Thursday, March 27, 2014

Peter Styles confirmed Wednesdays at Jazz Bistro

For Peter Styles fans, news: I've received firm confirmation from the Sinatra of Karaoke himself that he'll be doing Wednesday nights at the Jazz Bistro (

Address: 251 Victoria Street
Toronto, Ontario M5B 1T8
Phone: 416.363.5299

I have some high hopes for this venue as it appears to be a place truly focused on the Jazz Scene, and a great mix for Peter's Style. (Pun intended). He'll be on the top floor starting April 2nd (Wednseday). I'll be there to do a review of the place. Later today I'll a late lunch there.  I'll keep you Peter Styles fans on top of what is going on with him. They'll also be a karaoke database makeover (busy with a few other projects but hopefully by Monday I'll have it done) seeing as Peter is no longer at the Gladstone and his song selection has increased. Some mobile optimizations I hope to be in the mix as time permits. Stay tuned for additional info and reviews!

Update: I've been to the venue during a sound check. Looks VERY nice. I can't officially post a review yet but, the sound there will be very good to exceptional (depending on final setup). It feels like you're the star in a professional jazz club rather than a bar which is a nice feeling. Karaoke will be from 9 PM to 12 AM (maybe 1 AM...). In my opinion this is an excellent time as paying customers have to go to work the next day. I am cautiously optimistic.. 


Karaoke Review: Danny's Cash Karaoke at Garage

Review Date: March 26, 2014

My first review after a 3 year hiatus. Man of man many things have changed. Fortunately I'm not out of the loop. What made it easier to do this review is I live only a few block away from this location. Wednesday nights are never exactly an easy one to fill;people working are tired or (like me) still working to meet deadlines. So I give credit to places that are able to keep Wednesday nights going with Karaoke. That said, let's get down to, "The Good, The Bad, and of course, The Ugly"

The Good: The location is easy enough to reach at the corner of Church and Wellsley (1 block south, East side to be exact).

Danny's equipment sounds as good as Jason Rolland who has always kept top notch equipment.

The average KJ has upped the ante on the song count and Danny is no exception. With roughly about 26k songs (rounding up) the classics and new hits are covered with only a few minor gaps in Weird Al Yankovic. :D They'll be a few odd classics you may miss but very few. The song selection is decent. (Yet to find anyone with a better selection than Jason Rolland however).

Balance is excellent. You'll sound like a pro here hands down. I'm amazed given I didn't see a sound check before things started off (a few short "ah,ah"'s, most KJ do one song to be sure.

The food service is excellent: friendly, fast and courteous.

Food selection is fairly good for a bar. Standard sandwiches, steaks, fish/chips with some exotic specials.

The Bad: Unfortunate  "the bad" elements negate the positive aspects of  "the good". The stage setup is among the worst I'd seen in years: The monitor is on the bar?!? I've no idea who came up with that idea but not only is your back to the glass garage doors (which faces Church street) but to the audience as well. And to make matters worse, people have to work/dodge around you to submit their selection.

KJs, many of you seem to miss the fact there are LCD Monitor Stands you can purchase from AV shops, including tripod variations (which are the most stable). Putting a desktop monitor on the bar is a really bad choice for a setup.

Karaoke stated 30 minutes late as well. The first 2 things everyone should remember in this business are "Time is Money", and "Never waste the customer's time". By telling everyone Karaoke starts at 10 PM and starting at 10:30, you tell people who arrive on time they are not valued and that creates irritation. Rightly so. As a consequence I deduct 1 point for every 15 minutes a karaoke host starts late. After all, it's not like the host will go an extra 30 minutes late to compensate, and on Wednesday nights people usually have to work in the morning. It's just bad form, especially on a weeknight.

 To top this off, Danny seems to have trouble getting song selections in. On average it was around 1-2 minutes between each singer after they were done. I didn't look carefully at the software but it looked advanced enough to have a back queue. And even if it wasn't 1 minute between singers is a bit awkward/long especially when starting late. I did "Video Killed the Radio Star" and left the stage when my lyrics finished. There is a somewhat long outtro which I improve with sometimes. But to save time I got off the stage quickly, but Danny kept the track running the full length; 1-2 minutes after I had put down the mike and sat down. Why didn't he fade out?  (or cut it short) for the next performer?. "Never waste the customer's time".

The Mixed: The food quality is an extremely mixed bag here. Ordered the lamb burger. Fries were excellent, but the lamb burger had raw fragments in it. Had to send it back. The server tried to convince me that for lamb this was okay (I've had lots lamb burgers, okay, raw chunks in the middle is undercooked) but they did bring me another one. Hopefully this is a simple matter of bad luck and no one else will experience it, but still. First time I actually sent food back. The better cooked burger was better. The food prices are a bit above average. $12 for a burger + fries for example. You won't be getting any bargains here. The lettuce/tomatoes on my burger were very fresh to Garage's credit, but at the prices for food I'd expect no less.

The decor is minimal but will be nice in he summer as 1/2 of the walls are garage doors which open up to the patio and perhaps they are optimizing for the summer months.Danny's style isn't the worst I'd seen, but there was little to no personality that I could see. I didn't stick around long enough to see the "Cash content" as I had work to do (school night) but that part won't be the biggest concern to true karaoke fans.  I'd like to see more of the person behind the laptop. Perhaps it was just a weird night.

Layout of the restaurant will make it hard for people to reach the stage if the place is filled up. On Wednesday nights based on the low numbers I saw it may not come up as often as the owner would like. But if it does there will be pushing/shoving to through the narrow isle to get the stage and submit song requests from the back.

Summary: There are good things and not so good things. The equipment is top notch as is the balance. Song selection is certainly on par, and I'd even venture to say slightly above. The food prices are bit high and while the quality of the food is probably good, I managed to find a big chink in the armor in the food preparation quality, so the above average prices felt even more expensive. The stage setup makes for an awkward experience as your back is to people who are swarming around you to put in their selections, and simply because it was deemed to much trouble to get a monitor stand for better placement. (Again, on the bar is the WORST choice to put the lyrics monitor). Late starting times on a weeknight and long intervals between singers will greatly reduce the number of songs you'll get to sing, and take up time many of us don't have on a weeknight. Hope Danny will improve these issues quickly. Things as they are, Garage's karaoke feels like they have a DJ trying to figure out the KJ business, and contrary to popular believe, a good DJ doesn't make for a good KJ. There is potential, but the experience is at present a very mixed bag. Not exactly what people in the middle of a long work need are looking for when taking time to do karaoke on a Wednesday.

Summary Scores:

Facilities: 5.5 Not a large venue. Would estimate 200 tops. During the summer I'd add 2 points when the doors are opened.

Equipment: 8.0 (Good quality mikes. Wireless would be even cooler but not really a big deal. A 2nd mike for couples/duets would be welcome (and is fairly standard) but the quality and the sound is exceptionally good.)

Song Selection: 7.5 (It's on par with very few gaps. Doesn't quite match the selection of Rolland or Styles yet, but it's very good.)

Wait time: 6.0 (Long periods between singers, and failure to fade/cut out of long outtros. Not a good use of the customer's time. If it ever gets really crowded there will be many justified complaints.)

Food Prices: 6.0 (A bit above average and given the mixed food prep quality, not the best experience.)

Food Quality: 6.5 (What they do well, they do very well, but signs of carelessness on the lamb burger prep left irritation. Hopefully just a one time thing. But hard to be sure.

Food selection: 7.5 It's pretty good, but nothing amazing. The specials may catch your interest.

Service: 7.9 (Service was actually excellent, but I had to take 0.2 points for excuses made for the undercooked lamb burger)

Final Grade: C/C+ (There is potential for this place to be an excellent karaoke venue, but it's got some work to do to achieve it. May go back for a 2nd run review with hopes of improvement)

Venue Information: 
477 Church Street
Toronto, ON
M4Y 2C6
(647) 352-5508
Karaoke: Wednesdays 10 PM to 2 AM (may start late)

KJ Information:
Danny's Karaoke
(416) 631-9102 

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Tribute

A Man of Styles

In my scribblings of places where humble amateurs,
give voices to the music which to their heart stirs,
There was this one fellow who was quite unique,
to this very day another of his ilk I've yet to meet,
his back was oft seen 'bove the wide window tiles
of the Gladstreet Hotel stage, this was Peter Styles

A skilled troubadour during his younger days,
and then for 12 years at karaoke shows stayed,
dressing in full tuxedos; cumberbuns, shirts and suits,
perhaps some had thought his style just a little aloof,
yet, where other hosts found lacking and often crass,
on and off the Gladstone stage Peter kept up his class

A man who strived to be true to his given word,
often at his expense was the humor I'd heard,
his audiences he treated as colleagues of his own,
as he shared on the stage mikes of his mighty throne,
a crooner himself his voice theirs oft enhanced
many others, some with lessor voices perchance

Inspiring classiness in others both far and near,
people came to his aid, for they all found him dear,
technology was added, his song collections grew,
both a library and web portal all came anew,
from the skills freely added where his own were gray,
"hey, I'm just the talent" is what he'd always say

the only man to this day hoisting an "applaud" sign,
he believed in this spirit despite of our jaded times,
like the motherland he believed that full participation,
was the key to success, as was a fair rotation,
like that great distant land with flag of the rising sun,
he kept the show pure and with great spirited fun

Yet as oft changes came and in recent times marred,
twas management, not video killed this karaoke star,
once before it was tried but the audiences wailed,
which kept Peter's loved show for a time off the rails,
but as main pipes burst later, t'was finally contrived,
Peter's show's termination, the Gladstone's Music died

We fans and I for one will not give up hope,
for the spirit still stands, and we shall not mope,
like the phoenix we'll bring back our beloved Style(s) anew,
as the Gladstone declines slowly, may write further reviews,
Closer to downtown, there I may have some cause,
to keep propped up my smile, there have been several calls

So Peter as I write this, please know I am so glad,
to have shared with so many, the good times that we've had,
the unique quality presence, that showed us the stuff,
that all karaoke shows should I believe be made of,
at greener pastures I trust your show shall be renewed,
thank you for your Styles, and for sticking this through

Back with sad tidings..Gladstone Karaoke is no more

First of all folks...I'm back. Been living life as we all do but I'm back. Why, well...thought others were taking on the quest for up to date karaoke venue news. But not so much recently. And on top of all that, the Gladstone killed the Karaoke Star Peter Styles. Truth be told I watched the place move the karaoke from 10 to 11 (which people did not appreciate) and I always feared they were trying to kill it with that move. Whether or not that was the intention it didn't help. At the same time the food quality dropped significantly, food selection dropped about as much (had the driest fries I ever had one day and COLD), and food prices went up almost as much as the food selection dropped. A bit above par whereas it was quite decent before. So someone had some interesting ideas there. In the end the only reason I showed up in the last 1.5 years was Peter himself. But that is now gone. Have a strange feeling the Gladstone will start it up again with someone new but time will tell.

In any case...time to get back in the game. I'll be doing Karaoke Review about every two weeks Maybe more..Could really use donations to help offset the costs as food prices have increased in general by 30%. So, if you like reading my blog again, please consider helping to off set my costs. Believe it or not every review costs an average of $25 to write, and it also means time off from my day job. (I often work at night as well). Of course I'll let you know when Peter is up and running again. As Peter himself would say, "Don't forget the tip jar". Unlike the musicians, there are no ads, no one to buy my review ratings (and I've had offers). Please and thanks. Before my first posting on Thursday, it's cheesy but I figured I'd write up a tribute to Peter. And to literary critics, I realize I'm not a professional writer; please be kind. :D Thanks. See you in the reviews.