For the record, the first act to play Vinyl, the Hard Rock Hotel’s new venue, was Battle Tapes, an electro-rock four-piece out of LA. But Friday wasn’t really about that band, or even the headliner that followed, Julien-K, another synthy rock quartet from Southern California. The real star of the night was Vinyl itself, with a curious crowd showing up for a look around Las Vegas’ latest live-music room.
If it succeeds, Vinyl could fill a vital niche in our scene: a midsize option (in this case, 650 capacity) for the many touring bands too big for the Beauty Bar or Bunkhouse but too small for the House of Blues, Joint or Pearl. From 2008 to 2010, the Hard Rock had a space with similar intentions, but Wasted Space tried too hard to blend nightclub and rock-club aesthetics and was never widely embraced among locals.
If you squint, Vinyl looks a little like Wasted Space—wooden floors, dark walls, a slightly raised VIP section in one back corner. But that’s where the comparisons end. Vinyl was designed with live music at its core, a fact made obvious by the raised, rectangular stage in the center of the room. Vinyl’s long, horizontal shape creates deep viewing pockets on both sides to go with the prime real estate in front of the stage, and rich sound poured in all directions from a set of large hanging speakers. If you didn’t mind watching the musicians’ profiles, the sparsely populated stage-left corner might have been the best place to be.
Brick accents and an exposed, industrial ceiling provide an appropriately tough look, though the female bartenders’ stretched and shredded tank tops tried a bit too hard to shout punk rock. No complaints about the wide, well-staffed bar, though, or the separate draught-beer station nearby. With waitresses also circulating through the crowd, getting a drink should not be a problem at Vinyl.
The shiny new room is actually reminiscent of LA’s slightly smaller Troubadour, with its abundance of wood, its center stage and the proximity of its performers. Whether the Vegas version can live up to that spot’s historic standards remains to be seen, but on opening night, its potential felt vast.