Las Vegas is a distribution hub. Not in the usual sense that involves UPS and warehousing, but in the thought that this city is the one place that exposes people from every corner of the world to new ideas, names and movements.
The alcohol-drinking and women-loving antics of the Rat Pack became legendary under the bright lights of old Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay in Vegas, it becomes part of the culture elsewhere.
Now, Vegas finds itself as the growing home to big-name electronic DJs and the result could reshape the nightlife industry around the country and spread a genre of music into the mainstream.
“I think that Las Vegas is the nightclub mecca of the world and we’re trendsetters,” said Jesse Waits, managing partner of XS inside Encore. “I think having these big, giant DJs kind of gives us some notoriety in that sense of being regarded as more of a nightclub city. To have these guys I think it’s going to expose (people to these DJs). Vegas is big in marketing, for these (guests) to come from all over the world and see these guys’ names, it’s going to definitely bring more attention to these DJs.”
World travelers and electronic music enthusiasts are already used names like Tiesto, Afrojack, Steve Aoki and Erick Morillo. But those DJs, which are among the biggest in the industry, have set up residency gigs here in Las Vegas along with a score of others. They have begun to give rise to electronic music in the United States, a genre that has been a staple in the European club scene for more than a decade.
If you’re not sure what exactly constitutes electronic music just turn on your radio. You’ll hear electronic influences in Usher’s “OMG,” and Black Eyed Peas “The Time,” but these songs only dip their toes in the electronic music pool.
Over the last several months nightclubs have been collecting big-name DJ talent like kids grabbed Pokémon cards in the early 2000s. XS picked up Manufactured Superstars and Afrojack (who also spends time at Surrender along with Aoki). Marquee, the newest club in Las Vegas, has a who’s who of resident DJs, which includes: Kaskade, Erick Morillo, EC Twins, Roger Sanchez, Jordan Stevens, DJ Chuckie, DJ Redfoo from the group LMFAO and more.
Marquee, though, was designed to be a DJ-centered nightclub. It boasts a 40-foot LED screen behind the DJ booth, go-go dancers on catwalks above the DJ and the main room is centered on the booth itself.
“I think there’s just been an ongoing insurgence of electronic music and people getting educated on the music and people coming to Vegas wanting more than just a DJ, they want a show,” said Jason Strauss, managing partner of Tao Group, which runs Tao, Lavo and Marquee. “There’s plenty of shows all over the Strip and the success of Cirque Du Soleil, Blue Man Group and so forth.
“People come to Vegas to be wowed and I think as the nightlife industry here has evolved, people are interested in a show and what these international electronic DJs can do is bring a show along with them. And with our 40-foot LED screen, a performance stage and costuming, we’re really delivering a show on top of the music.”
The movement didn’t pass by some of the smaller or older clubs either. Studio 54 at MGM Grand recently kicked off “DJ Loczi’s Electric Dream,” which features an LED stage, a live band, aerial dancers and go-go dancers.
Rain at the Palms, which has been the home to legendary electronic DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold for years, started “Clash Fridays,” in January. The event brings in some of the most talented up-and-coming DJs like Diplo, who you may recognize from the Blackberry Torch commercial.
“Vegas is a place where you can start a real buzz as well with DJs and music and people pay attention to what happens here,” said Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Pentz. “It’s sort of like you have a set you can do in LA and New York, and Vegas is kind of the quintessential club scene.”
Clash Fridays will also feature Felix Da Housecat, Dadlife, AC Slater among others.
Tiesto has taken over The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel, the same venue iconic guitarist Carlos Santana has taken up residency, where he puts on concert-style shows into the wee hours of the morning. The Dutch born DJ and producer has a laundry list of accolades, which includes being named the world’s top DJ multiple times.
“I had no idea it was going to get that big,” Waits said. “I think it’s amazing, though. I love Tiesto, he produces a lot of amazing songs and I think he’s a huge thing for Las Vegas. He’s a monster. I mean, he’s the biggest DJ in the world so it’s really good for Las Vegas.”
Strauss cited that the current trend toward house music is only one segment of market. That much is obvious when you see that rapper Lil Jon has a residency at Surrender.
Hip-hop music used to play almost exclusively at nightclubs and while Top 40 can be heard at all clubs, club-goers are starting hear more of an electronic influence behind it. Combine that with the big-name electronic DJs coming to Vegas and you have a perfect storm for the rise of house music in the United States.
Odds are when you return back to wherever you live, some of that influence will come back with you and you will become part of the electronic music evolution.
“I think it’s a trend that’s going to stay a lot longer than in years past,” said Brad Roulier, who with Shawn Sabo makes up Manufactured Superstars. “House music has been around now for 20 years, so there’s a generation of people who are 35, who are 40 that are starting to spend a lot of money and that’s the music they grew up in. And now everyone underneath them has been exposed to it.”