Las Vegas isn’t just the Entertainment Capital of the World. It’s the reinvention capital of the world.
The city has remade itself time and time again. What started out as a dusty railroad stop became a gaming mecca where the biggest entertainers in Hollywood hung out. Las Vegas then bucked its Sin City image to promote a more family-friendly environment, followed by a reversal to its everything-goes mentality.
Then came the recession. In what some saw as the ending point of Las Vegas’ hard-partying, gambling-tomorrow’s-paycheck ways, others saw as a chance to remake the city once more.
Vegas’ latest iteration comes in the form of music. Electronic music has found a new home in Las Vegas, a designation once held by the international playground of Ibiza, Spain. The genre has invaded Las Vegas over the last year in a way unlike any other genre has ever hit the city. The seeds were planted three years ago and thanks to the right mix of vision and timing, house music now provides the anthem for the city, something once done exclusively by hip-hop.
“To me, I think it’s the new hip-hop of the ’80s,” said Jesse Waits, general manager at XS inside Encore. “In the ’80s, hip-hop took over the scene from rock music and I feel like electronic music and dance music is the new sound of music and the DJs are the new rock stars basically. If you look at the radio, there’s a lot of crossover stuff like the Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta with pretty much every artist, from Rihanna to Puff Daddy…everybody is doing electronic music right now.”
Electronic music has been commercialized to be sure, something that has taken hold of the radio waves over the last year or so. Vegas, though, was ahead of the curve. The Palms landed legendary DJ and music producer Paul Oakenfold in 2008 as a resident inside Rain Nightclub. The move to grab such a high-profile electronic DJ at the time wasn’t viewed on the same lines as say Jay-Z opening a nightclub here, but a few years later it’s proven to be the lasting move.
“The reason I felt that Vegas was the right place was because it reminded me (of)… Los Angeles, there’s a limit to what you can do (in L.A.),” said Oakenfold, who celebrated his third year in Vegas over Labor Day. “New York, there’s problems with whatever club you do. There’s problems with the locals because real estate’s worth a fortune and no one wants to move next to a club, and when they do end up moving next to a club, they end up complaining and that tends to be the trend. So I felt Vegas was perfect. You can be really creative; you come up with great ideas in terms of building out the venue, the decoration and also getting involved with new ideas.”
Oakenfold worked with Sol Shafer and Mike Fuller, both former executives with N9NE Group, to create Planet Perfecto, which still runs today. At that time, Oakenfold said, the electronic scene was almost nonexistent. Since then, and especially over the last year, the scene has exploded.
Vegas now has a roster of DJs who previously couldn’t be seen in the United States with such frequency. Tiësto, the world’s No. 1 DJ, holds a residency at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel; Guetta brought his weekly Ibiza party to Wet Republic at MGM Grand; Deadmau5 makes regular stops; Steve Aoki and Afrojack made homes at Surrender; Marquee became the first club to be built with the electronic DJ in mind and we’ve seen two electronic music festivals, the Electric Daisy Carnival and Identity, move to Vegas.
It’s an amazing turnaround for a city that was dominated by hip-hop music not too long ago.
“As in every music style there is a coming and going in popularity,” said ATB, a Germany-based DJ who holds a residency at Marquee Nightclub and Tao, in an e-mail. “… In my opinion hip-hop is very present in the USA for a long time. So after such a long time the people are searching for new sounds, feelings and emotions that dance music is currently representing. This is a great chance for electronic dance music.”
The folks at Tao Group, the people who run Tao and Lavo, thought so as well. The group seized the opportunity to build the only nightclub at the recently opened Cosmopolitan and differentiated it from anything else in town, including Tao (one of the most popular clubs in Vegas).
Marquee spans more than 62,000 square feet with three rooms, a pool deck, a 40-foot LED screen and an automated catwalk that, when combined with go-go dancers, provides for a show-like performance inside of a nightclub.
“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. “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.”
Marquee’s resident DJ lineup reads like an all-star roster of the world’s top mix masters: Roger Sanchez, ATB, Erick Morrillo, Kaskade and Redfoo of LMFAO, among others.
Shafer, one of the men that worked with Oakenfold in the beginning, is Marquee’s music director.
The Electric Daisy Carnival in June became the first electronic music festival to come to Las Vegas. The show was forced out of Los Angeles because of drug problems that included an overdose death of a 15-year-old girl. Many expected worse results in Sin City. More than 230,000 people attended the three-day event and by all accounts the crowd remained fairly calm. The biggest thing police had to deal with was a ticket counterfeiting scheme by one of EDC’s own employees.
Oakenfold, who was among nearly 150 artists to spin at EDC (most of whom hold residencies here), said the high-profile residencies and EDC are just the beginning.
“I think the next thing we’ll start to see is genres instead of the generic house sound that everyone seems to be playing,” Oakenfold said. “We will have genres that come into the scene, so you may have your Monday night may be a techno night and the people that have just been getting into the scene will find that. And there’s certain DJs that play different kinds of sounds that haven’t come to Vegas yet and don’t have a foothold in Vegas. And I hope that will come into it because diversity, creativity are really good things to have. I think there will be more festivals and maybe kind of a conference, a big conference will come along, an electronic conference, and I think that’s the way forward.”
Notable Electronic Music DJ Residencies
Marquee Nightclub at The Cosmopolitan
Roger Sanchez, Erick Morrillo, Kaskade, Redfoo, ATB
Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan
ATB, Roger Sanchez, EC Twins, Markus Schulz
Surrender at Encore
Steve Aoki, Sky Blu of LMFAO, Calvin Harris, Afrojack
XS at Encore
Manufactured Superstars, Feed Me
Encore Beach Club
Kaskade, Pete Tong, Afrojack, Calvin Harris
Rain at Palms
Paul Oakenfold, DJ Pauly D, Felix da Housecat
Wet Republic at MGM Grand
David Guetta, Tiesto