My Vegas music experience

One small step for Vegas, one giant leap for the Vegas music scene

Xania Woodman

Saturday, October 6, 11:45 p.m.

Twice I’ve been to Miami’s Winter Music Conference, the much-heralded call to action for househeads and dance-music fans, and I still don’t get two things: It’s spring. In Florida. So when you’re not freezing your ass off at Nikki Beach pretending the rain and wind don’t bother you, you’re unsticking wet fliers from the bottoms of your shoes and bitching about the exorbitant cost of the parties. WMC has enjoyed some big years and suffered some slower ones, but the core idea is right on target and very contagious.

Vegas Alliance/Empire Ballroom’s Gino Lopinto used the WMC model to breathe life into his baby—the first annual Vegas Music Experience—which he smartly paired with other entities to ensure a successful inaugural year. According to N9NE Group’s corporate director of marketing, Michael Fuller, the Billboard Dance Music Summit, now in its 14th year, was flagging slightly in numbers. A mature-but-worthwhile conference bringing together industry heavyweights and fresh newcomers, Billboard stood to benefit, Fuller explains, from the energy and passion of a new partner. The first-ever VME stood to gain credibility from the venerable music-industry source.

Coincidentally, Jeffrey Sanker, creator of the White Party Weekend in Palm Springs, sought to bring his famed gay party to Vegas that weekend. What resulted was a triad, perhaps stronger together than apart. On October 4-10, house-music fans blissed out at nightclubs across the city, beginning with Voodoo Lounge, Blush, Empire Ballroom and Seamless.

After some last-minute squats and stretches, I took on VME, Billboard and White Party Weekend—all at once. Well, as much of it as I could, anyway. With more than seven full days and nights of parties, afterparties and even after-afterparties, VME set a high bar for future events of this kind.

I kicked off my VME experience Saturday at Empire Ballroom for Sanker’s White Party Las Vegas. In white polyester pants and wife-beaters (some in sailor hats!), the fleet of muscular men danced their glitter off to DJ Abel’s vocal house tunes. From the balconies to the columns, anything that would sit still long enough had been draped in white. Two athletic-looking lads did calisthenics onstage while I guffawed over the triumphant return of the glowstick.

“My idea was to get out of the nightclubs and into the resort destinations,” says Sanker, who began White Party 19 years ago. “I’m now actually going back into the nightclubs, and Vegas has got the hottest nightclubs in the world.”

The following day, DJs Scotty Boy and Theo (Pacha NYC) were spinning to a small but attentive crowd under a warm autumn sun. “Are you ready to work?” Scotty Boy’s song inquired. Indeed, they were. Though one or two people worked a little too hard at having fun, consequently needing medical attention, the majority of the attendees took the schedule in stride, picking and choosing as I did, and as one must, from the smorgasbord of events.

Sunday at the Playboy Club, fans of Dirty Vegas got to road-test the venue’s new lounge area and dance floor at the soft opening of After Dark Sundays. Four new gold couch areas await, with plenty of room on their low, flat backs, say, for a Playmate to kick off her Choos and get buck wild.

Later Tuesday morning, Billboard swung into action at the Palms. Unlike at last year’s Vegas Music Conference, where panels convening practically at dawn found themselves with no audience or lacking key DJs (everyone was still at Empire Ballroom!), these events started at 11 a.m., and energy drinks were handed out at the door. “Anything that Clear Channel won’t touch, that’s dance music!” BIG Entertainment President Gary Salzman said as I snuck into “On the Radio.”

I stayed for the “Voices Carry” panel. Veteran Jody Watley spoke about the misconception that dance music can’t be performed live: “DJs are the most bookable. So I’ve found over the years that it’s very important to be malleable, to be workable.” Huh! Parties and an education! Gino’s overall feeling: “We have started planning 2008 already!”

The week wrapped up Wednesday with a series of closing events, including an intimate set by Vegas’ The Crystal Method at Ghostbar. But it was Benny Benassi who was holding it down for Ministry of Sound at Body English when I finally threw in the towel and declared my VME a wrap!

Xania Woodman thinks globally and parties locally. And frequently. E-mail her at [email protected] and visit to sign up for Xania’s free weekly newsletter.

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