New wave pop star Howard Jones finishes his concert for a packed crowd at The Paramount in Huntington, then heads one floor below, where a different show is about to begin.
When he enters the Founder's Room -- a members-only club -- Jones is swarmed with requests for autographs and photos. He politely obliges.
"This is what's so cool about the Founder's Room," says Kristine Fischer, 43, of Huntington. "They make the artists accessible to the members."
Paying extra for VIP treatment is a growing trend in the concert industry. At The Paramount, members pay $4,000 a year for perks that only begin with receiving notice about upcoming shows before anybody else and the ability to buy preferential seating. The biggest benefit is pre- and post-show access to the Founder's Room, an expansive clubhouse with themed rooms, food and drink service, and a pool table.
After each live performance, featured artists are invited here to mingle with members. Sometimes -- like Jones -- they do.
"You could be having a drink with the headliner after the show," says director Dominick Catoggio. "It gives our members that extra experience."
To be part of the Founder's Room, an existing member typically must refer you, and there's an application process. The annual fee does not include tickets, food or drinks, but members say it's worth it.
"As an avid concertgoer, it's so nice to have a concierge service," says Liz LuPone, 48, of Northport. "I used to have to go online and race to buy tickets. Now I just pick up the phone."
The club is decorated in a 1920s theme with waitresses in flapper dresses using speakeasy terms, as if they were in an episode of "Boardwalk Empire." Members have access to six private rooms: There's the warm and cozy Teddy Room, named after the 26th president, with a bearskin rug, a fireplace and antlers on the wall. The Gangster Room, which is big enough to host a dinner party for 8 to 10, has its own special menu. Each room has a TV showing the activity onstage -- and a buzzer for waiter service.
Members-only events have included a stand-up set from comedian Jay Mohr, and private concerts from John Oates, Lisa Loeb, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze and Five For Fighting.
Of course, there's the perk of hanging out with celebrity guests who happen to drop by.
"One night Billy Joel walked in and played a little ditty on the piano," recalls LuPone. "Everybody freaked out. It was fabulous!"
The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington
PERKS Use of the Founder's Room, VIP seating with waiter service, meet-and-greets, early info on upcoming concerts, members-only events
COST $4,000 annual membership fee
INFO 631-673-7300, ext. 301, paramountny.com
The buzz at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury is coming from Lounge 960, which is causing fans to arrive earlier and stay later at the concert venue.
For a $25 bump in ticket price, you can enter through a special VIP door, get your coat checked and be seated at a table or relax on a couch before the show. A tapas menu is available as well as a full bar with flatscreen TVs showing the action onstage. There's even a private bathroom.
"It's a bit of extra pampering and acts like a fast pass into the venue," marketing manager Dan Kellachan says. "This is a nicer experience than doing the candy-counter food kind of thing."
On a recent night, Peter Lev, 54, of Manhasset Hills is set to see comedian Jay Leno -- but before getting his laughs, he's enjoying a chicken pesto panini.
"I like to arrive at a venue early and take my time," says Lev, sitting next to his wife, Elise. "This is nicer than showing up five minutes before a show and running to my seat."
After being teased from the stage by Leno for owning multiple cats, Debbie Hobart, 61, of Melville comes back to the lounge. As people muscle their way out of the parking lot, she and her husband, Dave, enjoy some after-dinner drinks and soft pretzels with friends while waiting for the traffic to clear.
"We skip that part," she says. "This is our time to relax!"
WHERE NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd.
PERKS VIP entrance, coat check, pre- and post-show bar/lounge access for food and drinks, private bathroom
COST $25 plus ticket price
INFO 516-247-5200, venue.thetheatreatwestbury.com
Other VIP touches at local concert venues:
ALL MUSIC LOUNGE
The All Music Lounge at The Space at Westbury has added a new dimension to the revitalized concert venue. Paying tribute to the theater's roots, its decor is cinema-inspired, with chandeliers made out of film cans and reels with vintage projectors on display. Local musicians perform on Thursday nights, and a full bar is open to patrons before and after the show for no extra cover fee.
INFO 516-283-5566, thespaceatwestbury.com
VIP AT JONES BEACH
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh has revamped its VIP program offering premium seats, preferred parking, a VIP Club & Lounge, upscale suites and reserved deck seating (prices vary per show -- $200 to $400, food and drinks not included). Dine on sushi with chardonnay while watching Jimmy Buffett from an Adirondack chair overlooking Zach's Bay.
INFO 917-421-5131, livenation.com