So I walked into this joint called Exit one night. ‘Twas dark and mysterious – the only source of light was from the backlit bar.
The wait staff just killed it – they were sharp. They spoke well, and they looked great in their ties and white jackets. Classy.
It was quiet at first, with music wafting softly in the air – unobtrusively so, yet almost too quiet. As my ears slowly adjusted, I heard and got to listen to the music – that which was to set the tone for the evening: The Black Keys, some classic rock, soul, blues. Eclectic, esoteric, sometimes even sexy, and sometimes even bordering on stuff I didn’t quite like (and I listen to everything!).. but oddly enough – so REFRESHING, and even foreboding in a way.. an aural starting point for the tomfoolery to follow as inebriation sets in.
Welcome to modern day Manila and its burgeoning food scene. Hip restaurateurs and bar owners – well travelled and fed well – have FINALLY caught on that music does matter and can affect the concept of what you want to be.
About time, I say. I’ve spoken to people about this topic – something I’m very passionate about simply because I love my music, and the playlist can and often does dictate if I’m gonna go back to your joint or not – especially if it’s a bar. Suffice to say – people have confirmed to me that they are listening.
No disrespect to her, because I think she’s a talented lady, but there is NO EXCUSE these days for a trendy, breezy, airy new restaurant to simply pop in a Sitti CD and let it play for the duration of their operation hours. No.Freaking.Excuse. She’s got talent, but I don’t want to hear 80s nuggets like, say, With Or Without You bossified one more time. Mercy, please.
Air Supply (“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”), Kenny Rankin (“Hiding Inside Myself” – the ultimate “kill me the fuck NOW” song), Joey Albert (“Tell Me”) and the rest of that salvo of AM love song hits we seem to love so much… that doesn’t really belong to a restaurant where you want to be happy and satisfied. Again, no disrespect to them – but hey it might be better off in the quiet of your office while you work on your Excel sheets. (shudder.)
I’m not being a snob here, alright? No. Far from it. I mean, if you want to play some Color Me Badd at your fancy French Bistro, go right ahead. I’m definitely not dictating what you should and shouldn’t be wafting out of your speakers. I'm just saying don't be a lazy ass and rip every other restaurant's playlist and not care.
Mario Batali is famed for playing Led Zeppelin and REM at his flagship restaurant Babbo in NYC – at a volume that can definitely be heard, but where people can still talk. But here’s the rub: it’s calculated, studied – and it works, because the buzz is amah-zing.
And that is exactly the point I’m trying to say here: know and embrace your concept, discuss what sound levels you want to hit (hopefully you sound engineered your restaurant BEFORE you finished building it), and don’t be afraid to play stuff that people don’t know, as long as it SOUNDS right for the experience you’re trying to achieve. There is so much music out there – overwhelmingly so – be playful and enjoy the hunt for tunes to play.
And worse comes to worse – stick to formula (no shame in that!) but do it with style and panache: Sinatra and standards (or gee, Joe Mari Chan and his jazz album, or radicals like Radio Active Sago Project to support OPM) in a steakhouse always works. The Rolling Stones, Juan dela Cruz, The Jerks – they will always rock your roadhouse type bar more than LMFAO. Broken beats, soulful house – perfect for your lounge where people start the night or are eating light supper. K-pop in a Korean joint, Ryuichi Sakamoto in a sushi bar, blues in a barbecue joint, and yes, I wouldn’t mind hearing current Chinese pop in a dimsum house. Rock it, whatever it is – the music is an extension of what your want your place to be. It almost always guarantees a good experience, and will make people want to come back and re-live those good times.
Hitting the beach for some quiet R&R? Pass me the Sitti please.