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)

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes shared this photo of the binders and binders of letters and paperwork she’s received on area roads in the past few years. (Submitted photo)
Cariboo MLAs call on province to fix region’s roads

Minister Rob Fleming said more resources were on the way to the region

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in B.C.

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

Most Read