The more you learn about the elrow Family and the exotic, dream-like parties and events its members create, the more it becomes clear this brand of spirited, provocative fun belongs in Las Vegas. The philosophy behind these gatherings and our city is the same: Be wild. Be creative. Take the best care of your guests, and never fail to wow them.
Through six generations and more than 150 years, the elrow Family has been creating unique entertainment experiences through music and performance. Las Vegas will get its first taste on October 6 when elrow’s Sambowdromo Do Brasil party makes its West Coast debut at Encore Beach Club. The Brazilian street party-influenced, jungle-themed event will bring music and visuals like the genre-defining dayclub has never seen before, and it’s a key ingredient in Wynn Nightlife’s massive Art of the Wild weekend of programming.
Already a legendary brand in Europe, the Barcelona-based elrow also has an office and production warehouse in the clubbing capital of Ibiza and has been following its expansion of events in cities around the world with satellite facilities in New York City, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. It’s one of the fastest growing entertainment concepts in the industry, and it’s targeting Las Vegas.
“For me, Vegas is a unique market and the most important city in the world in terms of entertaining,” says elrow boss Juan Arnau Jr. “I lived in San Francisco years ago and went to Las Vegas four or five times a year, and since then I try to go at least once a year to follow the trends, because that’s where Americans go for big clubs and different kinds of entertainment. We’ve had offers to go there, but I really think now is the right time for Vegas. We’ve seen the city’s mentality change in the last two years, and the [party] crowd is more open and willing to experience different styles of music. This combination could be really good.”
Wynn Nightlife executive vice president Alex Cordova first met Arnau Jr. some four years ago at the annual Burning Man festival. Cordova says he was aware of elrow and Juan’s father but wanted to learn more about the family’s legacy and philosophy.
“His father is such a powerful figure in music, one of the first festival promoters and such a lovely man, but when you’re out in the desert celebrating life you don’t get to learn a lot about people,” Cordova says. “I got Juan to come to Vegas and learned more of the story and became enamored with it.”
So enamored, in fact, that Cordova traveled to Spain last summer and spent three weeks at the elrow House, the primary production warehouse where the company’s many themed parties are planned and design. He stayed in a house with multiple generations of Arnaus and connected in a way that goes beyond professional inspiration.
“I hate to say this, because I’m a victim of it also, but Las Vegas has become so much of a business and about numbers that we sometimes almost forget why we got into this business—the love of the party and the ability to make sure people are having an amazing time. That’s first for them,” Cordova says. “Even though they are in a period of growth doing hundreds of events all over the world, the fundamentals behind what they do are to make sure people really love those experiences, and it’s a very different approach. I brought that back with me, and it changed my perspective. It’s going to be a very special event.”
The roots of elrow go back to 1870 in Fraga, a small town in the Spanish province of Huesca near France. That’s the time and place Jose Satorres opened Café Josepet, a spot that serves as ground zero for the union of two families that started an entertainment dynasty. The café eventually came under the control of Satorres’ granddaughter’s husband, Antonio Duran, sometime after 1924 when Juan Arnau and his wife Francisca Ibarz arrived in Fraga. The couple opened Saloon Florida 20 years later near the Florida Cinema concert hall, where famous singers and bands performed during the 1940s and ’50s on the banks of the Cinca River.
In 1953, Duran’s only daughter married Arnau’s first-born son, uniting the families’ efforts. Arnau, with his brother José and their wives, expanded their saloon operation to take over the concert hall space and created the Florida Club, a new hub for live musical entertainment. Their creation evolved into the Florida 135 Club, a pioneering nightlife venue that still exists today; Lonely Planet describes it as the “temple of Spanish techno.”
Subsequent generations of the Arnau family maintained a rebellious desire to create something more than fun, something artistic and even avant garde, resulting in projects like an illegal rave later dubbed Groove Parade in the middle of the Monegros desert in 1992—the foundation for the legendary Monegros Desert Festival in July at the Finca Les Peñetes, which attracts approximately 40,000 annual attendees.
“My family has always been a family of entrepreneurs entertaining the world,” Juan Arnau Jr. says. “It started from a coffee place, then into a cabaret show and casinos before the [Spanish] Civil War, then there was a movie theater and saloons into clubs where we did rock and pop and electronic music. We are where we are because we have never copied anyone in the industry, especially in Spain. We always try to be on the cutting edge. I learned from my grandfather to never look at your competitors, always try to do something different and always give customers what they’re asking for.”
Arnau Jr. created the current version of elrow with his sister, Cruz, about eight years ago when they threw a small party in Barcelona for their circle of friends. That single event sparked the development of a more modern approach to the family business, and the siblings took the reins when their parents retired a few years ago, operating the family’s venues and growing the brand through traveling parties, a club residency in Ibiza and two elrow festivals. Juan handles the business side of things while Cruz assumes the essential role of the leading creative force, always pushing the boundaries
Today the elrow Family encompasses around 120 full-time employees and hundreds of associate employees per show. There have been 105 elrow events attracting 1.8 million attendees in 24 countries around the world.
Although Juan and Cruz have been able to take the brand to new heights—last year the family entered into an investment partnership with Superstruct Entertainment with plans to expand internationally—continuing the family legacy was not necessarily part of the plan.
“My parents always wanted me to be out of the industry. When I was 18 they wanted to sell the company to give me money to start my own business,” he says. “But it’s in my blood. When I was 12 or 14 I was already going to festivals and clubs. It’s just part of me. I don’t know what else to do.”
His connection to his family’s ideals—blended with his understanding of dance music, festivals and live entertainment—fueled the reimagining of elrow. “Working in this industry is really demanding for a young person, and for a few years I got bored of seeing the same things at festivals. This is why we came up with elrow. It was the right time to do something special and maybe go back in time to that lost feeling of personal connection with the customers. We see it’s become about booking DJs and making money, and we want to go back to when [promoters] really cared about customers.”
Las Vegas Strip nightclubs and dayclubs build grand, memorable parties every week, but the draw is different when it comes to elrow. “We’re all a little guilty of becoming concert promoters, in a way,” Cordova says. “Growing up in nightlife, we never had these crazy budgets to pay huge fees to DJs who command such a large audience. What sets them apart is, it’s not about the lineup. That’s just a complement to the overall experience. The focus is the party; you’re going to their event and you don’t know what to expect.”
Cordova says elrow has hired more than 150 performers for the six-hour party at Encore Beach Club, which sounds more like a big Vegas production show than a pool party. “It might seem aggressive, but it’s a truly immersive experience for the audience,” he says. “From a production aspect, we’ve never seen any operator take production or set design to the level they are on October 6.”
Sambowdromo Do Brasil—one of 20-plus themes elrow employs throughout the year in different destinations—is inspired by wild Brazilian street parties, blending electronic music with Samba, the African-influenced percussion of Batucada and other genres. Encore Beach Club will never be as tropical as this day, and those performers will be offering up surprises at different times throughout the event. German house DJ Claptone and Australian house music producer Fisher are among the acts performing, and of course the elrow Family mascot Rowgelia, a giant yellow chicken, will be on-site. “She’s already been in Vegas taking pictures,” Arnau Jr. says. “People love her.”
The elrow team chose the Sambowdromo Do Brasil theme because it’s so colorful and active and welcoming, one of the company’s most representative shows. Arnau wants to make a major impact with this first Vegas event, because he definitely wants to return.
“We want to see first how people react and if they love it. To have a residency in Vegas would be amazing for the brand. It’s the city we all learn a lot of things from,” he says. “And Wynn is absolutely one of the best if not the best at what they do, especially for us because of the international [audience] there. Our values are all about how we have to innovate and create to get that wow factor for the customer, and Vegas is the center of the entertainment world, the place where you can have crazy ideas and take them to the next level.”