Karaoke Review Update: Gladstone Hotel w/ Peter Styles
** BEST KARAOKE BAR MC 2010 **
** BEST QUALITY FOOD AT A KARAOKE VENUE 2010 **
January 29th, 2011
The Gladstone Hotel has a Karaoke Champion in Peter Styles who is probably as much of an enthusiast as I am. Don't get the idea that this automatically makes for a good review. While it may be voted best karaoke place by Now Magazine, well as much as I like Now Magazine, I don't always agree with their reviewers, so I'm writing my own. That said, I'm updating the review as there are a number of details that have changed, some good some not so good.
The Good: The Gladstone Hotel has Peter hosting on Friday-Saturday nights. This as cut back from the original Wednesday-Saturday which pains me and many I suspect. Mr. Styles is STILL as good as rumoured: He's EXCELLENT at working the crowd, and being a professional singer himself when he does his vocal intro, people perk their ears. And the energy feels genuine. He's probably the greatest asset of this venue. Song selection is now second ONLY to Jason Rolland!! There are over 30k Songs in his collection. A few duplicates being sorted out, but make no mistake. Peter has upped the ante! Drink prices are quite reasonable and there is no cover charge. The location is fairly convenient: You can get there by Streetcar quite easily and there is street side parking available.
They've added food and the food is first rate! All produce home grown in Ontario. The selection is not as large as many other restaurants but there is enough for most people and specials that change enough keep you coming back. Food quality is second to none, save perhaps on the Sweet Potato fries which are a touch dry for me taste.
The monitors (there are now 3) are in a good a position as I could think of given the layout. The LCD monitor for the singer is mounted above your head (it had been knocked down a number of times), and the LCD Project er makes it easy to see your lyrics while appearing to look into the crowd. Which is actually quite cool.
The Bad: Service unfortunately needs a little work. Its been from fair to poor. Larger tables will get preferences and sometime smaller tables go entirely unnoticed.
The mixed: The facilities are fairly large but the configuration makes it difficult to balance sound. If you sit in the front, be prepared for LOUD volume. At times it was actually hurting my ears (the volume gets louder the later the evening goes) so I suggest the mid section. At the back its much harder to hear because speakers can't be positioned there. On the plus side, if you tell Peter its too loud he'll take the volume down a notch.
Peter has a sound engineer at the back who for some reasons isn't paying attention to balance levels much of the time. Peter has commented several times on this. Too frequently the sound engineer let balances go entirely to the point you couldn't hear the singer. Sometimes he's got the balance, but sometimes its as if he lets sounds levels go on automatic pilot.
In all fairness Peter tries his best to give everyone in a very large crowd a chance, but sometimes a new person coming at the last hour would come in front someone who waited for 1.5 hours.
While the selection is the best or 2nd best in Toronto, its not reflected in his books! The only books available have 7k songs out of the 30k and the old song codes which he doesn't really use much anymore (not he queries the songs based on author and title). I'm assured a book is being compiled with the new selections, but its a weak spot. There is a website you can view on your computer or mobile phone (done by yours truly) at http://www.evolveit.ca/gladstone_karaoke/karaoke_song_query.php, but its not well advertised. (I'm getting a new URL to make it easier).
The verdict: The Gladstone Hotel with Peter Styles is overall still a excellent venue (mostly) with significant improvements. While I'd say its in the top 3, a few things still need to be done to make the undisputed champ of the karaoke pub world.
1. A sound engineer that pays more attention to volume levels (I've had complaints about it at the Toronto Karaoke Meetup Group, that is how bad he is sometimes)
2. Printed books or at least a kiosk where people can have FULL viewing access to the songs he has instead of asking if he has a song (80% change he has it)
3. Wait staff need a bit of polishing up and not neglecting patrons at small tables.
What is good is VERY VERY good. Peter is still the only guy with an applause sign I've seen so far. (and its a powerful tool). You WILL have fun at the Gladstone in spite of a few rough edges.
Final Grade: B+
Excellent Host, fantastic song selection, amazing quality food. Sound balance between the front and back could be improved. Sound engineer that pays more attention to balance is badly needed. Wait times are tricky, popularity has its price.
Facilities: 7.5 (Lots of Space, sound however is unbalanced in different sections)
Equipment: 8.0 (New speakers installed, but sound engineer needs to be more alert)
Location: 7.5 (Easy to spot, moderately easy to get to using the Queen St. Streetcar)
Song Selection: 9.0 (The spot for best selection is within the Gladstone's reach)
Wait Times: 7 (scaled:public venue,Peter will try to shuffle within reasons if asked)
Host: 9.5 (VERY entertaining, Pays attention to the crowd, you'll love this guy)
Food Prices: 7.5 (Prices are slightly higher than average but the food quality is well above)
Food Quality: 9
Food Selection: 7 (slightly limited in selection)
10 PM - 1 AM
The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Phone: 416 531 4635
Info on the Host: http://www.peterstyles.info