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A Where2sing.com exclusive Karaoke Gig Review

Sylvesters Chinese & Australian Restaurant karaoke venue review on www.where2sing.com

REVIEW: Sylvester's


When I read the name Sylvester's Chinese Restaurant in the W2S listings, I had to phone them. Not only to confirm that karaoke was really running, but to check that it really was a place in which I were welcome even if I didn't dine. The gentleman who answered the phone was very friendly, and told me that I'd be very welcome to come and drink and write down requests. I went.

Chevron Island is so close to central Surfers Paradise that it would be possible to walk. However, I drove, and as soon as I crossed the bridge onto Chevron Island, I kept my eyes open for Sylvesters.

Some places are found simply by looking for the bright lights, whilst other's take more intense hunting. Sylvesters was one of the latter - but perhaps because I had imagined an upstairs glitzy chinese restaurant with a large and perhaps elegant clientele. In my mind's eye I had seen a large room filled with tables, diners finishing chinese banquet courses, and pushing back their chairs and enjoying singers on stage.

I drove and I didn't see Sylvesters. Actually, the strip of shops on Chevron Island is really so short that I was worried, and after a couple of passes still without seeing Sylvesters, I needed to fire up my laptop and find the actual street number in readiness of a more intense search. Armed with this information, I went to the exact position in the street.

Sylvesters is an open-fronted building, looking more like an old milkbar than a chinese restaurant, and from which I could now hear some fairly awful singing. A few people were standing in its entrance, but not because it was full inside. Just inside the open frontage was a pool table, and on the other side a fairly traditional serving bar. I ordered a beer, and the lady was both efficient and friendly.

The inside of the building was well worn, and adorned in orangy-pink and mid green paint - more fitting for a downmarket indian restaurant. Incongruously, there were several large LCD monitors around the wall, but the overall impression of the place was of a building that had been many things of many years, and was now in decline.

Certainly the karaoke fitted the general feel, large home hi-fi speakers sitting on a large, low stage in the middle of the room, but against the righthand wall, a small TV for the singer and wrapped in a black cloth, and host's area with what looked very much like 15 year old equipment sitting on a table. A large Esky seemed to hold his discs.

But then I read a newspaper clipping on the wall, and it told how Sylvester's building had just been sold (at the end of November 05) for $2.2 million to a family company that was intending to feature it in some TV series - and hoped that some of the current patrons would stick around and be part of that TV series. Apparently Sylvesters had a long a colourful history as a theatre restaurant. The real estate company quoted in the article said that the $2.2M price tag meant that it was currently returning just 3%, and since this means the current lease is $66,000 a year, or well over $1000 a week in rent, I'm amazed that the place is still in business.

Despite being tragically old equipment, the sound from the speakers was reasonable, and the host's patter was friendly. But I noticed that the display of the lyrics on the LCD screen behind the singer was flawed, and looked rather like the breakup of lyrics you get from burnt discs - though I was later to see his discs, and notice that they all seemed to be originals.

As the current singer struggled through his song, and not a particularly hard one at that, I could hear what sounded like a mouth-organ being played behind me. Turning, I saw a gentleman breathing delicately into one of this devices, and indeed he had a small briefcase with 'Hohner' on the cover, and which held maybe more than a dozen of these instruments. And close by was a lady who was putting together a clarinet, and who blew a few very good notes into it to check the reed.

And it was not long before she was up on stage with her clarinet. 'It's a really hard instrument to play' enthused the KJ, a gentleman who looked as well worn as his equipment, who sang in a way that fitted perfectly with his clientele, and who seemed often either confused or pannicky. 'That's a saxophone, right?' asked the host. 'No, it's a clarinet', she corrected him. Although I thought we were in for a clarinet solo, she merely let the instrument hang from her neck whilst she sang 'Bad Habits'. She . . .(full story on where2sing.com)

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