I received an exclusive invite for the soft opening of the Aloft at Cessna Business Park in Bangalore. Clearly I was bubbling with excitement. The actual opening of the hotel would be some time in June, so this was a teaser to get some feedback from people on ambiance and work that needed to go in before they opened their doors to everyone. I was also excited as they were getting Drift – winners of the Chennai Live Band Hunt 4. It had been a while since I’d seen college bands perform. I’ll first talk about the hotel and then share my two cents about the band.
The first thing that hits your eye when you enter the Aloft lobby is the well-stocked bar right there. Clearly, the theme that the hotel is going for is ‘funky and groovy’. The lobby area which they've titled ‘Remix’ acts as a bar (the WXYZ Bar), entertainment zone (with pool tables and more) and reception – all in one.It's a very neat idea that would appeal to the younger more vibrant business crowd. The only drawback being that certain customers checking in while bands are playing might not be too enthusiastic about the noise levels. But full marks for a bold attempt at challenging conventional boring hotel lobbies.
The hotel's staff ( they refer to them as ‘talent’ not staff) was very courteous and took feedback from people very well. They were appreciative of some of the ideas people had and some of the concerns too. I hope this level of enthusiasm continues when they’re up and running on all cylinders.
We got a look at the rooms, the conference rooms and more. Clearly no stone left un-turned in bringing in the ‘wow’ factor. The open terrace area with glowing furniture is an ideal location for brunches during the day and jazz bands in the evening. There’s a lot of potential with this space already. The pool area is small enough to have a nice party or just a quick swim, but might put-off the serious swimmer with the shallow depth and short length. There’s a lot of contemporary art work that has gone into every little thing in the hotel; right from the lighting, to the rooms and even the psychedelic elevator floor. Given that, I think they've got a great opportunity to promote a lot of the local art scene in their hotel as it suits the overall theme.
Now to the F&B. What stands out at the WXYZ bar are the cocktails. I had a variety of concoctions, each looking very colourful and tasting really different. For a soft opening, the bar was well stocked and the bartenders knew their drinks well. While most of Bangalore seems to be bitten by the Micro-brewery bug, the cocktails here are a refreshing change of taste. I do wish I knew the names of the drinks, but not having a drinks list was a bit of a bummer. Nonetheless the cocktails were the high point of the evening (no pun intended).
We were served mostly finger foods, so it’s not fair for me to judge the quality of food based on that. While the servings of honey chilli potato, fish fingers, chicken kababs, Mongolian tarts were nice, some of the vegetarian servings had a little more salt than what I’m comfortable with. I would like to do a full review of the food once the hotel is fully operational to make an objective judgement.
Now let’s get to the band. Drift are from the Vellore Institute of Technology and was the first band to kick-off the ‘Live at Aloft’ gig series. ‘Live at Aloft’ is collaboration between the hotel and MTV to promote upcoming bands from the college circuit. It is heartening to see MTV still remember that they’re about the music first and reality-TV shows later (or never). While local venues are doing their best to promote non-Bollywood independent music, we still need the likes of giants like MTV to give the entire movement a push in the right direction. Kudos to them.
Drift are a progressive rock band that clearly draw their influences from the likes of Porcupine Tree and Evanescence. The band was fairly tight and is clearly driven by their female vocalist and the male singer-guitar player. The duets that they sang were well coordinated with the male-and female voices complementing one another. As a college band who is just starting out, there is a lot of potential for this band which is evident in their original compositions such as ‘Silence’. The band had a healthy mix of original tunes and covers.
Their cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ was excellent. Definitely the best point of the evening. They also covered Zombie by the Cranberries (obvious clichéd choice when you have a female vocalist) and ‘Be yourself’ by Audioslave (which yours truly sang along on stage). I however did not enjoy their cover of Coldplay. It’s all too obvious to play Coldplay songs just because you have a keyboard player in the band. They are lacking in presentation though with long periods of silence between songs and besides the female front woman, everyone else stood fairly still. I’m hoping they do get better with exposure to more gigs.
Overall, it was a fabulous evening at the Aloft Hotel. They have a good location that can attract a crowd during the week days. My only concern would be getting footfalls in during the weekends considering the location is far off from the city. While other far off establishments have managed to get people to drive down and spend time there, The Aloft needs to offer more than a funky environment and good cocktails to draw large numbers. I can’t comment on the pricing of meals or the drinks just yet to give you a complete picture of the experience. But from what I saw last evening, there’s a lot of potential here.
Oh, before I sign out, I got to meet Sana Saeed (current MTV VJ and of KKHH and SOTY fame) who interviewed me as part of the audience for MTV.