Celebrity chefs, glitter bars, makeup artists: How music fests sweeten VIP experiences

Roxodus kicks off its inaugural four-day fest on July 11 in Clearview, Ont., outside Barrie

This Aug. 3, 2013 file photo shows fans reacting while Mumford & Sons performs at the Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago. While a feast of rock idols the likes of Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Nickelback dish out epic anthems at the Roxodus music festival this summer, a group of VIP concertgoers will be chowing down on a more lavish experience an earshot away. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Scott Eisen, File)

While a feast of rock idols the likes of Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Nickelback dish out epic anthems at the Roxodus music festival this summer, groups of VIP concertgoers will be chowing down on a more lavish experience an earshot away.

A series of mouth-watering, four-course meals cooked up by celebrity chefs Massimo Capra and Lynn Crawford are being served in a seated, shaded area for the ticket upgrade of $225 per person. Each meal comes with wine pairings and craft beer, as well as the bragging rights of a unique experience.

READ MORE: Celebration of Light fireworks to feature two new countries

If that’s not enough, there’s another upgrade called the ”Ultimate VIP” package, which Roxodus co-founder Mike Dunphy calls “the creme de la creme” of the festival weekend. He said the elevated, 15,000-square foot tent will be air conditioned with an open bar, a cigar lounge and valet service, and decorated with skull-themed furniture designed for the event. Those tickets go on sale in a few weeks, while a regular “VIP admission” is already available, with a tented lounge and “luxury” washrooms.

Extravagant perks like these might have been reserved for the most elite only a few years ago, but as Canadian music festivals seek ways to attract larger crowds, the platter of privileges is growing, for those who can afford it.

At Roxodus, which kicks off its inaugural four-day fest on July 11 in Clearview, Ont., outside Barrie, the VIP experience could be especially popular considering the performer lineup appeals directly to the boomer generation and their healthy disposable income.

“(Our) age demographic is not just going to stand in a field, bouncing around, drinking water and doing whatever else is going on at an EDM (festival), if you know what I’m saying,” said Dunphy.

“We had to give them things to do… from the minute they arrive to the minute they go home.”

It’s a message echoed by many summer music festivals across the country as they cater to festivalgoers who once came for the music, but now want an experience more akin to a vacation getaway.

Gabriel Mattacchione, who oversees the Ever After electronic music festival in Kitchener, Ont., says the VIP experience never used to carry so many expectations.

“As long as you had a deck, shade area and private washrooms, it was a pretty good VIP section,” he said.

“Now, that’s subpar.”

He pointed to a flood of social media activity coming out of major music festivals as one reason why the game has changed. With events such as Coachella and Lollapalooza raising the bar, homegrown festivals feel pressured to deliver more spectacular experiences while budgeting for smaller Canadian crowds.

At Ever After, which is held at a waterpark, some of the most attractive features of the grounds are available to everyone, including a wave pool and midway games.

“I call our venue a ‘unicorn venue’ because of all the on-site amenities it comes with,” said Mattacchione.

“It’s less about the headliners and the acts that are going to be there because those are interchangeable. We really try and build a culture to the brand, and what that means is buying in to how good a time you’re going to have, regardless of who’s on the stage.”

But the VIP section is still where it’s at, when it comes to upselling on tickets, he added.

Ever After’s “The Royal Grounds” pass is beefed up with VIP bonuses including a festival pre-party and massages near the main stage.

There’s also a glitter bar, this year’s trendiest festival perk, where VIPs can cover their bodies in sparkle paint before taking photos.

Mattacchione said Instagram, in particular, influenced some of the decisions.

“It does give a certain look to someone’s lifestyle: I’m at a music festival getting a massage. It’s pretty high-roller status,” he added.

Nick Farkas, vice president of concerts and events at promoter Evenko, plays an instrumental role in staying ahead of VIP expectations at Montreal’s Osheaga. When the event started in 2006, the VIP experience “wasn’t really a thing,” he said, but heading into its 14th year organizers say that “just having great music is not always enough.”

“That was really a turning point for me, when people were like, ‘Yeah I don’t want to go anymore because I don’t want to stand in a field, I don’t want to line up for bathrooms.’ And I’m like, ‘Well that sucks because you used to like doing this,’” he said.

“We started figuring out ways to encourage people who are huge music fans to still come and experience it.”

Making the VIP treatment feel valuable isn’t easy in Canada, Farkas said.

Osheaga can’t promise its shows will be flooded with Hollywood celebrities, a bragging right that’s become a selling point on social media for some U.S. festivals, particularly California’s famed Coachella.

So instead, Osheaga emphasizes a “platinum” package stacked with ”little things that go a long way,” he said

A three-day “platinum” pass, which costs $1,250 each, comes with a backstage tour, an exclusive lounge, shuttle service between the concert stages, and a front-pit viewing area. This year, organizers plan to test an on-site VIP concierge service that suggests local restaurants and tourism experiences outside the event grounds.

There’s also a daily brunch with mimosas, a massage area and a staff of makeup artists.

“If you get a chance to sit in a chair and get somebody to redo your makeup, it’s a big seller,” he said.

“(It’s about) being pampered and having an experience that’s memorable.”

The Escapade Music Festival in Ottawa is taking a different approach by making VIP ticketholders feel like they’re in the centre of the action.

Ali Shafaee, director of partnerships at organizer DNA Live, said often VIP sections are somewhat distant from the stage — either above the action on a platform or pushed off to the side.

So this year, Escapade is bringing the spectacle to the VIP section with confetti canons and carbon dioxide blasters that look great in photos.

“Any time a DJ plays a song, and the (beat) drops and the CO2 goes off, it (also) goes off in the VIP,” Shefaee said.

“For that VIP clientele it’s like they’re front row at the festival.”

David Friend, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

“It’ll happen again”: Lake Country council has no answers for flood victims

Flood victim snuffed when she asked about future provisions to stop water main breaks from occuring

3-car collision on Kelowna’s Hwy. 97 fifth incident of the day

Kelowna RCMP and first responders have been on the go today with a number of incidents

NHL stars return to Kelowna for charity slo-pitch game

The Gorges/Comeau Homebase Chairty Tournament returns June 28

Motorbike rider taken to hospital following crash

The incident happened on Highway 97 near Leckie Road

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Okanagan and Connector

Storms expected to develop this morning and intensify early in the afternoon

Suspicious Rutland car fire has one woman thinking it may have been targeted

A family who raised their voice against the McCurdy Road house has car torched, is it connected?

Still months of investigation left into South Okanagan murders

Penticton came to a standstill on April 15, when John Brittain allegedly shot and killed four people

Vernon Judo coach pleads guilty to child pornography charges

Bryan Jeffrey McLachlan is set to return to court Sept. 4 for sentencing

Olympic skier from B.C. suing Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

Action imperative on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Chief commissioner into national inquiry encourages governments, private sector to act

B.C. senior’s car vandalized for more than 18 months

Retired RCMP officer determined to catch ‘tagger.’

VIDEO: Driver doing laps in busy Vancouver intersections nets charges

Toyota Camry spotted doing laps in intersection, driving towards pedestrians

COLUMN: Imagine the possibilities at the library

Programs at Summerland Library promote reading among children

Summerland Orca Swim Club holds fundraising events

Proceeds benefit swimmer with rare kidney disease

Most Read