Toronto Karaoke Review: Gladstone Hotel w/ Peter Styles
** BEST KARAOKE BAR MC 2005 **
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, on to the juicy details.
The Good: The Gladstone Hotel has Peter hosting on Wednesday-Saturday nights so if you want to see a good host more than once a week, I can't think of a place better. Make no mistake, Mr. Styles is as good as rumured: 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 quite decent. With over 5000 English songs its enough to keep you entertained for quite awhile. Indexed both by artist and alphabetically, you'll find what you're looking for. 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.
The Bad: There is no food available at this venue, but you are permitted to bring in food from outside. I'd prefer to be able to order food in the Hotel rather than go 1-3 blocks of my way if I'm hungry which seems likely if you spend 4 hours there. So if you plan on going for the full duration, bring a snack.
The mixed: The facilities are fairly large, but the stage is small. Also, 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. Equipment was in spotty condition when I was there: If you stepped the wrong way the CD machine would skip because of the table, and a speaker stopped working in the middle of an evening requiring the sound engineer to patch in a smaller speaker. My guess is the equipment was a bit aged and due for replacement. You may never get a chance to exuast the song list because the wait times to sing are VERY long. Generally an hour or more between songs. 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.
The verdict: The Gladstone Hotel with Peter Styles is overall a good venue. I don't know if I would necessarily give it "best venue in Toronto" without more research. What is good is VERY good. The worst part of this venue is the fact that there is no food on site, and the wait times can be quite long, but it may vary depending on the crowd. If you prompt Peter it may be reduced if you've been waiting too long. I was surprised at the equipment, but it may have been rectified by now and testing procedures put in place if they haven't replaced their old speaker(s). For people looking for a good time with a great personality, good selection and willing to be entertained by others, The Gladstone is a good place to go.
Final Grade: B
Excellent Host, decent song selection, equipment and sound balance between the front and back could be improved. Some food would be REALLY nice. Wait times are tricky, popularity has its price.
Facilities: 7.5 (Lots of Space, sound however is unbalanced in different sections)
Equipment: 7.5 (Had to remove points for player that skippped touched, old speakers)
Location: 7.5 (Easy to spot, moderatly easy to get to using the Queen St. Streetcar)
Song Selection: 8.0 (has most of everything, only slightly out of date)
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 (This applies to drinks only, because there was no food)
Food Quality: 7 (see update below 2006)
Food Seiection: 7 (sky's the limit, as long as you bring food from outside. Just be nice and order drinks there because the drink are reasonable)
Updated 2006: The now have food at the Gladstone. Appetizers mostly and kitchen closes early but it is there. Will revisit the Gladstone shortly to see if more progress has been made in the food department.
For those who are confused by Grade versus score, Equipment, Selection, wait times and Host count for more than the other categories.
9PM - 1 AM
The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Phone: 416 531 4635
Info on the Host: http://www.peterstyles.info