nicely thought out. The selection was identical to XO which is to say it was decent and there have been a number of songs added. A few hundred in the English category which isn't bad. The microphones/receiver are working significantly better and more consist ant then when I first arrived so someone had been looking over the equipment.

The service level is now fairly good level. For rooms, equipment, and food a red button will bring an attendant for any help required including food service (I should perhaps say "snack")

The Mixed: While the microphone and receivers have improved significantly there are still a few things missing which the original had in its favor before it fell into disrepair (and now has a new owner). There are key changes in SOME of the rooms but not all of them. Primarily the more expensive medium room have a key changes. I actually spoke with the owner on this. He says he's working on it. Not sure what the difficulty could be but I'll just say if the owner can get key changers into the small rooms as well, this will be the best Karaoke Box in Toronto. The other mixed issue is the remotes. The remote control key functions are not always consistant. Some rooms seem to have slightly different key mappings to the remove then others which can cahas risen to use confusion for regulars.

The food quality is actually fairly good but the limited food selection means you can't actually get a meal here. This place (as most of the Toronto Karaoke Scene these days), is primarily geared for alcohol. It would be really cool if one could order a real meal. For now, I suggest either eat before you come, or bring food for a party if your group is really hungry. Outside drinks are not allowed, so bear that in mind.

One qualm I have with the computer karaoke system is if you want to use the computer catalog, the song order seems to be questionable. In fact, I'd almost suggest only use the books for song selection. It may be a glitch in the software that makes the order of songs in English rather irregular, but still, it can be confusing. Again, I suggest sticking to the song books to find your selection.


The Bad: There is nothing that stands out as bad. (Hooray!)

Summary: The owner of this place perhaps should consider a career in interior decorating (or refer the person he hired) because he seems to think “westerns” have no knowledge of what karaoke is all about or what quality equipment is. Let's start with basics: People have different song ranges, so key changers are ESSENTIAL. Yes, ESSENTIAL so that everyone can participate comfortably. Not having simple key changers that will work on any analog audio system is, frankly, very discouraging considering the great work on initially done with XO. Not only that but cheap Korean equipment and radio signal feedback on the audio (when there was no radio component on these receivers or perhaps I should say preamp) also suggests that the owner was doing everything to get this operation up on the cheap using excellent decorating to hide the fact. After six weeks of telling them they should have key changers and even telling them where to get them with no results show lack of attention the customers. Every time I went to the place (generally Fridays) I didn't see much of a crowd. Perhaps its just as well given the lack of respect for Karaoke lovers. Perhaps this is why he has let XO become so run down it is now dangerous to go to in the summer due to lack of proper ventilation and working air conditioners which had not been repaired properly for at least 2 years. I had to stop bringing the Toronto Karaoke Meetup Group as a result. There may be a general trend of business and Karaoke Box owners trying to avoid initial business costs with the invent of computer based Karaoke song changers, but just because a computer can do the rotations doesn't mean you don't provide the basics if you are going to be in the karaoke business at all. Anyone looking to start a karaoke box be aware there are those of us who have been to Asia, know what standard karaoke is supposed to provide and we will let people know who respects their customers, and just as importantly, who does not.


Summary Scores
:

Facilities: 9.0 (Nice rooms, really clean, furniture in amazing shape)

Equipment: 7.5 (Improved mikes, key changes in some medium rooms). Significant improvements here but can't give full marks without key changers in the majority of the rooms. The remote control system should be uniform throughout all the rooms as well.

Location: 8.0 (Block north of Dundas Subway. Parking will cost you a pretty penny at Yonge/Dundas however)

Food Prices: NA (Prices on drinks are average, but only snack food)

Service: 8.0 (Staff improved quite a bit since the last time I review this venue)

Selection: 7.0 (~7500 English songs, lots of Korean, Chinese, some Japanese, same as XO).

Wait Times: 9.0 (Its a computer AVI/MPG server. So this is expected)

Room Prices: 7.0

1-5 people: $25/Hour

6-10 people: $40/Hour

50 Large Room: $50/Hour


Final Grade: C+/B- (Its getting better, owner seems to be making an effort)


Venue Information:
Bar + Karaoke Lounge
360 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5B 1S5
(416) 340-7154

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Valentine's Day Karaoke Event

Folks for those of you who believe karaoke can be romantic (and of your that includes yours truly), this may be the event for you:

Event Name: Heartbreak Karaoke

Date: Valentine’s Day: Monday, February 14, 2011

Where: Supermarket, 268 Augusta Avenue
Toronto

Time: 9:00 pm to 2:00 am

Charge:$5 if you wear red, $7 if you don’t


Map here: http://maps.google.ca/m?q=268+Augusta+Ave

For those of you who don't know,this is near Kensington Market.

Enjoy. I may be there to check it out. Hope to see a few of you there.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Karaoke Act October 21st, Western Toronto

Folks, there have been changes and new acts coming out to replace old, or just new acts. One Karaoke premere is happening on October 21st! I'll be there to see the kick-off. Should be good. here are the details:

Jack Astor's Bar and Grill
Sherway Gardens
1900 The Queensway
Toronto, ON
M9C 5H5
416.626.2700

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
8 PM to 1 AM (5 hour!!)

I'll let you know later about the equipment, food song selection, all the good stuff.

I do apologize. Been busy making a living. (The reviews I write need to be funded somehow :D)

Anyway, review on this new venue will be here.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Karaoke Review: Fox & Fiddle 27 Wellesley Street East W/ Peter Rockwell

2010-05-01 (Note: attended twice to check for consistency)

I've kept up with Peter over the years he's been doing karaoke in his original comic radio style. Some have imitated but none have duplicated...yet. More recently the mainstay karaoke hosts have actually improved, the venue setups were lacking of late. I'm hoping the venues take a few hints.


The Good:
This venue actually has a room that is dedicated to Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. This is a VERY good thing (especially for Fight Nights, the show can still go on unlike the Fox & Fiddle at Eglington and Laird). The song selection is still good although a few have better. The comedy, so long as you are not offended by rated "X" humor (NOT for children), is classic and to coin a phrase, "We're not just laughing at you we're laughing behind you". Sometimes Peter makes fun of the songs (and the song selection doesn't matter, its all entertainment), makes jokes about you, or your audience. That's the point. The equipment performs well and while you won't sound bad, you may not be heard at all if you cover the mike with your hand. (A number of people didn't seem to get the message no matter times Peter joked about it or the audience yelled "Don't cover the mike")

The food is fairly good and the decor is much improved over the "Fiddler's Green" that used to be at the same location. It feels like a comfortable pub, or perhaps the scene from "Cheers".

The setup is nearly perfect. You are right in front of the audience, top larger screens help the audience sing right along and you have a monitor right in front to help you out. Only improvement I can recommend is an LCD screen at eye level for the singer instead of the CRT TV Peter still uses. Peter Styles now apparently has a LCD monitor at eye level at the Gladstone Hotel and Jason Rolland has apparently done the same things at Toby's and other venue with his custom built adjustable LCD stand. It's really worth looking into.

The Mixed: Pricing of food has generally been going up, but I felt the prices on food and drink had some room for improvement. Slightly above average. The room is of good size but it could get crowded. The advantage of a dedicated karaoke pub room can be overcome by larger audiences.

The Bad: I had hoped this section would have nothing in it but on Saturdays there is a serious issue. While all marketing material and signs say karaoke starts at 10 PM, Peter will wait until as late as 11 PM. I've mentioned in previous reviews this is not cool and Peter Rockwell knows how to work an audience of any size. It was implied that one reason was gets people to drink more. I consider that to be disrespectful to the audience. This also puts the rotation in the lower category in part because the host is waiting for the queue to be longer. Karaoke hosts in general, if you post a time and start later on a regular basis because you don't feel the queue is large enough, I'll take off marks and emphasis it. It's bad business. To pub owners who may be pushing their hosts to this sort of behavior be warned, your patrons will not appreciate it. Making people who come on time wait, and my group tends to have a full dinner before karaoke begins, wastes our dollars as well as our time. You want people to drink more, keep them HAPPY. Not irritated.


Conclusion:
The Fox & Fiddle at Wellsley has GREAT potential. An excellent host for the younger and open-minded crowded, fairly good food, great location, good song selection and equipment. Unfortunately the karaoke business practices in regards to starting times, whether it's because of the venue owner, the karaoke host, or both, leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. Depriving audiences of up one hour of joyful, humors singing to push people to buy more drinks is bad practice either way. There were actually open complaints by my group published on the Meetup site comments because it happened twice in 2 months. I may need to move the venue as I don't wish to lose my most dedicated members. Karaoke MC's and venue owners reading I hope understand we karaoke lovers don't appreciate inaccurate starting times or being made to wait in an effort to push more drinks. I would have loved to give this place an unreserved endorsement. But if audiences coming at the appointed time are forced to wait for longer rotations to build its time BADLY wasted. You can sing just as many songs at the Gladstone Hotel with its huge crowds. The difference its, the crowds are why you wait, not the host.

Final Grade: B-

Summary Scores:

Facilities:
9.0 (Excellent setup, very imtimate, yet exposed to your "loving" public)
Food Selection: 8.5 (Basic pub fare with a few Indian dishes, nice selection on cakes)
Food Quality: 8.2 (food was overall quite good you won't be disappointed)
Prices: 7.0 (Prices are basically average)
Location: 9.5 (Right on top of Wellsley subway station, paid parking right next door, doesn't get better than that)
Song Selection: 8.2 (Strong selection, but others like Jason Rolland and Jeremy Sikloski are pushing the envelope)
Equipment: 8.5 (Excellent equipment, would love to see an LCD monitor mounted higher though)
Host: 8.0 (I would have given a 9.0 but as I said earlier, making the audiences wait an hour because the queues aren't large enough is bad practice. Especially by an MC of this high caliber. The bad taste it leaves makes one more likely to complain rather than buy more food or drink)
Service: 7.5 (The service was actually quite good some times, but other times it felt like we were forgotten. May have to do with staff getting busy with the opposite room where the bar is)
Rotation Times: 6.0 (Making people wait past the published starting time to push alcohol is NOT cool)

Venue Information:

Peter Rockwell, Pete Rock Radio Karaoke
27 Wellsley Street East,
Toronto, ON M4Y 1G7
Phone: (416) 944-9369

Pete Rock Radio Karaoke
Site: http://www.peterockradio.com and
http://www.karaokeisstupid.com

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