Anyone who has woken up at a music festival sweating in a half-collapsed tent, trudged through thick mud to buy a $12 breakfast burrito, then washed up in a communal sink before hiking a mile to find a spot in front of the main stage where the performers might actually be visible, knows that such multiday extravaganzas have traditionally been as much about endurance as watching the performances. But over the past few years, that has begun to change for people willing to pay a little—okay, sometimes a lot—more. Almost every major music festival now offers VIP packages that replace the refugee-camp vibe with something far more luxe.
At Lollapalooza, in Chicago’s Grant Park (August 3–5, lollapalooza.com), a $1,050 ticket entitles you to catered lunch and dinner, specialty libations and lattes, a mini spa and lounge chairs set up on special viewing decks. Sasquatch, in Washington (May 25–28; sasquatchfestival.com), offers similar amenities (at comparable prices), including access to the Cliff House VIP area near the main stage, which offers air-conditioned private restrooms, a private cash bar and special menu.
If that still sounds like roughing it, try the Roll Like a Rock Star package at Bonnaroo, in Manchester, Tennessee (June 7–10; bonnaroo.com). For $26,000, representatives will pick you (and seven friends) up at the airport and bring you to your own private tour bus (complete with air-conditioned lounges, flat-screen TVs, bathroom and kitchenette with a stocked fridge); you’ll also get three gourmet meals a day, concierge service and access to open bars and hospitality tents all over the festival grounds. If, for some reason, you want to leave this glorious cocoon to go see some bands—headliners include Radiohead, Phish and the Beach Boys—you will be chauffeured via golf cart to exclusive areas in front of the various stages.
Jonathan Mayers, a founder of Superfly Productions, which organizes Bonnaroo and coproduces San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival, says that these sorts of pricey packages help offset the rising cost of putting events together. “We keep trying to improve, and with that, the budget goes up,” he says. “You have to find new revenue sources, and hopefully, those sources are adding value. And this allows more people with families to be involved.”
There was a time when the very idea of mixing spa treatments, haute cuisine and rock ’n’ roll would’ve been sneered at in some circles, but as Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the concert-industry magazine Pollstar, points out, times are a changin’. “The countercultural element of the rock-music business is nowhere near as intense as it used to be,” he says. “Thirty years ago, you didn’t want to be deemed the establishment. Today, that stigma is gone.”