Poolside concerts light up Vegas summer nights

Las Vegas comes alive at night, when the sun sets and the neon shows brightest. A handful of venues on and near the Strip have put a finger to the city’s pulsing nighttime energy and found a way to turn up the beat as the sun turns down the heat.

Nighttime beach concerts bring out the best in Vegas, melding nightlife with live entertainment and crossing the beach club craze with the city’s surge in arts culture.

Three very distinct venues are offering unique poolside concert experiences all summer long.

The Cosmopolitan‘s rooftop Boulevard Pool, with its panoramic views of the Strip, is home to tons of summer music shows, including the indie-inspired Set Your Life to Music Concert Series on Thursday nights.

Fedor Banuchi, the Cosmo’s director of entertainment and nightlife operations, explained what makes concerts at the skyline venue spectacular.

Sunshine reggae stars Iration represent one facet of the Set Your Life to Music series' indie-driven sound.

“The Boulevard Pool is just as exciting for the bands playing as it is for our guests,” he said. “That really makes every show here unique. You can feel the energy in each performance.”

We saw alt-rockers Yellowcard at the Boulevard Pool on May 16 and were amazed at how the Cosmopolitan showed off the stars. Live video feed of show lit up the hotel’s Strip-side marquee as the band powered through new songs like “When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes” and old favorites like “Ocean Avenue.”

“The Set Your Life to Music bands are all indie-spirited and directed towards the ‘curious class,'” Banuchi said. “The series is driven by people who live and breathe music.”

The series will stretch into September with  Infected Mushroom (June 20), Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown (June 27), Twin Shadow (July 4), Makua Rothman (July 11),  Elan Atias (July 18), Theophilus London (July 25), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (August 1), Gary Clark, Jr. (Aug. 8), Rebelution and Matisyahu (Aug. 22), Fitz and the Tantrums (September 5), Blink-182 and New Beat Fund (Sept.19) and The Naked and Famous (Oct. 24).

The Cosmo’s regular summer concert set has already brought hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar to the Strip. Still to come are acts from English-Irish boy band The Wanted (Aug. 9) to indie rock icons Cold War Kids (Aug. 16).

If you crave music imported from the islands, swim a little off the mainland to a find poolside concerts that sway to an island beat. Just off the Strip at the Hard Rock Hotel, the Soundwaves series is making a splash.

The shows are hosted at the Paradise Beach pool. By day (during weekends), the venue is home to pool parties, like Summer Camp Fridays, Nectar Saturdays and the infamous Sunday Rehab gathering. But at night, it transforms into a tropical dream.

Concertgoeers at the Hard Rock Hotel's Paradise Beach pool party to the smooth sounds of Pepper. Photo by Bill Hughes/ Erik Kabik Photography

Michael Goodwin, the Hard Rock Hotel’s vice president of nightlife and daylife, described the setting for the Soundwaves shows.

“You’ve got the sand beaches and the palm trees and the cabanas with the thatched huts,” he said. “It takes you out of the desert for the time that you’re there.”

Hawaiian rockers Pepper kicked off the series with island-inspired hits like “Give It Up” on June 8. Stephen and Damian Marley of reggae’s first family will play Paradise Beach June 28, and Dirty Heads, who took “Lay Me Down” to the top of the Billboard Alternative Chart, will perform Aug. 3.

Down on the Strip’s south end, Mandalay Bay Beach rounds out the summer concert scene with sand-side shows that range from reggae to alternative to retro rock.

We were part of an electric crowd when Lifehouse played last month, and on June 8, when the Beach Concert Series officially kicked off, we kicked off our sandals and waded into the water to watch Grace Potter and the Nocturnals make musical magic.

Easily the coolest thing about the Mandalay Bay Beach Concert Series is the dynamic setup that draws crowds right into the water to get close to the action on stage. Bands set up on a podium that looms above the water in the beach’s wave pool, and while groups of friends and even families lounge on blankets on the broad stretches of sand, die-hards take a dip to get up close to the artists.

Still to come at Mandalay Bay Beach is the Under the Sun tour (July 6), featuring ’90s greats Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball.

The throwbacks continue on Aug. 10, when A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, Naked Eyes, Animotion and Bow Wow Wow top the list of bands on the Lost 80’s Live tour. And Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Soul Asylum, The Wailers and Matthew Sweet will each play a full album, when The LP Tour hits Vegas as part of the concert series (July 19).

Shows by alt-rock legends Sublime (Aug. 17) and Grammy Award- winning reggae star Ziggy Marley (Sept. 1) will wrap up the summer sets.