Has it really been five years since the 4,500-capacity Joint opened at the Hard Rock Hotel? It has, and yet the place still retains its “new-venue” smell with an always-impressive calendar of shows. From the 2013 New Year’s gig by the Black Keys to the first blockbuster Guns N’ Roses residency to the acclaimed Pixies set last month, The Joint continues to serve as a musical mecca. And there’s a solid lineup to look forward to, with a second GNR residency slated for May and June, plus Widespread Panic, Queen and Boston ready to rock the Rock in July. Hard Rock entertainment vice president Chas Smith—a rock and heavy metal guy, himself—discusses the venue’s past, present and future.
You started at the original Joint as a stagehand in 2000. How does that background help you now?
For sure, being a stagehand definitely helps. The most important advantage is that you instantly grasp what a band like Mötley Crüe is carrying—what the production looks like, what the pyrotechnics will be. It’s a great feeling to let a band with 15 trucks come in and use all their equipment, rather than have them come in and not be able to use half of it, because you didn’t understand what they have. For me, knowing exactly what can and can’t work has been a huge asset when booking acts at The Joint.
What’s the best show you’ve seen at The Joint in the last five years?
The one that sticks out is fairly recent: when Imagine Dragons played their homecoming show, February 9 . We’d had them as an opening act several years prior to that and paid them $500. They came in as conquering heroes, and the intensity of the crowd, of the band, was unlike anything I’ve seen before. We brought the Dragons back again in December, and we don’t normally book a band within the same year.
Turning 40, I find it difficult to see my favorite bands as a teenager—Def Leppard, Crüe, etc.—being referred to as “legacy bands.” Is it a marketable term?
I’m a little skeptical of the term. I just turned 42 myself, and our generation doesn’t realize that these legacy bands are legacy bands. We tend to look at ZZ Top and Boston in that category. But the truth is that Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard have been doing this for 30 years. Maybe a better description is a lessons-learned, or wiser, rock band.
Have you checked out other music venues in town?
I’ve been very fortunate to check in on all the venues and have seen many shows. There’s a lot of new competition out there, but the biggest thing that sets The Joint apart is our flexibility. We can bring in shows with a wide range of production demands—from NIN to No Doubt to Crüe—and completely transform it into a different entity from show to show.
The Hard Rock has had a reputation for featuring cutting-edge bands, especially at the old Joint. But the “new” Joint seems more devoted to established acts. What’s the idea?
The younger bands are the core of our industry, but today there’s competition in this city. There weren’t a lot of venues competing when we did Sigur Ros and Rufus Wainwright. Six venues opened since then, and the old Joint, with a 2,000 seating capacity, was perfect for that. I won’t say we built ourselves out of that market, because we’ve been able to house so many hip bands at Vinyl after major concerts. Vintage Trouble is a great example. They opened for The Who one night, played Vinyl the next.
Are outdoor concerts still a real option for the Hard Rock?
Well, we’ve done it before, and we had great success with, for example, Theatre Under the Stars, drawing more than 7,500. And we had success in driving foot traffic through the casino. We love The Joint, Vinyl, the pool, the nightclub, but we want to bring bodies to the property. An outdoor show or festival is a great model, but setting up and operating it properly is the challenge.
Do you ever miss being a stagehand?
Yes, it’s what I do and where I came from. Being a stagehand in Vegas is an amazing job. You’re never tied down to just one kind of event and you get to see all these great shows at top venues.