The beginning of Rob Dub’s set draws few bodies to the dancefloor inside Satay Thai Bistro & Bar’s side room. But as the local underground house DJ gets warmed up during the November 29 edition of Habitat, his throng steadily begins to grow, attendees leaving the small bonfire in front of the restaurant and joining the expanding—and already friendly—group on the patio. As Dub cranks things into gear with Mark Fanciulli’s throwback “Seal of Approval,” the crowd overflows into the seating area and, in the case of two people, behind the DJ booth.
One could draw a parallel to the gradually unfurling house music scene itself. Before the summer, there was only one weekly non-mainstream house/techno music party (Tuesday night’s Cymatic Sessions at Downtown Cocktail Room). Then, another (Techno Taco Tuesday at Tacos & Beer) surfaced a few months ago. Now, Habitat—which soft-opened on November 1 and occupies a rare prime-time Saturday slot for a house party—makes three.
The new party has a predecessor, as Satay hosted Patio Sessions between 2009 and 2010, headed up by regular diner and longtime DCR resident Carlos Sanchez. Fast forward to a few months ago, when Satay owner Jay-Son Low approached Sanchez to do another night. He agreed, with conditions.
“I was interested, but I said if I did it, I wanted to bring in a team of people, because my life is so busy. I have a family now, I have other stuff going on,” says Sanchez, who also wanted to “regroup the underground. We’re very segmented. There’s no unity—everyone has their own style and no one wants to work together.”
Except for fellow local DJs Dub, Nathan Clement, Tino BadBeat, Vixen and Edgar Reyes, who all agreed to co-produce Habitat with Sanchez. (DJ Disconect would also serve as a resident DJ.) The resulting group would considerably widen the network of potential attendees, be it by social media—i.e. Clement’s Habitat Facebook page—or, per Sanchez’s preference, inviting friends the old-fashioned way: calling them up.
Which partially explains the slightly older crowd—including a large handful of scene veterans—last Saturday. Now, the organizers hope to lure in younger and less-familiar revelers to fully realize the mission statement Clement crafted for the Habitat page, which describes “a space for like-minded people to gather together who enjoy underground dance music.”
That dance music is to be played largely by locals, a DJ demographic Sanchez believes doesn’t get the exposure or gigs it deserves despite the vastness of the Vegas club scene.
One of those DJs, BadBeat, preceded Rob Dub behind the booth on November 29. His involvement with Habitat is interesting considering he has his own weekly underground party, Techno Taco Tuesday, across the parking lot at Tacos & Beer. That is, of course, a midweek party, whereas Habitat is a weekend happening. In the bigger clubs, given the similarity of talent, music and clientele, that would be considered competition. But there’s a different dynamic when it comes to the more intimate, adventurous events off-Strip.
“Habitat is not competition,” says BadBeat, making a distinction between the VIP-catering megaclubs and the more organic locals’ scene. “It’s another home for us to go listen to the music we love and, on top of that, hang out with people that share the same passion for the music we love. ... We are all together on this—we don’t compete with each other, we work together.”
But are there now too many options for a local house fanbase that remains small? The three weekly parties are also complemented by EDM-snuffing one-offs and afterhours parties, to say nothing of Life’s almost-consistent Underground Sundays. One could make the claim that the underground scene is spreading itself too thin.
“There’s always the potential for that, but we’re in Vegas and everyone works crazy schedules,” Sanchez says. “Not everyone can make it out on a Tuesday or Saturday night.”
He adds that his night will be musically more inclusive. That, in turn, should also help unify what he sees as a fragmented scene that sometimes loses sight of the reason such parties exist: fun and dancing.
“I think the Vegas music scene is very closed-minded, which is the opposite of what the house community is supposed to be about,” Sanchez says. “People find their clique and they stick to it. We’re trying to break that mold a little bit.”
Habitat Saturdays, 10 p.m., free, Satay Thai Bistro & Bar, 3900 Paradise Road, 702-369-8788.