Monday, July 31, 2006

Karaoke Review: The Fiddler's Green Pub

Fiddler's Green Pub Featuring Erica of Karaoke Queen 22 Wellsley (Wellsley & Yonge)

With one of the more original theme for a pub and a sign indicating prizes at this karaoke venue how could one resist? (Plus I'm a sucker for a good British style pub anyway). It was easy enough for me to visit being right across from Wellsley Subway station so...on to the review.

The Good: The host is by far the best thing about this karaoke pub. She has an excellent sense of humor, attentiveness that rivals Jeff of Big City Music. She really knows her stuff and keeps the crowd VERY entertained. The selection is decent (8000+ songs) with good variety although there was only indexing by alphabet, none by artist. Wait times were very well controlled it seemed although it was difficult to measure given the size of the crowd but active effort was made to move participants at a good pace.

The Mixed: Everything food related gave me mixed feelings. Service was adequate but nothing amazing. Food prices and quality were all average: You won't break the bank, but you won't have an amazing dining experience either. The selection was typical pub fare which I always enjoy but...a little more variety would be nice. Erica's equipment works fairly well, but a bit simple: Basic portable pro speakers on a post with 2 wired mikes. Sound quality was okay, but I've heard better. Wireless mikes would also help thing as well. The wired mikes seemed a big aged and should probably be replaced.

The Bad: The only thing truly bad here was the facilities: The room is entirely too small for anything but small groups. In fact karaoke participants were spread along stairs as the room couldn't properly fit them all. I felt the size and layout of the room was beneath the quality of this MC and was impressed she could do what she did in a room like this. All I can say to the pub management is: Come on! Recognize talent when you see it and use a room more suitable to bring in customers (like the first floor maybe. As a consequence of the room's size you don't really have a "stage". Just take the mike in front of the equipment.

Summary: Well Peter Style (and Jeff) have more competition here. Erica is definitely a first class MC with a style all her own. She definitely deserves the loyal following she appears to have and in public karaoke, the MC makes the event. ITs too bad the pub doesn't (or can't?) give here a room that allows her to show all her true colors. I'd love to see her in a play like Hollywood On the Queensway (who is no longer doing karaoke) where she'd really be able to give people that "entertainer" feeling. The food is okay, and will keep you from going hungry but its nothing exceptional nor is the service. Is the MC that will keep you coming here, and again, the pub should take advantage of that. The only thing I'd say to Erica is, with a wide selection (which is good but not as good as Jeff's who has 13k+ songs), and more up to date equipment, you'd have a karaoke event to seriously rival anyone doing karaoke shows in Toronto today, Peter Styles included. Brava!

Summary Scores:
Facilities: 5.5 (Just not enough room if you want a healthy crowd to show up)
Equipment: 8.0 (its good, but should be better, a little aged)
Location: 8.0 (its right in front of Wellsley subway, but all parking nearby is paid and the pub doesn't have a lot of its own but..there is parking right next door)
Song Selection: 8.0 (I'd have given it an 8.3 but Jeff at Big City Music just blew the curve)
Wait Time: 8.0 (Erica does a good job with this, far better than average)
Host: 8.8 (The MC really knows how to work the crowd. A few minor additions (I don't know what but Peter has a "applause" sign and Jeff's humor is updated with current events) and we'd have a major MC showdown)
Food Prices : 7.5 (slightly better than average)
Food Quality: 7.5 (you won't turn your nose up, but won't ask for 2nd's either)
Food Selection: 7.5 (Decent pub selection, but nothing else)
Service: 7.0 (Basic, nothing to complain about)

Final Grade: B- (With a room like this I'd normally give a lower grade but the MC manages to get the Fiddler's Green Pub a semi-decent grade. Management at the Fiddler: I'd bump it up to a B/B+ with a better room.

Venue Information:
22 Wellsley Street East
Toronto, ON 4Y 1G7
Karaoke Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 PM to 2 AM

Note: This review was done early fall of 2005(Been busy). Erica is no longer performing at the Fiddler's Green. There is a new MC named Bernie (I'll have more info later on in a new review)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Karaoke Review: The Groundhog Pub

**Karaoke MC Of the Year, 2006**

Groundhog Pub on Sherbourne and Bloor Featuring Big City Music Services.
Jeff Zedic as MC.

Well after a long absence its back to review and while I've been slow to publish I've been writing and the key think you always look for is professionalism. So far I've been averaging 50/50. Given that a place so close to where I live (no I'm not telling) it seemed unlikely a really good place could be within a 5-10 minute walk. The Groundhog was recommended to me by veterans before. Question is, was it a GOOD recommendation?

The Good: I almost hate to admit it but almost everything was good: The decor, cleanliness, lighting. The food is overall decent as were prices. Service was very good but the best of all was the MC himself. Jeff may well displace Peter Styles as the MC of the year and I'm not about to give up on Peter just yet, but its close. Deciding the MC of the year may be painful in 2006. The song selection is second to none so far. Around 13146 songs give or take. Jeff not only has an excellent voice and sense of humor (part time comedian?) but has a ton of trivia on the song selections. How many people remember a band named "Tom & Jerry" (before they took on their real names). The equipment is in excellent condition. Jeff even keeps backlists of the regular participants previous selections. You don't get much more personal service than that. Only thing missing is a wireless mike. (Hint MC's BIG hint here..)

The Mixed: Two words: Configuration and wait times. The later is impossible to avoid when you are popular (Should I be publishing this review?). Its a real stage of average size. But you will often have to shuffle between tables on a crowded day. Once you are there the setup is very good although if you are near the front window seats at the front you many have to come to the back to hear people, and you'll probably want to when the hard core karaoke fans come in. Some very funny and entertaining performances are done every week matching the levels of Peter Styles following (And they are impressive plus somewhat more colorful). The wait times are actually very good if you come in on a light evening. Otherwise expect a 2-3 hour wait between songs, which is still better than your average place with similar crowds like The Gladstone, but you can't really fault the MC at either venue. They try their best to be fair and both Jeff and Peter are very accommodating/ This is how quality and popularity are their own blessing and curse. On a crowded evening the awkwardness of the tables in relation to the stage and pool table/video game become more apparents. Aside from that everything else was was great.

The Bad: Hmm....I'm sure I could come up with lots of bad things to say, but not for this review. Got any suggestions? Send them in. (One person who will remain anonymous indicated the calamari was a tad overcooked (and I agree) but the cakes made up for it. That still puts food in the mixed category. (Gotta say SOMETHING).

Summary: Its rare that I so many good things to say and so few negative, but this venue is a rare find: Reasonable food, reasonable prices, excellent services, decent stage, combined with an MC who goes out of his way to please. The effort alone would get high points here, the fact the Jeff succeeds with flying colors makes him serious competition for Peter Styles and blows Jason Rolland out of the water. There will be a showdown I'm sure. Unfortunately for Peter (and Jason), Jeff has major edge with his selection which he is is constantly updating. He even has a website where you can ask for new selections (no promises but he does try). As I said before the room configuration can get a little tight when large crowds come in but once you get to the stage you hardly notice (until you have to go back to your seat). You'll sound like a pro on this equipment and Jeff seriously keeps his ears perked and adjusts levels according. He takes his patrons seriously and it shows. If you want a great time at karaoke, you won't go wrong here, crowds or no crowds.

Summary Scores:
Facilities: 7.5 (Have to squeeze through people if its really crowded)
Equipment: 9 (in top shape, if you sound bad here don't blame the MC)
Location: 8 (plenty of PAID parking available and some unpaid. across the street from Sherbourne Subway, )
Song Selection: 9.3 (13146 with lots of MODERN selections as well nearly all my old favorites, need I say more..)
Wait Time: 7.8 (Above Average)
Host: 9.3 (Matched only by the selection. Whether you singing or laughing at Jeff's jokes, you'll have fun)
Food Prices: 7.5 (Slightly better than average)
Food Selection: 7.0 (Decent Pub food with a touch of Greek.)
Food Quality: 7.7 (Mostly quite good. The Pub food is better than the Greek)
Services: 8.0 (Mostly good. Minor lapses but staff is generally very attentive)

Final Grade: B+/A- (its tough minor improves on food & food prices would be a solid A-)

Venue Information:
401 Bloor Street East
Toronto, ON
Phone: (416) 975-1867
Fax : (416) 975 - 9252
Fridays & Saturdays 10 PM - 2 AM

Bg City Music Site: