Fear and Raving In Las Vegas: 100 hours in Sin City
Tue 21st Aug, 2012 Features 7440 viewsin
The first thing you see as you’re funnelled into the Las Vegas airport terminal is a bank of slot machines. On the afternoon I arrive, there’s a lone woman in a tracksuit trying her luck on the 25-cent Wheel Of Fortune. She doesn’t look thrilled. ‘SHOOT A REAL MACHINEGUN!’ urges a luminous poster for the Las Vegas Gun Store, complete with a grinning, armed blonde. MP5, Uzi, Thompson, MP40, AK47 and M16 are all available. (I later discover you can have a real shotgun wedding at the store too, a new service that Fox National News saw fit to cover.) My arrival at the baggage claim hall is greeted by a blaring jolt of trance from the LED screen above the carousels. It’s an ad for Dash Berlin’s residency at LAVO, sharing airport real estate with Celine Dion, Blue Man Group, Garth Brooks and Cirque du Soleil. Just outside the terminal, the early June heat rushes at me in a sudden baking gust. Welcome to Vegas.
If dance music is America’s new favourite business, Las Vegas is its 24-hour flagship store. You see the evidence before you’ve even reached the Strip, as Afrojack, Calvin Harris and Deadmau5 tower on giant billboards along the highway. As we speed away from the airport, I tell my cab driver I’m staying five nights in Vegas for Electric Daisy Carnival and the EDMBiz conference. He tells me to make sure I see Tiesto at Wynn Casino. Across the flat expanse of desert, the sheer surfaces of the Strip glint in the afternoon sun. Las Vegas Boulevard is more like a highway than I’d imagined, with pedestrian bridges ferrying people over the traffic. Daylight gives the casinos a monochrome, dusty look.
I’m staying at The Cosmopolitan, one of the newer, shinier towers on the Strip. The hotel lobby is all buffed surfaces and video panels. I ask the concierge if there’s a pool to do laps – on reflection, not a very Vegas-appropriate question. Of the three pool areas the hotel does have, one is Marquee Dayclub, whose roster of residents includes Above & Beyond, Kaskade, Dirty South and Avicii. My room overlooks the more casual Boulevard Pool, and it’s cranking at full volume on the afternoon I check in (and each one after that). You don’t choose a suite on this side of the hotel for peace and quiet.
“Vegas is the home of the pool party,” observed one half of the Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant in a recent discussion with Above & Beyond for Mixmag. “Last time we went on tour there, we checked into our room and I thought – what is this noise? I looked out the window and there’s a pool party in full swing.” I’ve only been in Vegas an hour and already it feels like dance music is everywhere – a central player in the whir of all-hours entertainment.
If you come to Paradise, Nevada to revel in all things ‘EDM’, this week in early June is the time to do it. I arrive two days out from the start of Electric Daisy Carnival and already ‘EDC Week’ is in full swing, with a fleet of the festival’s DJs turning up early for club shows. There’s plenty on for the bottle-service set, but the big one I keep hearing about is Bassrush Massive. Held in a sports arena away from the Strip on Tropicana Avenue, it’s a Vegas event where the usual rules of VIP lines and girl/guy ratios don’t apply. From 7pm till 4am, the soundtrack is anti-high-heels: Borgore, Knife Party, Datsik, Excision, Noisia and others all presumably going for the jugular with hour-long sets.
I’m tempted to go, but end up instead at the Boulevard Pool as Mark Farina plays jacking house to a swelling crowd. Up here, with the open night sky and the dry breeze, I’m suddenly aware of being in the middle of the desert. It’s weird and intoxicating, with bright distractions in every direction. Farina’s booking tonight is a savvy PR move (a week earlier, he hadn’t made it very far at Marquee Dayclub), and the wading pool-turned-dancefloor is locked into his set. Not every DJ in Vegas, it seems, has to reach for big-room remixes of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe.