Just a few years ago, the prospect of an electronic-music resurgence in Las Vegas would have been laughed off by many of the city’s club heavies as a pipe dream, a fairy tale that die-hard fans might have told themselves.
That was then.
Now, thanks in part to the efforts of true believers, the dance-centric subgenre, which sounds like disco high on technology, is coming back — and more and more casino clubs want a piece of the action.
It is with a degree of vindication that the few on-the-fringe parties that stayed true to this vibe celebrate its return, none more notably than Soulkitchen.
Here, inside the Red Room Saloon, a gussied-up dive bar a mile or so west of the Strip, the weekly electronic-music party in Las Vegas has ebbed and flowed to its own defiant beat for almost four years. Here, the pulsating rhythms and ambient soundscapes of the electronic genre rise against all Top 40-playlist odds.
This no-cover, no-dress-code party dubbed Soulkitchen is at 10 p.m. every Thursday. It revolves around a brand of electronic music called “deep house,” named for its funky instrumentation swirling around penetrating, repetitive bass lines that echo in your ears for hours after you blow the joint and wander out into the dry desert wind.
Soulkitchen’s founder, DJ Edgar Reyes, has hewed to an aural and visual mix that makes the Soulkitchen revolution unique. Compared with the average venue on the Strip — where the party depends on multimillion-dollar accouterments like massive lighting systems and fog machines — Soulkitchen relies on something truer. Clearly, money can’t buy you vibe.
Reyes often ropes in guest turntablists, such as West Coast talent Lalo of San Francisco, who can amp up the ambience, short-circuit the tempo and build a shining sonic monument to the soul of any real house-head.
All across Vegas club land, this is an increasingly common phenomenon. Electronic music is nothing new here; just like in other cities in the ’90s, illegal raves sprang up in warehouses and other fugitive venues across town, before the police shut them down. But the fact that it has returned says a lot about the night-life scene’s maturity. It’s not all celebrities tippling Champagne to radio hits.
The electronic-music resurgence has to do with the circular nature of musical trends: Everything comes and goes. But the influence of after-hours parties (those that start after 3 a.m.), of the now-defunct Utopia and Ice nightclubs in Vegas (both cathedrals to electronica before they closed) and of those DJs and promoters who never gave up on it, has coalesced to turn up the volume on a genre that still dominates club cities around the world.
At 6 years old, Soundbar, a rotating monthly party that has found a home on Thursdays at MGM’s Tabu Ultralounge is one of the city’s graying veterans. Put on by the House Society DJ collective, the event, like Soulkitchen, centers on deep house and frequently features guest spinners from both coasts.
Jet, inside the Mirage, also is increasingly devoting itself to electronic music. Though the main room still mainlines mainstream fluff, you also can find big-name electronic DJs, such as Deep Dish or local star-on-the-rise Faarsheed, lifting the crowd with their energetic mixes.
Other parties include Temple Tuesdays, in the swank lounge of the Venetian’s mega club, Tao, and Godspeed, held inside Mandalay Bay’s super-exclusive Foundation Room on Mondays.
The reasons those toiling to the wee hours in Vegas’ electronic scene continue are as varied as the fans, but the simplest explanation is stenciled on the back of the official Soulkitchen T-shirts, which many loyal fans wear at the Red Room Saloon: “For the music.”