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Music & Magic At The Restaurant

1 Aug


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.

Transmission: Singapore

28 Sep

Teenage dreams fulfilled!

I first heard New Order back when I was in High School.

I fell in love with them through the track Thieves Like Us, something I bought on vinyl from my beloved Tower Records (back in the day when it still HAD records in the bins).  There was something about that song -the way the synths opened it up, then the entrance of that trademark Peter Hook bass line – it was like sensing an evening of possibilities. I’d pop the cassette into the car stereo and play it over and over on the ride to wherever. Saturdays meant a party somewhere – back then it was always “somewhere” – a house, usually, unlike today when it’s all about “hitting the club”. It was all quite grass roots. There was a corner to grab a cold drink, and a table filled with chips, sandwiches, and cocktail dogs on a stick, pinned into watermelons or stuff like that. The dance floors were hot, cooled off by a couple of strategically placed electric fans, but it was all about getting lost in the music and dancing with the girls. We had it goooood..

Getting lost in the music was exactly what I did when I left for Singapore to catch New Order in concert – all by my lonesome. I had never really done anything quite that spontaneous for music, but this was New Order – when else was I going to hear this legendary band? Besides, the original members (sans the aforementioned bass player Hooky) were all together again!

The gig was at the beautifully lush Fort Canning Park. My old friend Scho picked me up from my hotel (YES! I wasn’t going to be a loner!), and together with her hubby Tim we did our own little tailgating party, with sausage + guac sandwiches and ice cold beer — all the better to fortify ourselves for the aural bliss ahead.

My co-concert goers

Let the tailgating begin!

I purchased nicer than normal tickets (yeah, I kinda spoiled myself) and went up to a hill in the back of the park, inside a tented area that offered even more beer and other booze, plus some munchies. It was up there in my perch of sorts that I began to notice how orderly these Singaporeans were. Sure, there were a lot of people, but everything seemed a bit too tranquil. I wasn’t sure if it was because the age demographic was a bit higher than that of, say, a Katy Perry gig, but it was just so peaceful. As the band took the stage, the crowd finally lived up, and off they went through their set.

By the third song, Scho sends me a text asking me to come down and join them BY THE STAGE. How the hell was I going to get there?? Simple – apparently I just walk up to it. And that’s exactly what I did: take a leisurely stroll down the grounds, through the throngs who happily let me through, ’til I went right up to the foot of the stage. How cool is that? I seriously think: only in Singapore.

They played a lot of good stuff – Age of Consent, Krafty, Temptation, Ceremony, Perfect Kiss, Regret, Blue Monday  (I’ll say it again: “Yes, New Order is more than just Bizarre Love Triangle!”) and encored with a mini-Joy Division tribute, playing Transmission and the immortal Love Will Tear Us Apart while flashing the face of Ian Curtis on the screen.

The crowd then slowly filed out, and disappeared. And just like that, a longtime dream of mine came to a sweet end.


Old Friends Playing Music

Bathed in Light


“What the hell am I doing here?? I don’t belong here…”

27 Sep


Yes, it’s me.

I’m back and having a go at making my own personal blog ONCE AGAIN. After all, three’s a charm, supposedly.

I’ve been shying away from the whole “food blog” scene lately (sorry, — it’s not like I don’t love you, because I do) because at some point I just got tired of it.

So why am I here then, you may be asking? Well, I also wanted something to call my own. I didn’t want to be walled in by a 700 word count, nor just have to write about restaurants. I wanted to cuss if I felt like it, be even more irreverent, and let my hair down. I guess that’s what this is. Me trying to get a groove going.

I’ll write about restaurants, sure, but also about my thoughts on food and food trends, travel, music, places and people and things. Whatever catches my fancy. I may write an essay, or maybe a sentence or two, or maybe I’ll just post a picture I love.

So if you’ve ever read what I had to say, eaten with me, travelled or hung out with me – you know what to expect. Come along with me on this merry ride.

Welcome to my new blog, v.3 – Hopia like it.

Tortang Talong

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