This month has been particularly rough for travelers staying in Boston hotels. Nightly room prices have been higher than Willie Nelson at Hempfest. Mid-range hotels have averaged $300-$450 a night. High-end hotels have run $800 and (much) more a night.
Backstage, an area that was once a parking lot next to the Verb, is home to 10 custom-built trailers, complete with landscaping and AstroTurf. They were designed to conjure the look and feel of tour buses. The theme goes with the hotel’s vibe, which celebrates all things rock ‘n’ roll and is chock-a-block with pop culture memorabilia. It also fits with the hotel’s midcentury leanings.
To clarify, these are not Airstream trailers that were gussied up. According to developer Steve Samuels and hotelier Robin Brown, the custom trailers at Backstage were built to create an “elevated experience.” I’ve never met an elevated experience I didn’t like, so I packed a suitcase and was prepared to be dazzled by the high-end linens and the king bed while enjoying a night of rockstar-style debauchery. Which, in my case, meant a glass of chardonnay and an episode of “Murder She Wrote.”
The published rate for a night in one of the tour bus-styled campers is $599. I paid $589, but after taxes, fees, and parking, my total came to $786.51 (I mistakenly thought the $68 parking fee was included for people staying at Backstage). Because of the price, I studied the camper and the experience as carefully as Jessica Fletcher would examine a crime scene. As someone who has slept in his fair share of hotel rooms (minds out of the gutter, please), I know how a $718 room (or trailer) should look and feel.
Let’s start with the persnickety points. The Verb, and Backstage, are rock-themed. There are record players in every room and trailer with a library of records in the lobby that guests can borrow. I grabbed a stack for the evening (Belle and Sebastian, Pulp, Amy Winehouse) to take back to the camper. My friend Kevin stopped by to see my temporary digs. We opened a bottle of wine and put the needle on the record. But the record sounded lousy. It wasn’t the music that was bad, it was the quality of the turntable. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that parking at the hotel cost more than the record player.
If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, I am, but it’s constructive criticism. It’s an easy problem for the hotel to fix. If someone at Backstage wants to rock at an elevated level, let them rock. You can’t do that with a record player that has a subpar needle and a tinny, built-in speaker. If you’re not planning to listen to records, this is a non-issue. There’s a Bluetooth soundbar that enables guests to listen to music through their phone or laptop. But with a lobby full of vinyl, I was ready for records.
Fortunately the turntable is not the first thing you notice when you enter the room, it’s the design. The materials are beautiful. There’s a wide band of leather that runs behind the bed and curves up the ceiling. The floors in the bathroom are heated, there’s a rainfall shower head, and the 400-square-foot camper is filled with thoughtful touches, such as a metronome on the minibar. There are warm walnut flourishes and gallery-style lights.
As a hotel room, the trailer checks all the boxes. It has the vibe of a tour bus for a band that is extraordinarily tidy and obscenely wealthy. The bed is comfortable and controls and outlets are handy on either side. I would have liked the option to open the windows (at least a crack), but the climate controls are solid, and these trailers are constructed for year-round use. Unlike an Airstream, this trailer doesn’t shake.
It was generally quiet. There was only one other occupied trailer at Backstage, so I can’t attest to noise traveling between campers. At one point it was raining heavily, but I didn’t hear any drops pattering on the roof. What I did occasionally hear was the rumble of trucks on a nearby street. I imagine if there was a game or a concert I’d be able to hear it as well, but that would be a selling point. This would be an ideal spot to tailgate before a Fenway concert.
Each trailer has two outdoor chairs. The trailers are spaced somewhat tightly, but had it not been raining during my stay I would have readily sat outside. It’s like having a wedge of artificial lawn in the middle of the city.
Staying at Backstage gives you access to all the amenities of the hotel, such as the pool, plus an exclusive gated area in the trailer park with curvaceous plastic love seats, a bit of AstroTurf, and games such as corn hole and a giant Connect 4. The area was flanked by stainless steel tubs filled with tasteful plantings. It said “Repurposed parking lot” more than “Cool hangout area,” but Backstage had been open less than a month during my stay, so I’m optimistic that by next spring this area will be something special. Millennials love corn hole almost as much as hard seltzer, so I suspect they wouldn’t mind how the rest looks as long as they can toss beanbags.
People staying at the Backstage are considered VIPs. You’re in the tour bus, so you’re with the band, the nonexistent, extraordinarily tidy and obscenely wealthy band that has a bus with a rainfall shower head. That means you’re driven in a golf cart to your room, and a representative for Backstage (the Backstage VIP Host) greets you when you arrive.
The cool factor, bragging rights, and Instagram-ready scenery will likely be the strongest selling points for Backstage. If that’s not what you’re looking for, you’re probably better off spending your $718 at the Whitney Hotel or the Boston Harbor Hotel. But if you want to impress your friends, play corn hole with millennials, stay in a one-of-a-kind structure, and complain to the very helpful and patient staff about the quality of the turntable, then you have found the perfect place.