By the pool, bass boomed from towering speakers. Inside, stanchions blocked the elevators. One dinged, the doors opened, and a horde of wristband-wearing revelers poured out. This was a five-star hotel, but over one weekend this past fall, it turned into a 48-hour dance party.
Wise to the popularity of zeitgeisty gatherings like Coachella and Burning Man, hotels are staging their own music festivals, trying to lure travelers obsessed with finding the next thing to post about on social media. In December, the Hotel Paseo in Palm Desert, Calif., put on an “Airstream Palooza,” a free music festival arrayed around renovated airstream trailers. In November, the Careyes resort in Jalisco, Mexico, hosted its third annual music festival, Ondalinda, a bacchanal that Vogue has called “the luxe Burning Man.”
But none of those properties are pumping their proverbial fists as heartily as W Hotels. W, a subsidiary of Marriott, came up with the concept for its roving music festival, Wake Up Call, after discerning that its target customers tend to go as hard during their off hours as they do during their working ones, and don’t necessarily want to deal with the crowds and logistical planning inherent in attending traditional, multiday concerts.
One would think that a music festival held in a hotel, a place with walls and smoke detectors and guests who may not be partaking in late night dance parties, would be less raucous than the type that take place on open plots of land, in the middle of nowhere. One would be wrong, at least in the case of Wake Up Call Barcelona, which was held on the third weekend in September and courted 4,300 attendees.
When my husband and I checked in on Thursday evening, the W seemed like a regular hotel. A gray-haired man in a suit was checking in next to us; samba music played at a conversational volume.
By midday Friday, the first day of the festival, two stages had been erected by the pool and in the lobby, a phalanx of people in tank tops and shorts waited to check in. Jamiroquai crooned from the speakers outside, claiming there was nothing left for him to do but dance, but no one was dancing — yet.
Maybe it was the booths that had been set up in the lobby to dole out festival entrance wristbands, maybe it was the two guys in the gym talking about “throwing down” that night: There was a palpable feeling that a party was about to engulf the property, and that was the W’s intent.
Up in the Extreme Wow suite, Stacey Arkules, 57, from Arizona, was kicked back on the balcony with a cocktail and sunglasses, taking in a view of the coastline before things kicked up a notch. What brought her here? She smiled and shrugged as if it were obvious: “The music.”
5 hotels booking live music events
Turning their lobbies, pools, bars and rooftops into concert venues lets hotels bring music-scene energy on-site. Some are hosting dayslong events, while other are throwing one-time intimate concerts. Here are some of the events planned for 2019.
This hotel group started its live music series, Kimpton Off the Record, in June. The hotel brand has seven intimate performances of no more than 200 guests slated for 2019. Performers are chosen based on how well they complement the hotel’s locale. In August, for example, the indie-pop band St. Lucia will perform at the Kimpton Goodland Hotel in Goleta, Calif. — a hotel with its own vinyl record shop and record players in every room. Performances will also take place in Austin, Texas, Nashville, San Francisco, Toronto, Boston and Los Angeles.
Every April for the past decade, the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, Calif., has hosted the Desert Gold festival. The 2019 version will take place from April 12-21. Performers haven’t been finalized, but in past years Blood Orange and Florence Welch have performed at the hotel. The New Orleans Ace will host its fourth Six of Saturns festival from April 26 to May 5. The chain’s newest festival, Double Vision, was held at Ace Hotel Chicago in July for the first time in 2018 and will be back in the coming year. All the festivals take place poolside, on rooftops, in bars, private event spaces and, in New Orleans, at its in-hotel music venue, Three Keys.
W Hotels plans to take its Wake Up Call festival to Dubai in the second half of 2019, when the W Hotel Dubai The Palm opens. Other W Hotels will have individual music performances. The W in Bellevue, Wash., holds performances in its bar on the third Thursday of each month with local artists. Hip-hop artist SWSH will perform at the W in Los Angeles on Jan. 17, and in Barcelona several concerts are scheduled in the hotel’s 26th-floor bar.
From March 28-31, the Fellah Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco, will play host to the Beat Hotel festival, put on by the promoters behind the Glastonbury Festival in England. Attendees can stay at the Fellah Hotel, which is on a 27-acre farm, where the concerts will be held. The festival also plans shuttles for those who stay elsewhere. Scheduled performers include the Mercury Prize-winning band Young Fathers and the Dutch disco-house DJ Hunee.
Hard Rock Hotels
Live music is a big deal at Hard Rock Hotels. Through the hotel’s The Sound of Your Stay program, guests are allowed to check out Fender guitars and amplifiers, take them to their rooms and create their own music studio experience. The brand’s annual music festival will be held in summer 2019 at the Hard Rock Hotel Shenzhen Mission Hills resort in China, with dates and acts still to be finalized. Guests are encouraged to stay in the hotel’s 258 rooms and interact with artists who will be on the property.