The crowd in the 3400 room at Jet is abysmal on April 6. The main and hip-hop rooms are crammed with booty-shaking tourists following the command to put their hands up and then get low for the ump-teenth time. But it’s a safe bet the majority of warm bodies with $17 vodka/Red Bulls pumping through their system have no idea there’s even a back room where the winner of the International Dance Music Awards for Best DJ two years in a row is about to begin his set.
Around 1 a.m., producer and DJ Dave Dresden climbs in the booth to preside over a half-full dance floor. Best known for his work with Josh Gabriel (with whom he shared the aforementioned IDMA “Best DJ’ title in 2007 and 2008), the duo of Gabriel & Dresden influenced many in the realm of electronic dance music (EDM) and both continue to be driving forces in the industry. Luckily, fans in the know got over their case of the Mondays, maintained patience while trying to gain admittance to Jet and finally started packing in to the 3400 room ready to dance, glowsticks in hand.
- Beyond the Weekly
- Dave Dresden
Though it’s generally accepted that mainstream commercial tunes have hijacked the dance floors of Vegas’ major clubs, weeknights like Godskitchen Wednesdays at Body English present some reprieve and Dresden’s presence in the 3400 room offers a glimmer of hope for a resurgence in legitimate dance music in Sin City.
“I’ve always heard so many great stories about Vegas,” says Dresden after the gig at Jet. He cites the days of Ice and Empire Ballroom in the earlier part of the decade as prime examples of a solid electronic scene, but believes diversity in club music declined once bottle service became the norm.
“[Bottle service] really made everything very similar here, and everybody’s kind of competing for the Hollywood scene. The Hollywood scene loves mash-ups and DJ AM. That’s Vegas. I guess to people who love the music and love the art, it’s probably not very fun. But then you have these nights on Monday nights and off nights that you can get all kinds of crazy DJs in here.”
Dresden understands the importance of putting on a good show for attendees—including Sharam of Deep Dish who stopped by Jet—no matter how small the venue. Fans were treated to staples from Dresden’s days with Gabriel, such as “Tracking Treasure Down” and “As the Rush Comes,” plus newer tracks from his collaboration with Mikael Johnston from Mephisto Odyssey. And if fans liked a particular track Dresden was spinning, he’d simply eject the CD and give it to them when he was finished.
“I have my laptop up there so I can burn CDs of tracks that I’m going to play,” says Dresden. He still hasn’t made the switch to DJing directly from said laptop, though he isn’t completely opposed to it. “I think that we live in an awesome time to be a DJ, because when I started DJing, everybody used vinyl and I used CDs. I got laughed at for many, many years and not booked at many, many parties because I played CDs.”
Dresden explains he stuck with CDJs until he and Gabriel used Ableton at live shows so both were engaged during the performance. “When we split, I wanted to do the CDs again because that’s what I know about being a solo DJ,” Dresden says. “I thought that it would look really boring if I was just one dude playing from a laptop. [Gabriel] and I were able to make a show out of it, and it was really interesting how we interacted together, but I couldn’t think of a really easy way to make a laptop seem interesting for me.” Adds Dresden, “I’ve been checking out a bunch of controllers to run Traktor. So I’m probably going to be using Traktor soon. CDs are limited now with what you can do with music in a live setting and, to me, what you can do with a computer is far more exciting that just beat mixing tracks.”
Ultimately though, “It doesn’t matter what you play from. It matters how you play it and what you play.”
Technological evolution is a hot topic in the DJ world, as is theorizing on the next phase of dance music. Though the hip-hop/top 40/mash-up tunes played in Jet’s other rooms on Monday night keeps the novice clubgoers appeased, Dresden believes rock will influence the next wave of popular tracks for the masses.
When he spun Sebastien Leger’s “The People” at Jet (a killer remix of the Marilyn Manson classic), even the most stubborn trance and house fans cheered in appreciation. “I notice a lot of people from the rock scene… like Tommy Lee and Dave Navarro and Perry Ferrell, have really embraced dance music—and these are real musicians,” says Dresden. “I think that as more real musicians get involved in dance music, it’s going to get more complex and start sounding more like music other people are going to be able to get into,” he says. “I think that dance music made by real musicians is gonna blow dance music wide open.”
As far as what the future holds for Dresden’s original music, collaborating with others seems to be the way to go. The DJ even remained in Vegas a few extra days to work on productions with friend and local DJ Josh Abrams.
“You don’t see a lot of ‘Dave Dresden’ remixes. I’m relatively new to engineering a track from start to finish—and I can do it—but being in G&D sort of created these huge shoes that I have to fill,” says Dresden. “That’s why I’ve done a lot of collaborations with people that I admire and respect their production skills. I’m not afraid to say I’m a collaborator. That’s who I am… I didn’t go to music school.”
Dresden says collaborations also help emphasize individual artists’ strengths. “I have a good ear for hooks and a good ear for sound, but I don’t necessarily always know how to make it. So that’s some of the strengths I’m looking for in my collaborators - to fill in my weaknesses. But also, for me, they have to be good people that I get along with as friends. That’s what made the G&D music. We were friends and we loved each other—we were like brothers. And that’s what I’m used to doing.”
When Dresden’s set ends, the crowd gushes praise and seems pleased with their decision to forgo sleep and stay until the end. For the fans with the regular 9-to-5er who don’t get to catch sets like Dresden’s, one hopes the club scene in Vegas continues to go the way of Perfecto at Rain on Saturdays and that bigger venues will bring in true EDM talent for the masses to experience on weekends. Who knows… the tourists might just like it. Or they’ll be too drunk to care and at least the rest of us can enjoy some new tracks.