GRIND HOUSE: Above: The daytime dress—and action—at Marquee veers toward spring-break chic. Below: The high-flying Denver DJ duo Manufactured Superstars, whose following includes a number of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, at Surrender nightclub in Encore.
David Guetta, the 44-year-old French DJ who contributed his dance-club beats to make hits for the Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, and Akon, is not in town to gamble this weekend, but you'd never know it from his 3,400-square-foot high-roller suite at Encore Resort. He seems pleased to hear that his digs dwarf those of his friend the Dutch DJ Tiësto. "This was my first time playing for Encore Beach," Guetta says, smiling wanly. "Maybe that's the reason why. They want to make sure I'm happy." It's a couple of hours before his second set of the holiday weekend, this one at XS, the Wynn Las Vegas club that cannily features VIP seating on stage. When Guetta learns that he will be opening for the Swedish superstar Avicii, he stops smiling and exchanges some terse words in French with his manager. Later, sounding peeved, he says, "I wouldn't call it opening for Avicii. But I am going on first. I don't mind going first and will stay for his set. We're friends. We have a record together. If this was a concert, it would be different, but for a club it doesn't mean one is less than the other."
And yet, as in any gold rush, the competition can be fierce. Beyond hotel rooms, the DJs (or at least their managers) angle for everything from billboards near the airport to placement of branded goods in the souvenir shop. Guetta, however, prefers to float above all that. An outlier, he's made the decision to not rely heavily on Vegas. "I receive around 500 requests per week," Guetta says with a shrug. "The world is big. It's not possible to be here every month."
While Sin City may be the American Ibiza, a beacon for hot DJs, sex, and partying, Guetta seems to recognize that it is also the place where culture goes not to die, exactly, but to live out its golden-nugget years in well-compensated irrelevance. Though electronic dance music is now the hottest thing going, the casinos' clubs attract deep-pocketed patrons who view the scene as one more amenity. Reminded of how Skinny Elvis became Fat Elvis, Rod Stewart transitioned from rocker to crooner, and Elton John jelled into a lounge act with diva-worthy production values, Guetta is well aware of Vegas' effect on artists. "It happens to people," he says. "That's why I won't come here more than twice a year."
Guetta's friend Tiësto has no such reservations. He is in love with Vegas, and the feeling appears to be mutual. That much is evident on Memorial Day afternoon, when he cruises through Encore Beach Club. More entrenched in the local scene than Guetta, the 43-year-old Tiësto ranks as one of electronic music's elder statesmen and is still perhaps the most revered DJ on the circuit. He has come down from his suite to watch deadmau5, who delivers a stellar performance. Although Tiësto chooses a quiet spot at the side of the stage, all eyes are on the Dutch legend, who stands six feet two with a chiseled physique and a blinding smile, as he sips a Heineken. Every time he turns around, another alluring female vies for his attention. Tiësto welcomes it all, surely recognizing that the fame and financial rewards of this moment will not go on forever. Nor will he. "You need to give up your life for it," he says of the grind. "You have to be willing to spend a lot of time in the studio and to listen to a lot of tracks by younger DJs in order to keep up with what's happening. People think I play for two hours and that is it, that's my job. They don't know what goes into putting together a set. And when you keep coming back here every month, it needs to be switched up all the time."