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November 19, 2017

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New Hard Rock Hotel entertainment chief wants the property to work in concert


Joey Ungerer/Hard Rock Hotel

Chas Smith, the new vice president of entertainment at Hard Rock Hotel.

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Opening night of Motley Crue's "Intimate Evening in Hell" at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013.

Thirteen years ago, Chas Smith took part in little-known boxing events at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.

These were not title fights. He was, in fact, hauling boxes.

“I got here in March of 2000 and was an on-call stagehand at the old Joint,” Smith said. “That meant a lot of pushing boxes.”

Today, Smith is pushing a lot more than equipment and instruments. He is the new vice president of entertainment at the Hard Rock, lording over the (new) Joint, Vinyl and all entertainment venues we know about.

Smith, who over the years ascended from stage hand to entertainment manager of the Joint before his latest promotion, also has grand designs for venues not yet built.

“We are looking at the next level, which is property activation,” Smith said. That doesn’t mean flipping on a massive power switch to light up the entire hotel but rather “looking at bigger events and using the property’s versatility. It’s not just the Joint or Vinyl. We’re going with bigger and more detailed, festival-styled events.

Hard Rock officials have scanned the Las Vegas entertainment landscape and noticed something of a trend that can be described in two words: outdoor events. From the Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to the Lot operated by MGM Resorts across the Strip from Luxor.

The Hard Rock has a lot, too. A couple, actually, on either side of the hotel. It’s time to start being imaginative with all that asphalt.

“We need to be creative with what we can do with that space,” Smith said. “We have three sections of the pool, too, on the property, and we can put a lot of good shows that are connected all around this property.”

Stepping in for Paul Davis, who left the hotel in March to run the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, Smith took the new position Wednesday. This was made official as Motley Crue storms to the end of its second rollicking residency at the Joint, which concludes Sunday night.

Motley Crue promised pyrotechnics and explosive sound in its “Evening In Hell” rock carnival, and the band delivered just that. But will the Crue — or Def Leppard or Gun N’ Roses — be back at the Joint?

“We would absolutely love to have any of them back. They are right in the sweet spot of what we are about here, which is the rock genre,” Smith said. “We’re looking at residencies for us going into 2014 with a bunch of different bands, legacy bands, without naming names, where we have been successful already.”

But again, Smith is eager to tweak. Those “legacy” bands (and that word is becoming more and more prevalent around the city as hotels look for bands that appeal to multiple generations) are being joined by midrange bands that might not be as famous as, say, Motley Crue. But there are many out there that can rock the box office at the Joint for a weekend, or even a week.

“We could have some bands that could do a four- or five-show residence, or a week, week-and-a-half residency,” Smith said. “We don’t need nine or 12 shows.”

The mellow is also being mulled.

“We’re looking at some different genres, too, more toward the evening-with shows,” Smith said.

Something like, say, a James Taylor or Paul Simon acoustic showcase?

“Like that, but I’m not naming any names,” Smith said, chuckling. “They aren’t on our list.”

Somewhat unexpectedly, in the Davis regime at the Hard Rock, the small venue Vinyl became a comedy outpost. Dice Clay is the resident star and is back this month. Tom Green and Steve-O have also headlined in the little rock ’n’ roll enclave, and the hotel is also looking to reinforce its comedy identity.

“The Joint could be doing a mini-residency for a comedian occasionally, every other month,” Smith said. “The Colosseum (at Caesars, which is also booked by AEG Live) does that very well.”

For a man who has worked his way up from a stage hand to one of the hotel’s top executives, there is no secret to succeeding on the Las Vegas entertainment scene.

“It’s knowing the city, knowing the business and knowing the building,” Smith said. “And it’s a lot of hard work.”

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