Sunday, September 7, 12:45 a.m.
We’re not in Vegas anymore, Toto. Hell, we’re not even on this planet. Rain nightclub slipped the surly bonds of Earth around 11:30 p.m.—aided in part by a sexy onscreen flight attendant—to touch the face of a god of progressive trance music, Paul Oakenfold.
From 10 to 11:30 p.m., Paul Oakenfold Presents Perfecto Saturdays begins on terra firma, the spanking-new screens scrolling through images of earthbound things right out of a National Geographic special. At 11:30, our obliging hostess prepares us for launch, which of course incorporates Rain’s iconic fire show overhead, accompanied by much fog and rumbling. Then, till 1 a.m. a cast of up to 30 performs aerial acts as we hurl through space toward Planet Perfecto.
And when you land, you’ll know it. “That’s when everything goes bonkers,” says Michael Fuller, vice president of N9NE Group. From 1 a.m. till at least 4, it’s Paul’s world, and you’re just dancing, drinking and twirling around like a raver child in it. The wizard of odd, Oakenfold found inspiration in the Australian Pink Floyd Show and Burning Man, and fantasized about incorporating fantastical creatures and especially props into his partnership with the N9NE Group at Rain. Fuller was also moved by the over-the-top “theatrical nightlife experiences” in Ibiza and throughout Europe.
I weave to avoid a dancing, glow-stick-wielding raver chick. Doc Martin is opening for Oakie tonight, a tribute to the all-encompassing nature of the event—all electronic music is honored. A stilt-man straight out of Predator sweeps the crowd with lasers while a tattooed strong man clings sideways to a stripper pole. Nearby, a six-foot-tall black drag queen presses a motorized grinder to metal plates on his chest, arms and crotch, sending sparks flying into the dark. In a word—a freak show, but in the very best sense.
The bass quickens my heart, as do the undulations of the crowd, now spread across a new wooden dance floor. Looking at the rainbow of VIP bracelets of varying power levels, I note that the caste system has survived, though three areas have been established as open seating, a rarity among Vegas clubs. Where the elevated dance stage and moat once resided, eight booths now cluster around a much wider dance space.
Ninjas in full camo jumpsuits creep and crawl along the walls, dangling effortlessly from new curtain panels, and lower themselves from a suspended net above the club.
At the stroke of 1 a.m., the lighting intensifies, the thrusters thrust, and two confetti cannons pop, heralding our arrival on Planet Perfecto. “Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Paul Oakenfold!” The crowd swoons in his presence, romanticizing inwardly about the rave years they miss or missed. Cleaned up for popular consumption, this rave comes complete with indoor plumbing, air-conditioning and bottle service if you so choose. You don’t even have to bring your own glow sticks and rings, as the cigarette girls have you covered.
“It’s kind of like an upscale Utopia,” sighs industry veteran Tony Verdugo; he would know, of course.
In the coming weeks we’ll meet aliens, flying devil monkeys and, when the wizard is out of town, top electronic DJs the likes of David Guetta and Pete Tong. Backed by a wall of gyrating charts and graphs, we get right up close to Oakie for his 3 a.m. Perfecto theme song. My god, the man doesn’t even wear headphones! Clapping erupts here and there, instigated typically by a European or someone who fancies themselves continental. Oakenfold’s every pause elicits a furor, hands up in the air like he’s ministering to a congregation. Well, he kinda is.