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PJ OReillys Irish Pub karaoke venue review on www.where2sing.com

PJ O'Reillys Irish Pub karaoke

The middle of Canberra always looks to me like a city centre without a centre, perhaps because I never seem to find what I'm looking for, or maybe because the roads tend to be circular and you invariably end up where you started....

But, give the centre a miss, and opt for one of the adjacent city blocks, and you find PJ O'Reilly's Irish pub hiding on a corner.
Hiding, I say, because it took the exact address for me to be able to find it, and even when I was there I was hard-pressed to see the pub behind the overhanging building facade. And, as I walked in through the entrance on the corner, so it seemed that few others had found the place, because I was greeted by a group of four bouncers gathered just inside the entrance of the otherwise deserted main bar.

But the unmistakable sounds of karaoke were coming from the doorway through to the adjacent bar, and it was there that I headed.

This is an Irish pub, but forget the idea of cramped spaces and low ceilings, for this is obviously an earlier attempt at reproducing such a pub, and has high ceilings and an overall impression of much space. As you walk through to this second bar, the only one which was inhabited, you're entering through a wide doorway set halfway along one of the walls of the large, square room. Immediately to your right is a stage, separated from you by a wooden railing, but strangely the singer was facing me over this railing as I walked in.

In the centre of the room is a large square piller - which has been added to, and now forms a sort of central partition that prevents you from seeing the whole of the rest of the room from anywhere that you may be standing. And, still hestitating in the doorway, the bar is set all along the lefthand wall - a typical pseudo Irish pub bar with a scattering of bar objects and all the correct brands of taps.

I conveyed my pint to small table pushed against the central piller section, a place from which I had a prime view of the stage. The host was surprising with an American accent, a younger and well dressed guy looking all the part of a karaoke host. Between songs, he bent over an extremely impressive looking machine, obviously one complete unit and full of twinkling lights, dials, sockets and disk drives. More impressively, he kept up his line of friendly banter as he worked to select and insert discs, press buttons, and get the next singer started.

The singer, for his part, stood side-on the the audience, facing a monitor on a stand just in front of the wooden railings. To the singer's right, set solidly on the front corners of the stage, were two decent speakers, but stangely the sound was coming from somewhere else. Ah, just to my left and across the room, several metres in front of the stage but actually very close to the audience, was a single EV speaker perched atop a stand, and facing across the room. I ducked my head around the column in search of a second speaker, but couldn't see one. I cupped my ears towards the two FOH speakers sitting on the edge of the stage, but if any sound were coming from these it wasn't evident.

'Wait', said the host at the end of the singer's song, 'wait there, you've got a second song'. The singer looked surprised, and just slightly uncomfortable, and indeed, as the song started, his lack of comfort seemed justified. I hoped this was not 'kamakaze karaoke', because I'm not good at faking my way through a song that I may have previously heard, but have not really listened to or ever tried before. But, no, it seemed that it was a song he knew, but just one that put up more of a fight than expected. The singer survived, and left.

The next singer was welcomed to the stage, sang his first song adequately, and was routinely held there for his second. Normally, I would find this tiresome, but the atmosphere was pleasant, the sound was reasonable (EV speakers, even one of them, are good), and it was early in the evening with obviously few singers and a total of maybe twenty people in the room.

The host had been using every other sentence to implore us all to choose songs 'there are heaps of songs waiting to be sung' he said, a nice line that I think I liked. He also told us that there were plenty of songbooks all around the room, so I took a look around, and asked the girl at another table whether I could have one of the three lying there.

Now back with the songbook and a second beer, I had a browse through this obviously much loved publication. You know the way that paper becomes almost blotting-paper like when handled over extremely long periods - this book had the feel of a thousand singers' hands having searched its pages for their favourites, the white paper having mellowed to a pleasantly off-white shade, the evidence of a thousand singers' drinks embedded in its thin cardboard covers. But, printed double-sided on paper not encapsulated in plastic, this slim volume held ovr 60 sheets and what must have been 4000+ songs (but not the 6000+ boasted about on the rear cover). The first few pages were welcoming notes for new singers, gentle reminders of what to do and what not to do at karaoke, the rules very neatly listed in unnoffensive style and captioned with lines from famous songs (eg: Do not hassle the KJ for your song - 'Let It Be', The Beatles).

I was amusing myself with reading these first few pages when the host appeared at my elbow and asked me how it was going. I was happy to inform him that it, whatever it was that was going, was actually going well, or at least going to be going well, and he seemed happy enough with that as an answer, and left. So I found something modern, but gentle, went up to the wooden railings, leant over and wrote it on his clipboard. But a couple of minutes later, now back at my table and beer, . . .(full story on where2sing.com)

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