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Bristol Arms Retro Hotel karaoke venue review on www.where2sing.com

Bristol Arms Retro Hotel

Saturday nights in Sydney are peppered with places in which to sing, the dreadful and the deserving seem to be on every street corner....

So it was only by way of seeking a change that I headed to the Bristol Arms Retro Hotel on Sussex Street, for I have been there a few times in the last year or so and found it an enjoyable but fairly ordinary experience.

That part of Sussex Street is close to Wynyard Station, and is an area becoming known for a couple of great karaoke pubs on a Friday night, but this was Saturday and the area was awash with the young and trendy embarking on a noisy night out. The Bristol Arms is a solid and refurbished building on a corner, one of those which boasts a number of bars and a nightclub and which has therefore also digested the building behind it.

Going in through the front door, you need to turn immediately right and then down the stairs to the lower bar and bistro, for it is here that karaoke runs from about 8pm. A favourite with late teenage and early twenty-something year old hens' parties, you'll often have difficulty in securing a seat, but tonight was obviously one with only small groups finishing their meals, and the tables and chairs were scattered to suit the groups of karaoke devotees.

One such devotee was Andrew, a W2S roving reporter, so I joined him for an enthusiastic rundown on the new karaoke hosts - but not before I had been espied by Broni, and Natalie, and had received big hugs from both. As I sat with Anthony, he enthused about the new hosts, and Indeed they did look different - gone were the tired song lists and adequate but unexciting equipment, and in their stead was a full setup.

Two highly presentable and sturdy young ladies were seated behind an impressive console wrapped in black cloth, with a couple of useful-sized speakers sitting on the ground some way either side of the singer and pumping out an excellent clarity and volume. The singer had centre stage (if there had been a stage) in front of the monitor and large foldback speaker, and a double-ender spinning light thingy sat on the floor some way back and very effectively flooded the area with coloured lights.

Professional presentation was obviously the order of the day, with all leads and everything that could move being taped down, even going so far as having leads in the walkway buried under purpose-built mats which were themselves taped down. Broni was next to sing, taking position and almost immediately telling me in a stage whisper (read: loudly) that I better mention the short mic leads in my review. Fortunately Broni's words were lost on the hosts, and, anyway, Broni tugged the lead hard enough to dislodge its yellow tape and thus secure another metre or so of movement. Nice one, Broni.

The song list is excellent with about 2000 titles (including duplicates), both clearly printed in a size of type designed to be read, and with the quality and quantity of songs to satisfy most tastes. Throughout the night there were always spare copies of both Artist and Song Title books on top of one of the large speakers where the Singers' Sheet on a clipboard was also located. I generally expect to find a few songs I know in a list, and one or other venue will have one or other of the more obscure songs that I sometimes seek, but this list appeared to have them all. I could see both the ancient songs and the recent hits, so someone has done some very intelligent and careful choosing.

The crowd numbered about fifty, small for that venue, but only those around me (the karaoke posse) were singing. So, just a few more songs and it was my turn. I had been seated just a couple of metres in front of one of the large speakers, but now that I was in front of the foldback I had the same quality and volume by which to sing. In fact, if anything, the volume was fractionally high given that the shortish (but slightly longer, since Broni!) leads restricting your backwards escape. So I moved to the side, and found an . . .(full story on where2sing.com)

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