Las Vegas is the home of EDM. Renowned for glitz, glamour and the odd night you'd rather forget, Vegas is full of more trendy, EDM-spinning hot-spots than one could ever hope to count, spurred on by the genre's meteoric boom Stateside over the last five years. DJs (Calvin Harris, Hardwell, Chuckie et al) are commanding bigger numbers then ever before in the Nevada capital, with Stadium EDM venues all jostling for bookings with dance music's commercial best.
Luxurious restaurant-cum-nightclub Hakkasan has outstripped them all thanks to its relationship with arguably dance's biggest and longest-standing act: trance-turned-EDM sensation, Tiesto. The plush party destination, housed inside the opulent surrounds of the MGM Grand Hotel just a short drive from the strip, is bustling as DJ Mag pulls up on a sizzling Friday night, as the hotel's famous gold lion logo twinkles in neon above our heads.
The partygoers don't seem to notice the sweltering temperatures, there's packs of mini-skirt-wearing babes smoking seductively just outside the doors as we stride into the hotel's expansive lobby. It's the usual weird and wacky mix of Vegas punters as we hit the casino floor: excitable Vegas virgins on their first night out, glamorous groups of girls in their twenties, suited and booted bros lurking at the sidelines ready to pounce, plus a few geriatrics spinning dollars on fruity slot machines.
But Vegas isn't just about gambling and VIP clubbing. It's also the home of alfresco EDM mega event, EDC, that is simultaneously going on this weekend. We've been given our wristbands to attend the festival, but are yet to step foot onto its notoriously dusty grounds, where the heat outside has rocketed to near-unbearable levels. A glance at Hakkasan's weekly line-up leaves no doubt they've capitalised on the flush of clubbers here for EDC; this week's roster reads Calvin Harris, Hardwell, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, plus trance three-piece Above and Beyond respectively. At EDC, there's anyone who's anyone in EDM on the line-up, plus a few UK friends including Mark Knight and the Toolroom crew and post-dubstep superstar, Flux Pavilion.
Hakkasan Nightclub is part of a bigger group of clubs — an empire in fact — and the scope of their global reach is utterly mind-blowing. A feeling of glossy, aspirational chic permeates through all Hakkasan's venues, no more so than at their outdoor Vegas venue, Wet Republic, that attracts slews of diamanté-encrusted bikinis and perfectly sculpted pecks during the high season. Many of Hakkasan Nightclub's late-night ravers have spent their day by the pool — it's a jam-packed party itinerary that runs for almost 24-hours.
It's a considerable walk to get to Hakkasan's main doors from our entry point, located on the backside of the mega hotel's huge grounds. Once at the club's gates, we're herded in droves through a series of snaking queues before being ushered inside a mirrored lift that whisks us up to our private table beside the booth. As the elevator doors open, we're smacked with bass so hard it nearly blows our hair back — Hakkasan's system is loud. Split over three levels, little expense has been spared on Hakkasan Nightclubs's lush interior, there's loads of different areas to chill out, rave up or do something somewhere in between. The best vantage point is from the very top on level five — there's a secret mezzanine that overlooks the main room and the Pavilion arena, complete with peacefully splashing waterfall and private bottle service.
Despite being the only headliner on the bill, Tiesto doesn't man Hakkasan's booth alone. Throughout the year he's joined by a bunch of industry friends and fellow EDM up-and-comers including DJ Sinatra, ZAXX and Australian superstar, Tigerlily. Tonight he'll spin alongside fellow Dutchman and production protégée MOTi, who's been steadily rising through EDM's ranks over the last two years. “I did a track on his [Tiesto's] compilation album a few years ago, and he tweeted me asking for me to send him some more music.
That's how we got in touch,” says MOTi when we meet in his suite at the MGM Grand before the show. “One day, Tiesto was like, 'I always play all your tracks, let's make some music together'. From there I ended up signing with him when he started up his music and management label, and since then we're travelling together a lot. That's the story behind how it got started.”
Dedicated Tiesto fans know his roots are planted far outside the realm of EDM, or even house or techno for that matter — the Dutchman's origins lie in trance. So why the shift to EDM's opinion-dividing ranks? A genuine change in personal taste, or is Tiesto defection to EDM simply a cunning business move? “Well, I think it's probably both,” says MOTi.
“At some point, you need to switch styles, you need to move with the crowd. There are not as many young people who listen to trance, at least in the States, as there are that listen to EDM. It's the future,” he muses. “Tiesto is a man who can feel this switch, he's been making EDM for five years now.” MOTi's own musical interests also began outside America's commercial spectrum. “Eight years ago, I was making house music. I had tracks signed on Defected, Cr2, Toolroom, that's how I started. I kind of just grew into EDM, and switched names to MOTi from my old name, it was a gradual thing,” he explains.
Tonight, though, both MOTi and Tiesto are spinning strictly commercial jams and EDM slammers — it's a mash-up of sing-a-long hits and club favourites. “When I play in a VIP club I can't just play solely my own tracks, because no one knows the music as much. I have to combine my own music with famous acapellas, so the crowd has something to grasp on to,” explains MOTi when we ask about his tracklist for the evening. The club is going mental as the clock strikes one, as Tiesto drops the Hardwell remix of Linkin Park's emo rock hit, 'Numb'.
The Tiesto-branded bracelets we've been given on entry to the Hakkasan Nightclub suddenly start to flash with epileptic intensity, as hundreds of hands fist-pump in unison to the beat. Next up, it's a spin of the Broiler Remix of Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars 'Uptown Funk' that slowly melts into a re-edit of Michael Jackson's 'Don't Stop Till You Get Enough'. Huge cheers erupt from the crowd as silver glitter sprays from cannons in the ceiling on the heaving throng, and flashing strobes light up the smiles on fans' faces in the crowd.
“I definitely think these big shows have, in a way, made me connect with the audience more than ever before,” MOTi tells us after his set. “Mostly because I need to talk through the mic. There's a bigger space between the crowd and the DJ at these club or festival events, so we connect with the audience in a different way.”
There's little doubt that both MOTi and Tiesto have a strong bond with their fan-base — every person in the audience knows exactly who they're there too see. Supporter of EDM or not, it's hard not to feel captivated by the unbridled theatrics of it all. If you're a fan of booming EDM, high-powered confetti cannons and champagne showers, than a trip to Hakkasan is for you.
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.