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Caledonian Hotel karaoke venue review on www.where2sing.com

REVIEW: Caledonian Hotel


Ipswich is about thirty minutes west of Brisbane, and always seems to me like rather a deserted town. I guess it's viewed by the folks in surrounding or further flung communities as the 'big smoke', but it's viewed by Brisbanites as being out in the country - and thus it seems to occupy a sort of no man's land; neither a country town, nor part of the city.

I had seen this host in a Brisbane inner suburb hotel just a few days before and where she was wooing a crowd no bigger than could have been fitted comfortably into a public phone box, and rather than give her the bad rap which she seemed to thoroughly deserve in that setting, I promised myself to give her a 'fair go' by seeing how many locals loved here out in a partially rural setting. Hence Ipswich this Sunday afternoon.

Ipswich has a long main street called Brisbane Road, and just off that, and near the centre of town, is Bell Street. If Ipswich seems to have a lot of pubs, it may be because they either regularly change name, or go by more than one name. And the Caledonian is no exception, also being known as the Bell Street Hotel. Its address puts it on the corner, but of course the pub is set back a few buildings down Bell Street, and therefore not quite as visible as one might first expect. It might also be a little more visible if it had the business acumen to actually advertise its karaoke out the front, rather than simply giving prominence to the standard varieties of beer which can be found in every pub and which, quite frankly, says a lot about the lack of basic skill of its advertising folk.

I walked in and found an older pub, a number of rooms with varying undefined roles, and a central bar. The young barman sporting a sort of timid mohawk and a rather vague personality gave me that regrettable Queensland greeting 'yer right there' which passes for courtesy in these parts, and upon my ordering a beer and tendering a twenty dollar note, was stupid enough to offer me change out of a ten. No, not this time, my friend - you're out of luck and I've met your dodgy type before, and you'll have to try your scam on the next punter; or am I being harsh, and did this barman with only one person in the room really take so little notice of the money tended that he genuinely mistook a twenty for a ten? He was quick enough to register my double-take of the change - 'sorry, did you give me a twenty?' he quickly said as a cover for his dishonesty, and was already diving back into the cash register for the other ten dollars. Word to the wise - be very wary in this pub, because a fish stinks from the head down, and dishonesty of this type at the bar will almost certainly have been learned from the management.

The only people in the place were those watching the karaoke, and checking the W2S listings had forewarned me that the 'crowd' was 10-30. Even then, it only just qualified for this figure as my attendance rounded out the number to 10 - and as soon as I saw the karaoke I knew why.

There was a slim, older gentleman singing, a man I later heard to be called Lloyd, and he was doing a rather gentle version of Elton John's 'Your Song'. He was obviously a seasoned karaoke person, could sing well although not following the original tune, but the sound was very quiet. There's a Lloyd in nearly every little pub karaoke - good enough to be a star in his local, but not really good enough to cut it elsewhere. He was nearly at the end of his song when the KJ came back, obviously from a toilet break because she carried her handbag, and she fussed around the console that was placed under the large screen.

I think the placement of the console had much to do with the short length of lead that connected her equipment to the large rear-projector screen set high on the wall, because it would have been much better to place the KJ almost anywhere else in the room. She therefore had her back, or her side, to the audience when she talked, and the singer was ahead of her in front of the big screen. Although the singer had a monitor, his position meant that many later singers were to watch the big screen for the words, and thus avoided looking at the audience. And therefore we didn't look at the singer. But this karaoke is run by a prominent company, and I would have expected better placement and organisation from these people.

Lloyd finished his song. An old lady at the centre of the room, and I, applauded. The host murmured something in a monotone - matching her dowdy brown pants, brown shirt, brown hair and brown shoes in tone - but no one was interested or looked up to listen. She said the name of the next singer twice, and he came forward making a great to-do about his song choice and so on, and went on to give us a remarkably ordinary and off-key performance.

Or is 'performance' the correct word when singer after singer just stands there motionless and drones through the verses. To make matters more tedious, each singer had two songs, although it seemed a surprise to every singer that they were being kept up for a second song. The host murmured between each song, often not bothering with the microphone at all, and giving a general impression that she was doing this as a 'fill in' for a real host.

I sat at my table and sipped my beer. It was four-thirty . . .(full story on where2sing.com)

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