How the Pyramids Were Built

A magical nightclub history tour with DJ Dave Fogg

The Strip is full of world-class nightclubs with superstar DJs. You might believe it was always like this—but it wasn’t. There is little documentation of city’s nightlife evolution, which leaves the chronicle to be told by those who were there. Dave Fogg is one on these men: a working DJ when it all began, and still a force with which to be reckoned. To discuss Vegas’ rich nightlife history with him, as we recently did, is to consult the oracle. Fogg’s tale starts in a far-away time, back when casinos had no nightclubs on property, and continues through to present, when it is almost unimaginable to have a casino open its doors without one.

How is it that a lot of DJs, myself included, complement Vegas residencies with constant appearances in other nightlife markets, yet you’ve managed to stay put?

If you can work five days here and make your money, why would you travel? When you look at all the other DJs who are traveling, what do you hear them talking about? Being stuck in the airport! They’re Tweeting about their flight being late, how there’s no good spots to eat. But if you’re here, and you’re solid, and you’re making a career out of playing in Vegas, my opinion is that there is really nowhere else to go.

Where did you start playing in Las Vegas?

I got involved in DJing when I was in college. I did college radio [KUNR at University of Nevada, Reno, then KUNV at UNLV a few years after that]. The first R.E.M. record, first Public Enemy record—you were able to play all that stuff under one program. I started there, and then made my way into nightlife.

What spots once dominated but wouldn’t have a chance in today’s Vegas?

It’s kind of hard to grasp now—[today] it’s basically mandatory to have an ultra lounge and a nightclub in every casino—even a pool and a beach! But … there was a place called the Shark Club, which was partially owned by [Jerry] Tarkanian, back when the Rebels were hot [and] college basketball was hot. That was the spot to go for tourists.

When I started performing in Las Vegas in 2004, I lived in the Luxor and spent a lot of time in the proximity of RA, where you were a resident—along with DJ Five, Warren Peace, Mr. Bob—and the DJ booth was protected by lasers!

It was what you would now call a mega club, based on a specific science-fiction movie that wasn’t necessarily good, [yet it] somehow translated to this amazing concept for a nightclub! RA was the first club to bring international DJ talent and have an established electronic night. They were the first club to really start promoting a mash-up night … back when that movement was very relevant. … Thursday nights were probably one of the biggest hip-hop nights in the country. It became one of the first places to define what I would call a “big room” night.

RA closed in 2004. Where did you go next?

I went immediately to Tryst as that opened. Wynn had opened Le Bete, but it took Victor Drai to make it work. [They] changed the name, spent millions to renovate a new club and it became Tryst.

Which led to XS, which was ranked the No. 1 nightclub in the country while you were at its musical helm.

If you’re familiar with how Bar and Nightclub magazine does the ranking, it’s revenue, but if you get past all the other criteria one would use to judge a nightclub—door policies, etc.—the model XS uses for business is the reason it ranks high. The music format played a big part, though you would never know I was playing there. Their model maintains that the DJ is no more important than a busser or cocktail waitress or a bartender or the GM. … You would never see a DJ on any type of marketing, but something kept people coming back, and I like to think the music had a lot to do with that.

But the word I’m hearing is that you’ve recently and amicably split from XS.

This is true. Vegas is a small town, so it’s best not to burn bridges, and I left for my own reasons—which is saying something, since XS is, quote-unquote, the No. 1 nightclub in the U.S. But I was offered a position as the program director for the N9NE Group.

What place does “program director” hold in the world of nightlife?

We have this entertainment industry in Vegas, and it’s been the place since the ’50s. The title of entertainment director was created here, and is still in place for casinos. Having grown up in Vegas, I always wanted this job. It’s the same as somebody wanting to be a maître d’ back in the ’60s and ’70s; they were the guys. And 20 years ago, being head valet was the position.

GF: OK, so let me ask you this: As the new program director at N9NE Group, do you have the power to fire me?

DF: Yes, I think I do.