WET YOUR WHISTLES: Above: The crowd at Marquee gets doused as Cedric Gervais, one of the club's resident DJs, spins. Below: DJ Max Vangeli lets his manager, Denis Hiller, handle mixing duties at a midday party in an upstairs room at Encore.
Despite being just 22 years old, AN21 can relate. Recalling his first flight to Sin City, in 2009, he says, "I thought the plane would be filled with hot chicks. But it was all old people. Of course, that is no longer the case."
But as the DJ scene has changed Vegas, the DJs have gone a bit Vegas themselves. Tiësto talks about Las Vegas crowds "being a little lighter-weight" than those he encounters elsewhere and acknowledges that he adjusts his sets accordingly. The Miami-based DJ Cedric Gervais lets big spenders into the booth for photos with their girlfriends but draws a line—"I say no when they want to do shout-outs." Manufactured Superstars recently produced a song for Steve Wynn's stepson, Nick Hissom, and are taking him on tour. Some have tired of the excesses. Calvin Harris—whose hit single "Feel So Close" is a staple of just about every DJ's set—walked off the stage at Tryst in June when a bottle-buying fan too vociferously demanded that Harris play his request.
There are other signs of strain. To some, the Vegas DJ market in mid-2012 looks a lot like the Internet bubble of 2000 and the housing bubble of 2006. In the year and a half since New Year's Eve 2010, when the debut of Marquee shifted the Vegas scene into overdrive, fees paid to DJs have increased an estimated 1,600 percent as club owners have battled for top talent. "Marquee opened and suddenly people were leaving to go there," remembers Sean Christie, the operating partner of Encore Beach Club and Surrender. "We quickly rectified it." The Wynn empire responded to Marquee by entering the DJ arms race in the win-at-any-cost style that has made its boss famous. As for the money they were permitted to spend, Christie adds, "We didn't have a budget."
Although club owners have recently warned booking agents that they are at their breaking point in terms of what they can afford to pay for even the hottest DJs, they may need to reconsider. Looming over it all is news of another mega-club, which will be affiliated with the blue-chip Chinese restaurant Hakkasan in the MGM Grand—it'll be run by Neil Moffitt's Angel Management Group, the largest nightlife entertainment company in North America, and backed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi billionaire who bought Manchester City soccer club and promptly spent a fortune transforming the team into a winner. "Club owners are going to go to war," Gervais predicts. "If they steal artists from Wynn and Marquee, they'll need to double the fees. It's great for the DJs, but it is getting out of hand."
As Kaskade relaxes before his set, taking in desert breezes on his wraparound balcony at the Cosmo, he frets that the tune may soon be changing in Las Vegas. "We're at a moment right now where I couldn't wish for it to be any better," he says. "Up until this point, the growth has happened naturally. Now the business guys smell opportunity, and, well, you know that they'll ram the music down everyone's throat." He hesitates for a beat and glances out at the glimmering city that is making him famous, and very rich. "Will we have a moment like in 1979, when they blew up disco records in Comiskey Park? Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat, after having nightmares about people blowing up electronic-music records on the Vegas Strip."