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No brown M&Ms? Taste performers' contracts reveal perks

Taste of Chicago’s musical line-up may not have had as many arena-filling stars this summer as in years past, but the performers still flexed their rock star prerogatives in spelling out the food, beverages and other amenities they would get backstage in Grant Park.

The lists of perks are found in the riders that bands typically include in their performance contracts.

Of the acts at this year’s 10-day festival, R & B singer Natalie Cole was perhaps the most particular about the victuals she wanted the Chicago Park District to provide.

In addition to her $65,000 performance fee, Cole’s catering list included one small box of Nabisco Ginger Snaps cookies without icing, an unchilled tub of Country Crock butter spread, a chilled jar of Miracle Whip sandwich spread — no substitute mayonnaise accepted — as well as original flavor Cheez-It crackers, a platter with strawberries, seedless grapes, sliced pineapple and cantaloupe, and several other foods and beverages.

Still, Cole made some concessions. Her contract indicates she made do without some things in her standard contract rider -- her usual backstage complement of three peeled hard-boiled eggs, one sliced avocado “sprayed with lemon juice to keep from browning” and a small raw ginger root.

Cole’s manager, Barbara Rose, declined comment.

“Because Taste of Chicago is a free festival, performers were very generous during negotiations,” said Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.

Cole’s fee topped the Taste performers. Country singer Loretta Lynn earned $40,000 and the other performers less than that, according to the contracts.

The contracts fall short of the party-hard rock-and-roll lifestyle. Cole’s band went without its usual assortment of beer, wine and cognac. And Canadian fiddler Natalie MacMaster and her bandmates skipped the high-end beers they usually request.

MacMaster’s contract says she and the band “are trying to avoid preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, processed meats, etc.” Among several foods and drinks they requested were a quart of lactose-free milk and assorted chocolate bars without nuts.

Rock music contract riders are the stuff of legend. During a tour in its 1980s heyday, Van Halen famously had a rider demanding brown M & Ms be removed from the group’s backstage candy bowl.

None of the Taste acts got quite that persnickety in their riders — though roots rockers The Jayhawks and Cole’s backing band each requested peanut M & Ms in their dressing rooms.

jebyrne@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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