Friday, December 03, 2010

The Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange - Bangalore review

India. It is a country of oppressive heat where, in the cities, the streets bustle with people and noise, kids hustle tourists, cows saunter down the middle of the road and car horns soundtrack Tetris traffic jams. Thrilling chaos and mayhem rules ok. A visit can be quite the culture shock to foreigners. On Saturday 27th November, however, the people of India experienced a culture shock of their own when the world swapped nights as part of Smirnoff's ambitious Nightlife Exchange Project.

Bangalore, a beguiling mix of red dirt on its outskirts and typically hectic city life, played host to the Indian leg. So, while the best of the county's nightlife was packed up and shipped to Canada, Bangalore, for one night only, partied Canadian-style.

I know what you're thinking, what does Canadian nightlife entail exactly? Watching ice hockey and being generally affable, maybe? Well, that wouldn't make for much of a party really, would it? So, instead, the Smirnoff party revolved around certain iconic themes while some Canadian artists travelled halfway around the world to entertain a crowd comprised of lucky competition and giveaway winners.

So, upon entering the venue, punters were greeted by Mounties and led through an icy tunnel into the main room, where a traditional Canadian dish awaited them. Poutine is comprised of chips with cheese and gravy. Healthy? Nah. Yummy? Heck yes. Complimenting this local delicacy was a specially-designed Smirnoff Mule comprised of 40ml vodka, 10ml maple syrup and 2 fresh wedges of lime and ginger ale. Other variations of the Mule were available too, whereas luddites were able to order vodka and cokes.

Across the maple leaf-littered floor was a large stage, upon which female dancers dressed as Mounties (well, if Mounties wore really, really tiny shorts) drew the attention of the camera phones. Okay, so their dance routine seemed to involve gyrating while waving their arms around in a way that was completely incidental to the music and to each other, but still, you couldn't knock their enthusiasm.

And so to the talent. The night was headlined by Max Graham, who played a dance set that didn't take many risks, but then why would it? This guy has been around for long enough to know how to please a crowd. And so it proved. Before him was Zara Taylor (below), the voice that has launched a zillion dance tracks, including Sunlounger's Lost. On her debut appearance in India, she showcased an epic vocal that belied the sore throat she was suffering as she belted out deep and emotion-tinged lyrics over a dance/electro backing. Earlier in the evening, DJ Sultan (pictured at the top of the piece) ripped through a high-energy set that went way beyond simply warming up the crowd and that was the highlight of the night. Later, he would find himself mobbed by fans requesting photos and autographs; even a trip to the bathroom took 20 minutes, as the dreadlocked DJ stopped and chatted with a cavalcade of fans.

It would be easy to sniff at an event such as this that has a name like Smirnoff attached to it. Big corporation, big event, big yawn? Well, no actually. To put snobbishness and cynicism to one side is to discover something much more pleasing. The thing that the Nightlife Exchange Project and all of Smirnoff's recent events offer is that they really seem to put a huge amount of care and work into attempting to create something unique and special. They are not in the business of lazily sponsoring an existing event, but rather seem really keen to be fully involved and to get their hands dirty - from the ideas stage until the last of the ticker tape has been swept away. They are clearly very proud of these occasions and, therefore, what they create is something that feels genuine, organic, unique and innovative. When else would Indians get to party Canadian-style in their own back yards? At would other time would Argentina get a taste of Irish nightlife?

Add to this the fact that this particular event rolled into Bangalore, a city drenched in religion that is not necessarily one that would jump to mind when thinking of party towns, and it is clear that Smirnoff are keen to bring the fun to as many corners of the globe as possible.

You might say it's easy to praise the vodka company from the comfort of the VIP bar. Therefore, the most telling image of the evening came from when I wandered back past the velvet rope and down to the front of the stage. It was early - maybe 8.30pm - and yet people were going absolutely mental to DJ Sultan's set. Loads of them. Dancing their legs off and their hearts out. As the evening started to wrap up, three hours later (Bangalore has quite the strict curfew), the same people were there, joined by plenty of others, and were going just as crazy, having as much fun and dancing as exuberantly as they were three hours previously.

Of course, Smirnoff is a business and they want to make sure that their product sells, but this event once again proved that their manifesto goes well beyond the desire to shift units. It is apparent to anyone in attendance of this event that Smirnoff, more than anything, want to be synonymous with fun and with offering people unique opportunities and experiences that they will never forget. Judging the unabashed enjoyment that the crowd was displaying on Saturday night, it was mission accomplished.

Check out my mate Addie's outstanding photos from the event here.


daniel said...

This looked amazing. Wish I could have been there.

Bobby Six said...

Yeah I had a great time. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

You certianly make it sound fun! Are there more events from Smirnoff

Bobby Six said...

I'm sure there will be. Best keep an eye on

That'll be where the info shows up first I would guess.