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From the Where2sing.com stories:
The Great Karaoke Escape 2004/05

Day 3

Thinking about last night at Camden RSL makes me wonder about the value of the comments under Where2sing.com listings. I suppose there will always be a bit of inconsistency as these comments are compiled from a variety of sources, but I decide that the increasing readership of the site, and therefore the increasing pool of opinion from which these comments are derived, will help increase their accuracy. The year started off with a lot of info coming from hosts, but as a lot more singers now use the site and report back on venues, there's a wider pool of information - though strangely, the hosts' info is often the more accurate.

Canberra will be my stop tonight, and I see that there's one Saturday night karaoke in town. The drive there is pleasant, still raining on and off, but a relaxing drive that takes three hours or so, and sees me get into Canberra in time to drive around and seek a wireless hotspot for internet access. Many networks are unsecured, but I can't get close enough to them to utilise any, so I seek out the local coffee shop and camp there. In fact I'm there for more than three hours, battling through emails in an attempt to get to grips with my overflowing in-box - still the result of the Today TOnight segment a week or so prior that has brought many new people to the W2S site. Then it's off to find a motel and to spend a couple more hours on emails.

Nearly twenty years ago, in France, I found a chain of hotels called the F1 - or Formule 1 - Hotels, and these highly automated places have finally come to Australia. Entry is gained by inserting your credit card into an ATM type machine at the front door, and selecting options such as how many rooms, how many nights, and how many breakfasts (in Australia, the ATM is used only out of hours - a shame as I always think this is rather fun). Your 'key' is a 6-digit code that you use to get through both the front door and the door to your room, and pretty much everything in the place is automatic - you just rarely see the staff. The places are always neat and clean, the rooms generally $39, $49 or $59 a night and able to sleep three people, and the hotels are normally located right where the traveller wants them - at the edge of a town. I find Canberra's F1 Hotel on the way into the city, and it's there that I catch up on emails, and make the phone call to Pete Graham for the Radio 2GB karaoke update.

I like Canberra - there's something clean and suburban about it, whilst still having the size of an interesting city. I also find that all roads seem to lead me back to where I started - perhaps a political-geographical association? Parking can be a bit of a problem - it seems that almost everyone needs a car to get around, yet little accommodation has been provided in which to park these. Last time I was in Canberra it was a hot and sunny day, and I spent a happy hour or two paddling a canoe around the lake, but today it's cold and I'm on a mission.

The only karaoke venue in town for a Saturday night turns out to be a bit harder to find than I expected. I had thought it would be very 'city centre' and overflowing with eager singers, but it's slightly out of the main area and rather empty. Still, I suppose that will mean there's plenty of opportunity to sing, and hopefully the locals will be friendly. As I walk in, the sound is fine, well - pretty average actually, but there's no other option for karaoke tonight locally. The host is sporting an American accent, the gear looks good, and there's my favourite beer on tap. I stay.

This room could be boring, but it has been well furnished so that it's no longer possible to see every part of the room from any other position in it, and it does prompt me to take my drink and stand in a couple of different areas. But, having a pretty much square room seems to confuse the focus, and the stage is in a very strange location. In fact, so much so, that almost everyone seems to have to turn in their seats to watch the singer, and inevitably the room is populated by people who seem to have come in groups and to chat, rather than to watch the karaoke. But, if you were a host engaged to run karaoke in such a room, could you really abandon a large stage in favour of some other configuration? I think not. Perhaps the problem is that there's no real design purpose to the room - is it a place with nooks and crannies in which people should sit and talk, or is it an entertainment room with the stage as the selected focus? The other bar, the one though which I passed on the way to this one looks to be a better layout for karaoke, but perhaps the host had no choice in rooms.

The sound is strange. It's coming from a single speaker (I think) opposite me and against the far wall - some way from the stage. It's good sound, but it's still just one speaker, and I bet the singer finds that odd. When compared with the obvious high investment that the host has made in his other equipment, it seems like a very strange decision to try to deliver a good karaoke experience in this manner. Never mind, I'm here now, and must write my review in my head.

Read more singers' stories, and write your own karaoke story, on Where2sing.com . . .

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