Belgian Group Sky Castles Win Aloft London ExCeL’s Unsigned Band Competition

This time last week I was at the new Aloft London ExCeL, the Starwood group’s budget conscious yet modern 252-room hotel  for a special event. Recently they’ve been running a competition, ‘Play and Stay at Aloft’, where they asked unsigned bands to submit demos of their material, with the winner being invited to record a brand new track in a purpose built studio at the hotel, mentored by established New York indie band We Are Scientists.

Over the last few weeks a shortlist of bands have performed gigs at the hotel itself and last week saw the winners, seven-piece Belgian group Sky Castles, put on a show in front of a large invited crowd at ALoft’s W XYZ bar, followed by a set from We Are Scientists themselves. If you know the East Coast indie scene I don’t need to tell you about We Are Scientists, but Sky Castles were a revelation – they have a really dynamic and exciting sound helped along by a jazz section, which is quite a rare feature for an indie rock group.  You can also download ‘Little Bit Of Feel’, the new track that Sky Castles recorded in just under 24 hours last week, from the link here. I hope that this appearance with the seasoned New Yorkers will help them to achieve mainstream success – they’re fantastic!

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I’m told that the ‘Play and Stay at Aloft’ gigs will be the first of many, so I think you can safely add Aloft to your list of live music venues in East London – this chic venue makes a change from its predominantly grungy neighbours!

In closing let me tell you a little bit more about this hotel – it’s just a little less than a year old (a look at Google Maps in satellite mode just shows a hole in the ground!) and it sits right on the eastern concourse at ExCeL a few steps from Prince Regent DLR station. If you can pick dates at Aloft when there isn’t a large convention taking place next door then it offers very good value for money indeed, particularly given the amenities on-site. There’s a pool, sauna, steam room and fully equipped gym on the bottom floor with the very trendy W XYZ bar and lounge right next door, where you can grab a beer or fix up a cocktail. On the concourse level above, the hotel accommodates FEDE – a large restaurant with a typically British/American menu.

The rooms themselves are very up to the minute and rather stylish – decorated in bright colours, the bedrooms contain platform beds opposite an absolutely huge wall-mounted LCD TV that has all the media connections you could want, with an open plan bathroom that sits behind a room divider separating it from the sleeping area. There are also a small number of suites in the hotel which supplement the standard bedroom with an equally funky lounge.

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Guests also have the option to check in and check out at terminals in the lobby – no having to hunt around reception looking for a member of staff if you’ve got a 6am start!

Keep an eye on Aloft’s Facebook page for news on up and coming events, and perhaps put them on your list if you’re looking for reasonably priced and modern accommodation in London that still manages to include all the trimmings of a five-star hotel. I was very impressed!