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. http://www.chang-sang.com/BigCityMusic/
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: http://www.chang-sang.com/BigCityMusic/


At 8:06 PM, Blogger Workin In Hong Kong said...

There's no Chinese songs at this place. That sucks

At 10:32 PM, Blogger Jonah A. Libster said...

Sorry, most public karaoke bars in Toronto do not have any Chinese or any other non-English songs because for better or worse, the vast majority of people who come into the public karaoke pubs/bars are English speaking. You do raise an interesting point which I had thought was understood. In my articles I'll mention what languages are available. Now Canadian Karaoke does have some Chinese songs but...only if you they know they need them in advance. Neil Harris has probably the largest collection of Spanish(Mexican) in his collection. Unfortunately the venue he was to use them closed. The other issue you must understand is that getting a good Karaoke selection in any language is a SIGNIFICANT expense. I happen to know it costs from $1.50 to $3.00 us PER SONG. Imagine what it would cost us to have a decent selection in 1 language, let alone two. I hope that puts everything in proper perspective. Sorry for the disappointment with no Chinese songs. Again, I'll make it a point to list language available at each public venue. Oh, most Karaoke private boxes (unlike pub/bars) tend to have more as much or more Chinese and Korean Songs as English. If that makes you feel any better.


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