Joe Janet/Light Group
Thursday, June 20, 2013 | midnight
In the wee hours of the morning on a hot Las Vegas night, a crowd of about 5,000 dance-music fans gathers around a cavernous 15,000-square-foot stage, its half-dome amplifying their shrieks as the headlining DJ takes the stage. When the bass drops, the space transforms into an otherworldly celebration, where dancers in tutus and LED-lined bikinis prowl the audience and the pulsing strobe of the light show blurs the line between night and day. The crowd dances into tomorrow, distinguished only by glowsticks and neon headgear dotting the undulating sea of bodies.
Since moving from LA to Vegas two years ago, EDC has played a crucial role in shaping what the Strip nightlife experience looks and sounds like.
“The star, the central focus of the Las Vegas nightclub is now more about the DJ and the fans than about the table customer,” says Light Group Creative Director Nick Gold, who helped spearhead Mandalay Bay’s new triumvirate of theatrical, festival-inspired clubs: Light, Daylight and the latter’s nighttime pool party, Eclipse.
The scene at the Light properties and other newcomers like Hakkasan is part of the next wave of Las Vegas nightclubs being built with the fan experience in mind. That means centralized DJ booths on raised stages; vast, open dancefloors; and interactive, theatrical elements like live performers, LED screens and light shows. While plenty of options remain for deep-pocketed customers seeking cabanas and luxury bottle service, their tables are increasingly found flanking the back of the room rather than the DJ booth.
Industry players say that EDC and its youth-driven culture of community and shared experience has marked a departure from the exclusivity and elitism that once drove the local nightclub scene.
"We’ve seen a shift away from super formal clubbing experiences," says Morgan Deane, director of marketing for Marquee Nightclub and Dayclub at the Cosmopolitan. "All over the country, people are looking for more holistic and egalitarian nightlife experiences. We do a pretty good job balancing our VIP experience with our GA experience."
Adapting to that culture has helped prime Las Vegas to draw crowds to its clubs year-round, night and day.
“I would definitely say that EDC has helped make Las Vegas and its clubs a destination for EDM music. It has helped increase the popularity of so many of these EDM DJs that not many Americans would have been aware of before EDC came around,” Gold says. “It’s made the fans a lot more comfortable not only to go to EDC, but when they then come to Vegas any time of the year, they can then catch their favorite DJ they may have seen at EDC at one of the big clubs out here.”
As a result, fans have come to expect DJs to bring the theatrical, experiential elements of their festival shows with them to nightclubs, and clubs are designing around that accordingly.
“With these DJs, it’s not about spinning records, it’s about putting on a performance,” Gold explains. “They are the center focal point. We designed Light around the DJ booth with all the various components, from Moment Factory to Cirque [du Soleil]’s involvement to the resident DJs that we’ve picked. Not only have we gone with the biggest names in EDM, but a lot more of the upcoming DJs, as well, like Zedd and Baauer, who you’d find more often at festivals.”
The goal with Light, Gold says, and particularly with Daylight and Eclipse, was to create an outdoor festival feel. The dayclub is the first of its kind in Las Vegas, sidelining the pool and cabanas so the music can take center stage.
“EDC has taken Las Vegas nightlife to the next level,” Gold says. “They’ve helped make EDM more accessible, but we’ve helped create a way to make it last.”