Music Festival + Staycation: How W Hotels is Changing the Experiential Game
The Bali edition of the globe-trotting event Wake Up Call witnessed headliners Tove Lo, FKJ, Angus and Julia Stone and more
What kind of hotel offers a full-fledged music festival on the menu–complete with a pool-side view of your favorite band on stage and afterparties with unlimited room service? Not your regular kind, clearly.
After hosting editions across its Hollywood and Barcelona properties in September, W Hotels brought its travelling music festival Wake Up Call to W Bali earlier this month. The W Bali-Seminyak is a gorgeous luxury beach resort with a distinct character (read ubiquitous, cute puns on merch, managers with mohawks, a sunset view to die for), making it a rather irresistible choice for both millennials and seasoned travelers.
Nestled in the island’s plush neighborhood of Seminyak, which boasts immaculately curated fashion stores, organic cafes and bars along a winding street, W Bali is as cosmopolitan-tropical as it can get—the hospitality is top-class Asian and the operations world-class. Put all the above things in context of a two-day festival and it is no wonder that a 229-room hotel was able to pull off one of the most experiential music events we’ve witnessed in a long time. But again, we are speaking of a hotel chain that enjoys bragging rights for not only housing private recording studios in some of its prime properties (W Bali has one) but also starting its very own record label!
No reservations on curation
It is one thing for a hotel to organize a ‘music event’ in its premises but quite another for it to attempt a ‘festival.’ Music festivals are rarely ever only about the music, and the one thing that most organizers get wrong is assuming they always are. As much as a festival is about watching your favorite acts live in action, there’s no denying it is the overall experience that matters to the majority of attendees. Are the bars within arm’s reach? Is the food real good? Hope the loos don’t resemble a war-ravaged zone?
The only way to really crack a festival is to probably work backwards—get the details right and top it off with a slamming lineup. Needless to say, Wake Up Call used its hospitality ace here. With two stages, Wet Deck and Woobar, there was no question that a musical storm was in the offing but the air also carried a sense of salubrious staycation. So when the music kicked off at the peak of the afternoon at Woobar—featuring Andreas Seider, followed by Damian Saint, who also happens to be the resident music curator at W Bali—you were probably sunbathing by the pool, enjoying a padang-flavored GnT.
When FJK and Tove Lo won over the crowds
The lineup itself was as genre-bending as you could imagine. Our Day One favorites were two headliners who have had two of the most interesting breakthroughs in recent times – the French multi-instrumentalist and singer FKJ, and Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo. While the former has been working the underground circuit for a while, consolidating a pretty decent following in Asia with his live-electronica act (his 2017 debut album French Kiwi Juice is quite the sonic treat), the latter has been marrying whimsical electro-pop with wistful lyrics ever since she debuted in 2014, rapidly gaining commercial nod over the past one year.
One could even say that together FKJ and Lo almost personified Wake Up Call – if the reggae lent an equatorial effervescence, there was Scandinavian synth sass lurking just behind the saxophone solo. Placing these two ‘band’ headliners after an adrenaline-inducing deep house set by Dutch DJ Sam Feldt was a risky move, but it worked! The late-night shindig was at Woobar where British DJ Cristoph spun some progressive house. The afterparty was wherever you made one—in your room, at the bar or on the beach outside. Perks of a music festival in a beach resort!
Angus and Julia Stone: Soundcheck sneak peeks
Speaking of perks, how about enjoying a post-breakfast swim in the pool with your favorite band on the lineup serenading you? A private concert by the pool, if you will! One of the behind-the-scene-highlights for us—a group of three mildly hungover girls–was accidentally catching Angus and Julia Stone perform almost an entire set during their sound check at Wet Deck during noon. Of course we couldn’t keep ourselves from cheering them on as they tested songs from their latest record Snow, even as Julia thanked us on the mic every now and then. The Australian sibling duo’s superlative headlining act in the evening was the icing on the cake.
The band sounds as crisp on stage as on record, offering every tiny sonic nuance a fan might look forward to – a tambourine jingle here and a delicious ooh there. “Cellar Door” and “Chateau” especially stood out for their mood-enhancing properties on that Balinese night. The Stones, thank you!
Klingande and Kimokal FTW
Is it even a music festival if it doesn’t create new fans in the shortest possible time? In the current music universe where discoverability is a challenge even for artists that have been at it for years, festivals have an extra role to play in serving as a platform for good talent. It was thrilling to watch a local act, the Jakarta-based electro-pop duo Kimokal, pack in the right punch earlier in the evening. Their sunset-slot saw raving crowds not by stage but inside the pool, raising their cocktails at every bass drop.
Post the moodiness courtesy Angus and Julia Stone, Klingande, the French tropical house DJ, closed the Wet Deck as climactically as the revelers would have liked: the producer unleashed a rather immersive live-electronica segment which saw a violinist working the crowd like a boss. Back at Woobar, our favorite acts for the day were the Ibiza-based Nightmares on Wax, who played an interesting DJ set and the mysterious-yet-mischievous Slow Magic.
Music festival + staycation
The best way to describe the Wake Up Call would be: festival experience minus exhaustion. For all the joy most festivals bring, they also always end up leaving you drenched in fatigue owing to long walks between stages, lack of recuperative options etc. Oh, and the agony of having to choose between clashing sets of your favorite bands, or not being able to catch that one guitar solo you’d been dying to watch live from a reasonable distance (damn you, thick crowds!).
A short-format, high-luxury music festival might just be the answer for a new breed of connoisseurs that seek the raw thrill sans the physical drill. A spa for the morning after, a special service that gets you anything you want anytime you want as long as it’s legal (W Hotels take pride in their now-famous “Whatever Whenever” wisdom), specialty restaurants to pick from (no more festival burgers, thank you) and the works! Must say W Hotels have plugged an urgent need for a tastefully curated global music festival that, much like its brand, is both fun and fastidious. We’re pretty sure every one of the 5000 attendees had a euphoric checkout!
All photos courtesy of Wake Up Call