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A Where2sing.com exclusive Karaoke Gig Review

True Blue Sports Bar (was Stock Exchange Bar) karaoke venue review on www.where2sing.com

Karaoke in a far-flung place

Karaoke in some far-flung place. Is it just a dream?

What's this in my wallet? It looks like a brightly-coloured ticket, or some kind of drinks voucher, but it bears the inscription 50RMB, and quite a lot of words that are just simply not English. I'm still a bit sleepy from last night, but slowly the memories come wafting back...

Whilst it may be survivably warm in the north, karaoke for most this time of year brings a reasonable devotion to duty in braving the cold and supporting local karaoke venues. And thus, along with singing and clapping to keep warm, much alcohol needs to be consumed, and this in turn leads to a remarkably good night's sleep.

And so to dream...

Spin the world and choose a warmer climate, like asia, and the mists of sleep bring out places like the Philippines, and steamy Singapore, or veer a little right across to Hong Kong, or up and, still floating through sleep, the coastline of China, and let the pin drop carelessly in Shanghai.

The dream settles gently in a downtown hotel, within sight of the famous Bund - the curved riverbank that separates the old colonial city from the new glittering area with its trademark Oriental Tower - and the night is a warm 31 degrees. There's the bustle of life outside as this is the early evening, a mixture of modern and old as taxis negotiate the streets and the wayward pedestrians more by use of their horn than by any serious driving skill, tourists wander aimlessly seeking a new place in which to eat or drink, and scruffy Chinese workers shuffle along in that curious Chinese way or ride bicycles in a haphazard manner only tolerated in asia. The sounds are foreign, and the words are foreign too, and it's nice to stand in the midst with life passing on all sides.

The whisps of sleepiness are clearing, the picture is coming into focus, and I'm being drawn into the reality. The murmuring of a city of twenty million residents, almost the same as the population of Australia, is becoming louder, the unintelligible noise is becoming words and shouted sentences and exclamations, the general hubbub is changing into the distinct sound of cars tooting, bicycle bells ringing, and all around me now the clatter of busy city life. I step forward and am instantly almost collected by a man cycling precariously on the footpath, and he swerves and narrowly misses another person.

I wave at a taxi bearing an illuminated sign that I suppose means he is available, and he drives at me and stops urgently so as to impede the passage of an old lady who is nearly tipped from her bicycle. The taxi is modern, but the passenger seat is asian-sized, and the driver is shielded by a comprehensive plastic screen. He asks me something in words that have no meaning, and I presume they mean 'where are you going?' I show him a little card bearing my destination, the idyllic karaoke club with the stage and the lights and the impeccable service and the holiday to be won, and he turns the card the other way up and reads what to me are only symbols. Nodding, he passes the card back, and we set off, weaving, but slowly, tooting, but always with cause, and with the warm wind rushing past the open window, and the exciting Shanghai night and streets of small shops and shopkeepers still at work or eating with chopsticks out of small bowls passing my window. Roads widen, and we are leaving the main tourist centre of the city, roads are branching upwards to a freeway as we pass beneath, sometimes ignoring red lights, and always making turns without indication but normally pausing to toot lengthily at those who are turning in competition.

The journey is longer than I had imagined, and I make a questioning gesture to him, and he points forward enthusiastically including some words that I hope mean my destination is soon. More roads, more red lights, not so many turns, and even not so many tall buildings. We stop behind other traffic, and I am looking out at an old Chinese temple. I ask him 'Jin'An...' and make an appropriate praying pose with my hands, and he nods and repeats it back to me with obviously the correct pronunciation. I'm pleased, because it means we have now definitely gone too far, and five minutes later and the same forward pointing gesture that can now only mean Beijing is around the corner, I call a halt to the escapade, thrust a 20 RMB note into his hand, and jump out. Crossing the road I avoid being run down by my next taxi, and he is excited that he knows where I want to go, and we head back along the just-travelled city streets.

It's just around the corner from the Ritz Carlton Hotel, but I see no sign of the hotel as we turn into Tongren Road, and my driver stops outside a number of glitzy expatriate bars. I know this is not in my dream, so I wander along, and soon see the numbers are some way from my ideal. Number 100 is only just passed, and I am seeking something around 300. I walk. The road becomes a little darker, I skirt construction work that reduces occasional traffic to one lane, I pass little open-fronted shops in which the owners are eating or playing Marjong or just lazing and chatting, and five minutes later I am approaching an intersection. But then I see a building with lights on its broad steps, an impressive entrance, and more importantly the very words that I am seeking - 'Stock Exchange Hotel, Shanghai'.

The doorman greets me with the sort of welcome that makes one pause, wondering if some entrance fee is about to be extracted, but nothing more happens, and so I walk forward through the doors. I have seen pictures on the hotel's website, and I am expecting a cavernous building with acres of bars, all manner of types of entertainment running simultaneously, and the noise of hundreds having a great time. The room is almost empty.

But there's a bar along the leftand wall of this approximately square room, and I step up to that section and head to the bar. Certainly the barman is friendly, explains that 50RMB gets me the cheapest deal on beer and something about refils that involves the voucher he passes me, and I need this beer. It's warm outside, and I've just had a bit of a journey, and the first glass barely touches the side. The glass is refilled, and no more money is requested.

The room is appoximately square, one side being the bar at which I'm now standing, the other side being, well, not really anything, and the back of the room being a broad stage approximately on the same level at which I'm now standing but with a very high and very wide DJ console behind it. 'It's karaoke night' declares a guy bearing down on me, and before I can say anything in reply he shakes my hand, tells me his name is 'Jigz the entertainment manager', and informs me I should sing. 'Later', I suggest, but he has the unmistakable charm and enthusiasm of a Filipino, so I ask him and he tells me yes, from Manila, aged 36, been here for some years and came back recently when this bar opened, was a music producer in his home country, loves karaoke, and don't worry it will be much busier later on when everyone else gets here, probably around 11 or so, but look already we have a group of Americans over there.

The room has some large columns, and now I see seated around a table, set in part of the central lower area and previously hidden from my view, a group of half-dozen foreigners. 'It's karaoke . . .(full story on where2sing.com)

Read the rest of this exclusive Karaoke Gig Review, and find whether this karaoke gig is still running on Where2sing.com . . .

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