While some “resident” DJs only make monthly—or even quarterly—stops at their nightclub “homes,” our local spinners still hold it down all over town with weekly residency gigs. And if they’ve got the right stuff, they’ll even get their own night: Vice Sundays at Lavo, Mike Attack Fridays at Moon and DJ Karma Saturdays at the Bank, for example. One of the more recent eponymous parties is that of Bay Area native Eric Forbes, who’s worked his way up the ranks to rocking Forbes Fridays at Tabú in the MGM Grand, where he spins—you guessed it—every Friday night. We learn more about his path from bartender to the booth.
What does the Forbes Fridays journey sound like?
I’m very fast-paced, mixing very quickly, kinda setting people up on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down, making people have a good time all night, making them forget the time, and then next thing you know, it’s 4 in the morning.
How do you keep your energy up for your six-hour sets?
5-Hour Energy and Monster [energy drink]. I usually take a Monster about 9:30 p.m. and a 5-Hour Energy about 1 a.m. When the crowd is into it, the time goes by really quick.
Do you have a special potty-mix for when those energy drinks inevitably run through you?
I do. I probably have the smallest bladder of any DJ out there. I have to watch what I drink; that’s why I drink 5-Hour Energy all the time. Luckily the bathroom’s right there. If I can get a track that’s three or four minutes that works well, I don’t have to worry. I don’t wanna lose people.
Since this is your party, what happens if you get sick?
I just gotta man up and do it.
With the DJ booth being so accessible and close to the crowd at Tabú, how do you handle the high number of requests?
We always get, “It’s my birthday,” or “Hey, can you play this?” I’m like, “Listen, I already played it.” They’re like, “Well I wasn’t here.” He shoulda gotten here earlier! [Laughs.] I always try to be really cool. It’s a customer service sort of thing. People might be like, “Hey we went to Forbes Fridays, and that guy was a dick,” because you just shut ’em down. You do get requests, but it’s people having a good time, and you want those people to have a good time; I try to look at it as a plus.
How are you able to keep the tourist crowd going while it might become monotonous for you?
I always try and have a couple different versions of things. I never stick to one playlist for the night, where I’m like, bing-bing-bing, hitting the same ones. I always try and switch it up. I think more or less, running through music quickly and trying to entertain everybody.
How did your DJ career in Las Vegas start?
At the time, DJs weren’t getting paid what they get paid now; it was just more of a passion for music. So when I got hired behind the bar at Studio 54, that money was incredible. I kinda let DJing go to the side a little bit. It was when 54 was insane. I let ’em hear some of my stuff, and they liked it. When the DJs wanted to take a break, they would let me go on and I’d spin for a half-hour. When Eden [Tuesdays] popped off—which was the first industry night for locals—they asked me if I wanted to DJ it. It was going from the regular format to a house format. The first Eden I got to spin from 3 until around 7 in the morning. Soon I was doing Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays there. And I got Fridays at Tabú. That was 6 or 7 years ago. I’ve just been moving forward ever since.
Much of your family is in construction. Would you consider yourself to be the black sheep?
Yes and no. They’ve seen recently what I’m doing, and they’re amazed. They think I’m a superstar. I’m like, “Mom, it’s not like that.” They think I’m Tom Jones or something and I’m signing autographs. I have to tell her it’s not like that. Nobody knows who I am—rarely you’ll get people who know my name, but they don’t know me. I just laugh; I think it’s funny. My mom didn’t really want me to be out here. When I first moved to Vegas I went back home a wreck, because I ran it hard for a year. My mom and dad were like, “We really don’t want you to go back down there, but it’s your decision.” But there was something inside me that drove me to make it down here again. I met my future wife—I’m getting married in November—so that was great. And [DJing] was always something I had a passion to do. I knew I could make it here, it was just something inside me that always told me I had to be back in Vegas.
How does breaking into the Las Vegas market now differ from when you were able to get your foot in the door?
The thing now is everybody has access to the music. You buy the computer, you buy the Serato software and you can do it.
Whereas before it was an investment and you had to save up to buy vinyl …
Right. If you didn’t have the vinyl and you couldn’t get it, you didn’t have the track. Now you can pretty much get everything and the way people make music now that you can buy online, it’s like you could almost—if you were halfway smart and you wanted to be a DJ, you could download somebody’s set, study it to a T, get all the tracks and play the exact same thing, and you could get by at a nightclub. The availability and the accessibility now is a little bit of a downfall because it takes a little bit of the talent. I always tell people, “It’s one thing to mix two records, but to program to where you’re taking people on a journey for six hours is something kind of in and of itself.” If somebody was getting into it, follow your favorite DJ and learn, not only how to mix the records, but create a journey for people.
You mentioned you’re getting married. Big bachelor blow-out party at Tabú?
I don’t know if I want to do that. I just see so many bachelor parties and working in a nightclub there are days just like any job where you don’t want to go to work. Honestly I was thinking about going to Cabo with two of my best friends, and I wanna just go fishing and do some chill stuff. I don’t want to rage. I’ve done that for 35 years now. I stopped celebrating birthdays at 30.
You celebrated your 21st birthday in Las Vegas. Do you remember it at all or …?
Yeah, I started gambling at 12 a.m. at New York, New York, and I won $1,500 playing craps. I was working $7-an-hour jobs, so I was like, “Yeah!” Then we went to The Drink [later to become the now-defunct Ice nightclub on Harmon]. And I think we went to strip clubs and dumb stuff like that. It was just a blur after that.