When the Rolling Stones took the stage on opening night of Desert Trip, the "concert of a lifetime" held in Indio last weekend (the second weekend kicks off Friday), Paul McCartney could be seen watching from his party suite perched atop the grandstands that flank the stage and field. The moment was made even better when Mick Jagger and the boys covered the Beatles' "Come Together."
Regular concertgoers may have paid upwards of $1,700 for three-day passes, but a Beatle gets to watch from a private room with a Wolfgang Puck-catered menu, personal bar and velvet lounge chairs. Coachella can have its spicy pie and crab fries; "Oldchella" will take grilled king salmon and truffled cavatappi and cheese in an air-conditioned suite, thank you very much.
Like everything else at Desert Trip, the food and drink offerings over the weekend went way beyond typical festival fare, from the all-you-can-eat bonanzas to sit-down four-course dinners for 1,000 people at a time. The 20 VIP suites offered the kind of luxury expected for such a momentous music event - an amenity fully enjoyed by artists like McCartney and the Rolling Stones; Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett and COO Skip Paige; and AEG Live execs John Meglen, Paul Gongaware and Gary Gersh.
The air-conditioned rooms, which held up to 50 people, were decked out in retro, modern or rock 'n' roll themes (all designed by the Corso Agency). Most had plush seating, stools along the edge, flat-screen monitors to view the concert more closely, private bars and a steady stream of food and drinks. These suites rival anything you'd find in any permanent arena or stadium around the country.
Working from special hot-and-cold kitchens built in each grandstand, the catering team prepared appetizers, dinner, desserts and late-night snacks throughout the night. One day's menu included an appetizer spread with squash and fig flatbreads; homemade chips and pistachio white bean dip; and crudite. Later the staff rolled in a dinner buffet with butter-lettuce salad with persimmons and shaved Manchego cheese; Snake River Farms pork with apples; and pumpkin-and-goat-cheese lasagna. For dessert, tables were topped with cookies and lemon olive-oil cakes. During the second band's set: a late-night offering of Buffalo chicken wings and celery sticks.
Should someone want a raw bar, lobster rolls or a Peking duck station in the room, they were offered as upgrades. Need gummy bears, like the Rolling Stones? Of course. Cashews, chocolate-covered raisins and pretzels, like McCartney wanted? Done. This is Wolfgang Puck, after all, caterer to the stars. You want it, you get it.
"The idea behind the menus in the suites was that we wanted people to feel like they were in their own living rooms," says Pamela Pimiento, catering sales manager at Wolfgang Puck Catering. "So we placed snacks on coffee tables just like you would if you were entertaining at home, all with the idea that no guest could ever leave hungry."
No hunger pains, no lines for drinks, comfy seats with great views of the stage and crowd. How can anyone ever go to a regular concert again?