It’s loud in the Encore clubstaurant Andrea’s, but four words manage to rise above the din: DJ Mag Top 100.
Morgan Page and his supporting crew—aka Team Morgan—are having a pre-gig dinner, and even the DJ at the table bemoans the volume. (Seriously, who plays Wham!’s “Everything She Wants” that loud?) But Page is visibly attuned when talk turns to the start of voting for the British dance magazine’s annual reader’s poll, regularly criticized as an unscientific popularity contest that nonetheless has become a barometer of a DJ’s worth for some influencers.
“In Europe or Asia, it definitely makes an impact, to the point where they look at your ranking before they even hear your music—which is a little scary,” says Page, two hours later in his hotel room. “We’ve never really campaigned for stuff like this, so we’re trying it out.”
Team Morgan is here partly to ensure he places on the list. After all, Page is a veteran, Grammy-nominated producer/DJ in his third year of a coveted Wynn/Encore residency, which includes XS, the most popular club in the U.S., and Surrender, the site of tonight’s gig. It’s one he values not just for its closeness to his LA home, but for the feedback he gains from its tough-to-please audiences, who know they have several other options should they grow disinterested in his performance.
“There’s always a learning curve,” says Page. “I think crowds are more forgiving in other cities. In Vegas, it’s your fans and also people who have been funneled in—like, who’s this DJ? You have to win them over and work a little harder and play what they know.”
This is not the first residency rodeo for the Vermont-born producer/DJ, who got his start in dance music before high school (interning for German record label Plastic City). In 2011, Page landed a regular gig at Palms nightclub Rain and its pioneering Perfecto residency. Later that year, XS Managing Partner Jesse Waits introduced himself as a fan and invited him to the Encore megaclub. In 2012, Page signed an exclusive contract with Wynn/Encore.
In the past three years, he’s played there up to three times a month, dined nearly everywhere on property (he especially loves La Cave), avoided blowing any of his DJ paydays in the casino, and has driven his Tesla to locales like Red Rock Canyon and Container Park—which segues into his fascination with Downtown Las Vegas. “I really like what they’re doing with Project 100, and I like that Tesla put their charger right by Container Park. All that stuff—the more it can become a tech town, the better.”
In the meantime, he’s continually refreshing his residency. He rotates as many as three relatively unknown opening DJs as a way of giving up-and-comers opportunities he never enjoyed. Tonight, he’s stashed three envelopes containing a surprise around the Encore casino, hoping his social media followers are up for a scavenger hunt. During his set, Team Morgan hands out swag and hoists placards urging clubbers to vote for Page in the DJ Mag poll, with barely enough time to rest before tomorrow’s Top 100 campaigning at bars and restaurants airing the World Cup final.
And tonight, he’ll play at least three unreleased and untitled songs from his sixth artist album, likely out next year. They don’t enrapture the audience like the Tiësto singles he weaves in, but foam glowsticks stay aloft and bodies keep moving. “It can be a dangerous place to test stuff out,” he says. “But I learn something from every show.”
Page knows the fine line a DJ must walk in Las Vegas. He’s seen fellow Wynn residents get cut from the roster due to their inability to compromise and play more commercial. He must accept that club management holds him partly accountable for bottle sales. “It’s tricky, especially with the economics,” says Page. “If you’re an artist, you have to be careful not to focus too much on that. But the venue’s gotta be happy, too—they’ve gotta get their money’s worth from you.”
Ultimately, Page revels in his residency because of the unique opportunity Vegas and its tourist turnaround allows for broadening his fanbase. “You’re opening yourself up to a whole new audience of fans,” he says. “Because not everyone there is a diehard fan. ... That’s your chance to convert new fans, and I always jump at the chance to do that.”
Morgan Page July 20, doors at 10 p.m., $30+ men, $20+ women. XS, 702-770-0097.