Sunday, February 01, 2004

Videokevaluation

Two new videoke joints recently opened and I, being a frequent visitor of such joints, found the opportunity to give them a test run.

A few months ago, to celebrate Erica’s birthday, I and a few folks from the Powerpoets flexed our vocal chords at Red Box, which was a few steps away from Au Bar in Greenbelt. The spacious lobby had taken to a minimalist design, and its off-white/cream walls needed some getting used to, since a lot of similar establishments had opted to sport more varied palettes. The corridors were a bit tight for comfort, its claustrophobic effect tapered only by the bright lamps lining the walls.

The room we had, however, was spacious enough, though I still couldn’t escape the feeling of it being a tad too formal and antiseptic, which led me to wonder what market Red Box had intended to serve. Their pricing scheme was a bit unorthodox as well, a time slot-based system wherein you pay a lump sum for a fixed number of hours. If I recall correctly, it was Php500 per head for five hours, from 7pm to 12 midnight or thereabouts, with two complimentary drinks. (A definite plus, since I’m very much content with coffee.) The rates vary depending on the time slot, and they close at 3 a.m.

Red Box would be a nifty choice for groups who either have extra cash to spare, or relish the idea of spending five whole hours singing their hearts out. (If memory serves me well, Red Box has a room with a billiard table.) To me, five hours is a bit much unless it’s a real party, a planned event. If I wanted to go singing on the fly, just for the heck of it, I’d go elsewhere.

Last night, I was with Vin, Dean and Nikki, trying out the other new videoke joint called Music Match along Tomas Morato in Quezon City. It was on the third floor of some building (where Wanchai is), but one can easily find it via their long red sign running across the side of the building facade.

While going through the main door was like entering a high-end beauty salon (my opinion, at least), the lobby colors are more on the pop side – dark muted blues, greys, and metal -- though the atmosphere would have benefited more if the doors to the videoke rooms followed the same scheme. Instead of having large monitors showing sample videos, they opted to project the videos on a wall next to the bar. Nice touch.

Being a new place, the song selections were limited compared to other establishments, but their pricing scheme deserves a second look. It’s room-based, where one pays Php450 for a room big enough for eight people. (We only paid Php350 an hour as part of their intro offer.) There are other smaller and bigger rooms; the largest can hold 16 heads and has its own restroom.

Compared to Red Box, I give Music Match higher scores for promptness of service. (I know it’s not fair to compare, but since these two venues are newbies in the industry, I think it would do good to point out where each could improve.)

If there’s a downside to Music Match, it would be how you could feel the vibrating bass from the adjacent rooms, especially if the song involved is a heavy pounding dance or rock ditty. Among all the videoke joints I’ve been in so far, Music Match had the most sensitive walls.

Going digital is the trend in videoke. Dying are the days when selected songs were manually fed into disc players by human peons. Now, each room gets its own central processing unit, where all the songs are stored in the hard drive. An onscreen selection system (first seen in Io) provides a user-friendly interface. Select a song, the file is accessed, and plays immediately as queued. This cancels out the long waiting times of yesteryears.

While I’m all for this new system, nothing beats having multiple copies of the master song list in clear books for individual perusal. There’s only one remote control, and it can easily be hogged.

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