Artists in Residence

Vegas nightclubs anoint a grip of celebrity DJs to resident status

The observant partier could see it coming in 2010 with the likes of Z-Trip, Lil Jon and Steve Aoki, but it looks like 2011 will be the year that resident DJs fulfill the promise made in 2008 by Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto and take over Las Vegas nightlife completely.

This year will see Tiësto at The Joint and Erick Morillo at Marquee, with Kaskade moving over there from Encore Beach Club as well. Then there’s XS, coming out of the gate with not one, but two big-name residents—the first since the club opened early in 2009.

Beatport founders Brad Roulier and Shawn Sabo, under the nom de turntable Manufactured Superstars, will play that room, plus sister club Tryst, for a total of 25 dates in 2011.

A day after the Manufactured Superstars announcement hit, XS locked up Afrojack (born Nick van de Wall) for 2011, entering into a partnership with intra-property nightlife operators Las Vegas Nightlife Group for the Dutch up-and-comer to split 24 shows between XS, Surrender and Encore Beach Club.

“I played here once and it went really well. It was lots of fun. My agent said, ‘We got an offer for a residency,’ so I was like, ‘Fuck yeah.’ Of course. It’s Vegas, it’s the best club in Vegas, so why the hell not?” van de Wall says.

For Roulier and Sabo, who own Denver’s Beta Nightclub, signing on for gigs at the Wynn and Encore gives them a convenient outpost. Plus, it puts them center stage twice a month instead of opening for other acts, something Sabo says was important for them when they inked the deal.

It also puts them right in the middle of the changing landscape of Vegas nightlife, where, increasingly, having a resident DJ does not necessarily mean being locked into programming from that DJ every week. The definition is stretching to include once- or twice-monthly gunslingers, where the hope is that big names and short calendars will mean big buzz.

Marquee alone is laying claim to a slew of resident jocks, including Roger Sanchez, ATB, Chuckie, Dirty South, the EC Twins, Sander van Doorn, Above & Beyond, LMFAO’s Redfoo and Markus Schulz. From early January to late March, none of those DJs will play more than two dates at the club.

“A year ago, all the big clubs out there besides Rain, none of them played dance music. I was out this weekend with from everybody to Avicii to Afrojack and Tiësto. On Jan. 1, the day after New Year’s, there were, like, five headlining dance acts in the city, and I think they all were sold out. I know Tiësto was, I know Kaskade was, I know we were,” Sabo says. “The day after Sunday, I went and saw Calvin Harris [at The Bank]. It’s just awesome to see that many people into dance music. It’s good to see all the tourists come into the city. A lot of them are coming for those events. It’s not about Top 40, hip-hop anymore.”

Afrojack did shows last year at Vanity, Encore Beach Club and Wet Republic, so he has some experience with the city, though, admittedly, not an intimate experience.

“I have no idea what Vegas looks like,” he says. “I’ve been here five times now, and the only things I see are limousines, the floor of limousines and the hotel rooms and clubs.”

So he can be forgiven if he doesn’t immediately pick up on the significance of the Sean Christie’s Nightlife Group working so closely with Jesse Waits’ XS and Tryst. It’s a first for the two Wynn nightlife concerns, which have historically operated at a distance. Already, van de Wall is thinking big. He’s posted pictures to his Twitter feed of a makeshift studio at Surrender. It’s being used for a project with Aoki and Omarion, but he also sees it as a forerunner of a more permanent installation.

“We’re working on some tracks. But there’s one studio right now at the Palms or something, but there are so many musicians going here,” van de Wall says. “We were thinking maybe we’ll go up to Steve Wynn about making a studio. It’s really good for us down here because we can work and we can make new music live with inspiration from Vegas. There are so many talents here all the time.”

Van de Wall’s ambition and mounting fame aren’t lost on Sabo—who, through Beatport, is in the catbird seat when it comes to seeing whom other DJs and dance music fans are paying attention to.

“It was great when they signed Nick, too. He’s—if not the—[he’s] one of the top two rising stars of this year. It’s great to see them get him as well,” he says. “The energy he brings to the dance floor is pretty unmatched. It’s almost an honor that they picked him up right when they picked us up, just to be included in that same caliber of artist is pretty exciting for us.”

The only other DJ Sabo put up there with van de Wall was Avicii, the 21-year-old Swede who has projects in the works with Tiësto and Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso.

Wall was a little modest about that superlative.

“It’s an honor of course, but we’ll see what happens. I’m having fun right now. I think my fans are liking the music. I think a lot of DJs like the music, and we’ll just see what happens this year. We’ll see if they were right.”

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