MUSIC Some restaurants stand out for their exceptional food and service and others for their ambience. But the ones that make an emotional connect with the audience are the ones that have a band playing, writes Jaideep Chandra Deo Bhanj
“It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
Because he knows that it's me they've been coming to see
To forget about life for a while.”
These are the lyrics from the song ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel that he wrote while working at a piano bar at the beginning of his career. The song that is now a favourite at Karaoke nights raises an interesting fact. Can the popularity of a restaurant soar just because of the music that is played live there?
Vizag has always had a couple of restaurants that have a band playing and old timers will remember nights at Horizon in Dolphin Hotel which has always been synonymous with its live act.
Whether it is a solo act or an entire band playing, there is a certain charm attached to sitting back after a long day at work with colleagues or family and listening to old songs while nursing a drink or waiting for your food to arrive. Vizag boasts of an added advantage of having restaurants by the sea; the gentle winter breeze paired with a singer crooning a love song can make for a romantic evening.
The nostalgia that a once forgotten tune evokes when a band plays it can cheer up a table and encourage diners to spend more time at the restaurant, as guests often linger over dessert to listen to more songs and even send in requests. Sudheer a college student says “I love to take my family to restaurants that play old Hindi songs as my parents get to relive old memories and we end up spending quality time together humming away over a leisurely meal.”
Glen who used to play at Harbour View (now GAD) says that on one occasion, as he was playing, a person walked into the restaurant who looked like he was having a rough day. He helped himself to some soup from the buffet and quietly sat down. Glen remembers playing a Jim Reeves song and instantly the mood of the person changed and he spent the rest of the night singing away and requesting more songs, as Jim Reeves was his favourite artist. Music can really change the mood of a person and most people come to hear old songs, as it is a good break from contemporary music that the radio and TV plays.
Parvez who played at Horizon between 1989 and 2013 says that up till 1994 they only got requests for English songs and sailors and the city’s elite would come to relish continental delicacies and enjoy music. “They were a very well behaved audience and would always clap and appreciate our music. Sometimes, even leave behind large tips. But something changed in 1994 and we got a very boisterous crowd coming in that wanted us to play bhangra songs. They would want to dance, make noise and try to grab the microphone as well. Since then we have never returned to the good old days and have been forced to change our style to suit the audience.
We used to play Dire Straits, Deep Purple, Beatles, Eagles, Santana, Pink Floyd and Europe among other bands. At one time when we played the Final Countdown, foreigners were showering us with dollars, as they were so happy.”
Megan and Ellaine from the Philippines who are in the city on a contract to play at Aqua have played in Japan, China, Malaysia, Dubai and Singapore in their short career. They can also sing in the language of each of the countries they have visited. They travel the world leaving their families at home to play at five star hotels. They say the Vizag audience is kind and quiet and most importantly respect them. This is why they came back to the city for the second time.
Vizag now has five restaurants that have live music acts to lure customers. The idea is to create an ambience that is not too loud but ensures a steady stream of diners that are looking for something different and provide an experience that customers will want to come back to again and again. Makes good business sense as well.