Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Karaoke Review: Fox & Fiddle 27 Wellesley Street East W/ Peter Rockwell

2010-05-01 (Note: attended twice to check for consistency)

I've kept up with Peter over the years he's been doing karaoke in his original comic radio style. Some have imitated but none have duplicated...yet. More recently the mainstay karaoke hosts have actually improved, the venue setups were lacking of late. I'm hoping the venues take a few hints.

The Good:
This venue actually has a room that is dedicated to Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. This is a VERY good thing (especially for Fight Nights, the show can still go on unlike the Fox & Fiddle at Eglington and Laird). The song selection is still good although a few have better. The comedy, so long as you are not offended by rated "X" humor (NOT for children), is classic and to coin a phrase, "We're not just laughing at you we're laughing behind you". Sometimes Peter makes fun of the songs (and the song selection doesn't matter, its all entertainment), makes jokes about you, or your audience. That's the point. The equipment performs well and while you won't sound bad, you may not be heard at all if you cover the mike with your hand. (A number of people didn't seem to get the message no matter times Peter joked about it or the audience yelled "Don't cover the mike")

The food is fairly good and the decor is much improved over the "Fiddler's Green" that used to be at the same location. It feels like a comfortable pub, or perhaps the scene from "Cheers".

The setup is nearly perfect. You are right in front of the audience, top larger screens help the audience sing right along and you have a monitor right in front to help you out. Only improvement I can recommend is an LCD screen at eye level for the singer instead of the CRT TV Peter still uses. Peter Styles now apparently has a LCD monitor at eye level at the Gladstone Hotel and Jason Rolland has apparently done the same things at Toby's and other venue with his custom built adjustable LCD stand. It's really worth looking into.

The Mixed: Pricing of food has generally been going up, but I felt the prices on food and drink had some room for improvement. Slightly above average. The room is of good size but it could get crowded. The advantage of a dedicated karaoke pub room can be overcome by larger audiences.

The Bad: I had hoped this section would have nothing in it but on Saturdays there is a serious issue. While all marketing material and signs say karaoke starts at 10 PM, Peter will wait until as late as 11 PM. I've mentioned in previous reviews this is not cool and Peter Rockwell knows how to work an audience of any size. It was implied that one reason was gets people to drink more. I consider that to be disrespectful to the audience. This also puts the rotation in the lower category in part because the host is waiting for the queue to be longer. Karaoke hosts in general, if you post a time and start later on a regular basis because you don't feel the queue is large enough, I'll take off marks and emphasis it. It's bad business. To pub owners who may be pushing their hosts to this sort of behavior be warned, your patrons will not appreciate it. Making people who come on time wait, and my group tends to have a full dinner before karaoke begins, wastes our dollars as well as our time. You want people to drink more, keep them HAPPY. Not irritated.

The Fox & Fiddle at Wellsley has GREAT potential. An excellent host for the younger and open-minded crowded, fairly good food, great location, good song selection and equipment. Unfortunately the karaoke business practices in regards to starting times, whether it's because of the venue owner, the karaoke host, or both, leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. Depriving audiences of up one hour of joyful, humors singing to push people to buy more drinks is bad practice either way. There were actually open complaints by my group published on the Meetup site comments because it happened twice in 2 months. I may need to move the venue as I don't wish to lose my most dedicated members. Karaoke MC's and venue owners reading I hope understand we karaoke lovers don't appreciate inaccurate starting times or being made to wait in an effort to push more drinks. I would have loved to give this place an unreserved endorsement. But if audiences coming at the appointed time are forced to wait for longer rotations to build its time BADLY wasted. You can sing just as many songs at the Gladstone Hotel with its huge crowds. The difference its, the crowds are why you wait, not the host.

Final Grade: B-

Summary Scores:

9.0 (Excellent setup, very imtimate, yet exposed to your "loving" public)
Food Selection: 8.5 (Basic pub fare with a few Indian dishes, nice selection on cakes)
Food Quality: 8.2 (food was overall quite good you won't be disappointed)
Prices: 7.0 (Prices are basically average)
Location: 9.5 (Right on top of Wellsley subway station, paid parking right next door, doesn't get better than that)
Song Selection: 8.2 (Strong selection, but others like Jason Rolland and Jeremy Sikloski are pushing the envelope)
Equipment: 8.5 (Excellent equipment, would love to see an LCD monitor mounted higher though)
Host: 8.0 (I would have given a 9.0 but as I said earlier, making the audiences wait an hour because the queues aren't large enough is bad practice. Especially by an MC of this high caliber. The bad taste it leaves makes one more likely to complain rather than buy more food or drink)
Service: 7.5 (The service was actually quite good some times, but other times it felt like we were forgotten. May have to do with staff getting busy with the opposite room where the bar is)
Rotation Times: 6.0 (Making people wait past the published starting time to push alcohol is NOT cool)

Venue Information:

Peter Rockwell, Pete Rock Radio Karaoke
27 Wellsley Street East,
Toronto, ON M4Y 1G7
Phone: (416) 944-9369

Pete Rock Radio Karaoke
Site: http://www.peterockradio.com and