Gourmet offerings, high-end snacks, and pop-up chefs come to rock festivals and music venues. Should you give a fork?
Mountain View's infinitely larger Shoreline Amphitheater also recently got an in-house food upgrade. So the story goes, when the GM of Shoreline dined at Calafia in Palo Alto, Chef Charlie Ayers pointed out the stadium's lackluster food, and was then summoned to create a tastier menu. Ayers now has a "Snack Shack" at Shoreline that generates $8,000 per show, selling vegan lentil bowls, pork bowls, and salad wraps with Dino kale and feta cheese.
At the bars-with-bands level, El Rio seems to also be upping its epicurean pop-ups. Along with the now-frequent Rocky's Fry Bread (side note: Rocky is also in the band Sweat Lodge, which often plays El Rio) stand, there's Piadina homemade Italian flat bread, and the occasional Mugsy pop-up wine bar, which offers bubbly and red wine varieties.
There was an entirely separate event that took place Aug. 4 in San Francisco, which combined all of this: the high-end food, the live music, the ubiquitous pop-ups. It was a food and music festival (Noisette) at a brick-and-mortar venue (Public Works, where it moved after switching venues from Speakeasy Brewery).
The event was put on by Noise Pop Industries. The production company, which does Noise Pop and the Treasure Island Festival, began dipping into independent food culture a few years back with the Covers dinners, pairing well-known chefs with corresponding cover songs for a relatively small group. Noise Pop's Stacey Horne came up with the Noisette concept after talking with DJs Darren and Greg Bresnitz of New York promotion company Finger on the Pulse, who do an event out there called Backyard Barbecue, which also pairs live music and gourmet food.
From the beginning, the Dodos were the first choice of headliners at Noisette. Merrick Long is a "professed foodie," has worked in the restaurant business, and was on a panel at SXSW talking about food and music. Horne says they chose chefs that do things a little differently, and are more attuned to the pop-up mentality.
"Something that struck me at Noisette that I loved was that we were eating such good food and then were able to wander over and hear amazing music. It wasn't one or the other. It was nice to have that as an option," Horne says. "The chefs we're focusing on are kind of the indie version of that world, and that's what Noise Pop has always been interested in, independent music, independent film and art. It just seems like a logical extension."
Noise Pop is also again looking to do a variation on the Covers dinners with the upcoming Treasure Island Festival. Sound Bites is more of a passed appetizer event with little bites inspired by the bands playing at the festival.
So what does it all mean? Are we, as the generalized concert-going public, getting soft, both physically from all those readily available treats, and mentally because we've expanded beyond a minimalist punk rock lifestyle? Should we all go back to Pixy Stix and Del Scorcho hangovers?
"Look, the reality is that most nights that you go to hear a band in a club, there's no food or if there is food, it's not going to be anything great. So you can still have your punk rock experience, but something like Noisette and other events like ours that are popping up around the country are just offering another type of event, and people are interested in it, as we're seeing," Horne says.
I guess, if you want to see your life as a black and white cookie, you'll see this change as against type. Or maybe if you're in the teenage angst subset, you're just getting in to the greasy post-concert routine. But perhaps this mashup is just another trend — participate if you will. It goes far beyond the music scene, to the way Americans eat now, looking for quality, locally sourced food, seeking creative options.
"Speaking for myself personally, I still love going to see shows," Horne says, "but if I can have both things in one place, it's win-win."