Thursday, March 27, 2014

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 


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