‘Cardioke’ offers Torontonians health with visions of grandeur

Published On January 30, 2020 | By Anukul Thakur | Life
Mike Gabel sets up the necessary equipment — an exercise bike and karaoke machine — for the most recent edition of Hot Breath Cardioke. (Anukul Thakur)
Anukul Thakur

Hot Breath Cardioke, a local karaoke event in which participants sing songs while riding an exercise bike, returned for its latest rendition in Toronto on Jan. 21.

The unusual event kicked off at 10 p.m. at Handlebar, a pub located on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market.

“Whoever burns the most calories wins pizza,” said Mike Gabel, co-founder of House of Hot Breath, a London, U.K.-based collective that organizes offbeat karaoke events.

“It is very difficult to cycle a bike and sing at the same time,” he said.

Participants sing “Happy” by Pharrell Williams at Hot Breath Cardioke on Jan. 21. (Anukul Thakur)

Hot Breath Cardioke is one of many unconventional sing-offs hosted by House of Hot Breath, which was born in 2004 at a Shoreditch pub in East London.

The group originally organized karaoke events where participants spun a wheel for a chance to win quirky items that Gabel picked up from thrift stores or garage sales.

“People have sung in the church for thousands of years,” Gabel said. “Since not a lot of people go to church anymore, why not come here and do a different kind of church?”

Gabel said karaoke encourages human interactions in a world where people are typically on their phones.

“Karaoke is very human — it’s based around a room full of people,” he said. “If you’ve had a bad day, come and sing, you’ll feel better.”

Alexia Kitoko said she came to Handlebar to have a drink but entered the karaoke competition on a whim.

She said she hopes to bring friends to House of Hot Breath’s next event.

“It was really different and surprising,” she said.

Peter Deiwick won the event by burning 116 calories while belting out “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses.

The 44-year-old said he loves karaoke and is a regular in Toronto’s karaoke circuits.

“The thing I love about karaoke is the audience and the fact it’s not just in a little room,” Deiwick said.

“It is like going to see a movie in a big theatre, [rather] than streaming a video at home with friends,” he said.

Deiwick said karaoke offers locals a fun, interactive night out, especially as Toronto’s live-music venues and bars face the continued threat of development.

“With karaoke, there is a kind of camaraderie with people and I love that we still have it,” he said.

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