Saturday, May 19, 2007

Karaoke Review: The Grasshopper

Reviewed: 2007-04-19

After leaving one karaoke venue somewhat early I decided I should try to do one more. I had passed the Grasshopper from time to time and knew that hey karaoke there so decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. With all the grass blades of karaoke venues a hop to one more couldn't hurt and could prove an interesting place to "chirp".

The Good:
The song selection was actually fair considering that it was a MIDI based system. This one was called DVOK. Its MIDI so obviously the quality of the music isn't the best and is meant for a low budget add-on activity for a bar. But it had a better selection than most. Books available. In addition to the 8068 songs in English there were songs in Vietnamese, Hindi, Spanish and Filipino. There was a real stage which is actually impressive for a place this small in size. Service was quick and quite friendly which is actually fairly common in family run businesses so its something I look for these days. There is no food as this is a bar but the prices for drink were decent. Rotation times were as fair as they could be but this place is a pure FIFO rotation. (First In First Out). so being a new person won't score you points but its fast enough you won't care. The size of the place has something to do with this.

The Mixed:
While the MIDI selection was good obviously MIDI isn't ideal (MPEG would be much better). Its a basic DVD system with Mikes. Speakers were weak for singer and levels needed work but not horrible. The Monitor placement wasn't horrible (I've seen much worse) but 7 feet above the floor is awkward to read. Selection in drinks is not great. Mixes only but they can most likely make you the equivalent of most premixed bottled drinks you may be accustomed to. There is no host here which isn't really bad but if you are a traditionalist you'll notice. Its like taking home karaoke into a bar and that is what this entire setup is meant to me.

The Bad:
The place is really small. Can hold only 30-40 people tops. It keeps the rotation times down but the number of people you can bring is small. Don't bring more than 4 people with you if you expect to site anywhere.

Summary: The Grasshopper is a bar with karaoke added for fun. Its not a place for true karaoke lovers but if you are in the neighborhood and feel the urge to sing its worth going to. Of course there are better places. But there are worse as well and nothing better in this section of Toronto that I've come across. Its also VERY easy to get to: Just take the streetcar on College/Carlton East bound and there is a stop almost right next to it a block south of Parliament and Carlton. For a economic setup this is certainly one of the better ones with 8k songs in English to choose from and the people who come hear enjoy it so if you want to get noticed by a crowd this is not a bad spot to check out.

Final Grade: C

Facilities: 6.8 (Its a bar that is too small to hold many people, but has a real karaoke stage setup. Decorations do little to reduced the seedy bar look of the place however)
Equipment: 6.8 (Equipment works but speakers aren't the best and monitor placement is a bit of a neck strain)
Song Selection 8.0 (Surprisingly good consider this is an "all-in-one" MIDI System)
Food Service: 7.8 (its a bar, you get drink only, but at least the service is attentive and friendly)
Food Selection: NA (no food so don't come before dinner)
Food Quality: NA
Food Prices: 7.5 (Prices for drink aren't bad, you won't break the bank here.)
Location: 8.4 (easy to get to on the College/Carlton Streetcar. Free parking is available in various side streets)
Host: 6.7 (The Bartender calls your name, not a true karaoke bar setup)
Wait times: 9.0 (this place only holds 40 people tops so wait times are generally quick)

Note: I was noticed writing notes here and was asked several time what I was writing about. FYI, I'm not going to tell you. So if you see someone writing, if they are writing a review they'll look badly on you poking into their material. If they are must someone who likes to write, you are being irritating. So if you want to make a good impression, don't be noisy. If the person is an inspector, you'll increase you chances of a formal inspection. So, leave the people taking notes alone if you are truly concern because asking, especially more than once, will not win you any favors. Most likely the opposite.

Venue Information:
The Grasshopper
460 Parliament Street
Toronto, ON M5A3A2
(416) 323-1210
Thursdays & Sundays
9 PM - 1 AM

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At 2:37 AM, Blogger AndoDoug said...

Overall a fun place! The bartender really keeps the pace up--no lollygagging btwn numbers and this keeps everyone on their toes. She also warned me that a song I thought was over wasn't--very on the ball. But lots of little things irk--the Asian audio/video has several drawbacks--the written lyrics often can't be seen till the instant they're to be sung, so it can be really tricky if you don't know the first word or phrase of many of the lines. (This was especially apparent on 'Ode to Billy Joe.') The musical accompaniment is hit-and-miss-- often the songs are re-arranged and edited (on 'Workin' At The Car Wash Blues' an early verse is repeated as a coda at the end, in others verses are edited out or re-arranged) and they come at you awful fast. The song selection is the most limited I've come across so far, and there are no artist albums to be had. But the small crowd was great, (a group of total strangers responded really warmly to my crack at Mr. Tambourine Man) and the rotation quick. It's also a very cool little cave-like space.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger AndoDoug said...

Hi again, a few more comments after a few more visits--some of the backing tracks are truly brutal--'behind blue eyes' lacks a guitar track (!) and lopes along with a keyboard sound and little else to distinguish it. In general you can't count on the tracks for much support, you've just got to use the music as a reference and belt it out as best you can. Also the way the color moves across the lyrics to indicate when to sing is sometimes ridiculously out of sync--at times you've got to avert your gaze from the words on the screen or you'll be lost at sea in no time. The space really is cave-like, when you enter you step down into the bar, and at the back, the washroom are underground with stone walls. Also there's only one exit, the front door. This joint is rough (i.e. peopled with serious drinkers) but rarely busy--I've gotten in 6 or more songs in one night. Good acoustics and mics.


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