| ||Maroon 5|
LAS VEGAS -- Maroon 5 is used to playing sold-out arenas before thousands of screaming fans, mostly young women in love with ultra-cool lead singer Adam Levine. On Wednesday night in Sin City, they got a surprise after walking on stage in an opulent Bellagio ballroom shortly after 10 pm: greying middle aged men wearing SALT Conference lanyards and loafers.
"In case you don't know who we are, we're Maroon 5," joked Levine, who performed wearing skinny jeans, a tight black T-shirt revealing extensive tattoos, and his signature three-day stubble. Most people in the several hundred person crowd indeed weren't sure what they were watching. "What's their name again?" asked one elderly asset trustee; another 40-something hedge fund manager said he looked up the odd-sounding name shortly before the show. "I had to Google it," he admitted.
"Awwww yeah!" screamed Levine early on, looking for an echo from the crowd. No response. An attempt to set a clapping beat with the audience also fell flat.
Of course, some in the audience watched excitedly, particularly those in the elevated VIP section sponsored by Northern Trust. The hippest attendees had changed out of their daytime suits for a decidedly casual-but-one-percent look: un-tucked, french cuff dress shirts with two buttons down. But the styling might equally have been preparation for playing the Black Jack table or heading to a nightclub later on.
For the most part, hedge funders watched politely if unenthusiastically while sipping on Bud Light bottles and 2008 Washington state merlot; others networked in the half-full ballroom, checking their Blackberries in between business card exchanges.
The concert was for a good cause: SALT's new Aspire Giving charity initiative benefiting three nonprofits: Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, charity:water and Warrior Gateway. Some attendees evidently shelled out: charity packages included a $15,000 option for backstage passes and a signed guitar or $1,000 for a VIP ticket.
It was one of the last songs shortly after 11 pm, Moves like Jagger, that got the crowd going. The annoyingly catchy song has spent 45 weeks on Billboard's top 100 chart, including a stint as the most popular song in the country. Networking stopped and the iPhone cameras came out—mostly to take pictures for adoring children back home.
Sensing a shift, Levine engaged with the SALT audeince. "Where are the ladies tonight?" he asked as the drummer kept a faint beat. One could hear a few screams. "That means there are a lot of dudes here," he shot back. "It's not the best ratio." The men nodded and laughed knowingly. A few adoring women in front screamed a little louder, and Levine indulged them. "Ladies, this song is dedicated to you," he said before launching into another hit, She will be loved. "We love you so damn much."
By the end, everyone beamed. Being cool with photos for the kids to prove it
— if only for an hour at a hedge fund conference
— seemed well worth the price of admission.