Saturday, June 30, 2007

Karaoke Review: Peel Pub w/ Walter Henkel

Reviewed 2007-06-21

Here is an example of getting attention by asking someone who writes reviews to check out your stuff. The MC of this venue e-mailed me and let me know about his shows. While it sometimes takes me a little time to get out there (I do have a day job and it costs time and money to write these reviews) I do get out there. We have here an MC who has been in this business for about as long as the legendary Jeff Zedic. Will his experience pay off?

The Good: To my last question, yes. Wait let me say that again: YES! I had been missing Jeff Zedic with his snappy yet tasteful jokes, his musical trivia and sense of timing. With Walter I honestly felt the shades of Zedic again. A karaoke host who has mastered the mixture of musical knowledge, interacts with a crowd, has great stage presence and can tell a good joke is so rare. Walter is a prince (King yet to be determined) among karaoke hosts. His collection doesn't hurt either: 8500 songs puts is well within new standards set by karaoke hosts recently. (okay, Jason Rolland has 30k, but whose counting, oh, that would be me wouldn't it?) While Walter has a sweet spot for 70-80s (great minds think alike ;-) ) he has a wide variety for everyone and he tells me there is more coming. A lot more. The sound quality is excellent as is balance, although I felt the monitor could stand a bit higher. Apparently Walter makes his own monitor stands so if you are reading this, Walter, it would be so cool if raise the monitor (and the "bar" as it were) a bit. Service of this venue is very good so you won't want long for drink or food. Obviously I'm bit more entranced by the MC. Wait times are also quite good, especially if you arrive on time but after 11 PM you'll wait longer as the crowd is much larger by then.

The Mixed: I could go on and on about the MC but let's talk about the venue. Like the previous Peel Pub, this is really a bar. Pure and simple. People go to bars to drink more than eat, and it shows. Food selection is extremely basic (burgers, fajitas, sandwiches, basic salads. Prices are likewise quite average. no real bargains here. Decor is a bit dark. This is a LARGE venue and there is a REAL stage which on Thursdays is entirely unused. 60% of the space is closed off Thursday nights as I suspect its for live bands. (So what are karaoke participants, chop suey?) Still if there aren't as many people I could see why, but they get good crowds around 11 PM. There is a LOT of potential to make this as good a setup as Hollywood on the Queensways and with such a good MC it would make such an amazing venue. The way things are now the stage faces an exit which isn't Walter's fault. You do have dance room which helps. Since management closes off the main area of the bar on Thursdays this is all he had left which in my opinion a real shame. Food quality is passable but nothing more. People go to places like the Peel Pub (regardless of location) to drink, and food is clearly a "side dish". The location is not the worst I've seen (Fanny's is harder to get to) but the neighborhood is clear where car is king. There is most likely a bus from Victoria Park or Eglington subway (I saw a bus running infrequently but couldn't note its number) but buses here are not as frequent as other places. At least there is free parking. For those who live downtown, fastest way to get there is probably a bicycle if you are reasonable fit.

The Bad: Nothing really bad.

Summary: If it isn't obvious yet, this MC is one to watch. Walter has got the goods as a Karaoke Host and then some. I can almost guarantee anywhere he goes you'll have great karaoke experience. Which in the case of the Peel Pub is a good thing because to be honest, Walter is the best part about this venue. Besides that is a basic bar with stage for live bands. You don't really go for the food as its very basic in price in quality and karaoke fans don't want to just drink. So what you have left is a Karaoke MC. But WHAT an MC. If Walter can make a place like this a pleasure to be in, imagine what he could do in a better location. I'll be checking out his gig at the Fox & Fiddle at Eglington VERY soon. (Probably before July)

Final Grade: B

Facilities: 7.8 (This could have been a 9.3 if they could make use of that stage)
Equipment: 8.7 (Excellent sound. Raise the monitor and this becomes a 9.0)
Song Selection: 8.7 (8500 and increasing, you won't go wrong here. More to come)
Food Selection: 7.2 (Basic)
Food Quality: 7.2 (Its digestable)
Food Service: 8.3 (Exceptionally fast and cheerful)
Prices: 7.2 (ditto, nuff said)
Location: 6.7 (Not terrible convenient for those with cars, but free parking for those that do)
Wait Times: 8.0 (Wait times quite good and well managed, you should get at least 2 songs, maybe 3 if you come early)
Host: 9.0 (The Soul of Zedic is not dead in Toronto. A SERIOUS contender for top Karaoke MC of the year. Those looking to learn, here is one to watch!)

Venue Information
Peel Pub (
1660 O'Connor Drive (Eglinton and Victoria Park)
Toronto, Ontario
M4A 1W4
Thursdays, 10 PM - 2 AM

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