You know the drill: Club announces non-DJ act. Fans come, endure DJ Captain Obvious for hours. Live act finally appears, performs current album’s second single, old favorite and first single, says thank you and bails. Fans leave confused or miffed.
This has been the routine since the now-deceased Pure popularized vocalists and bands as headliners. But it wasn’t going to cut the mustard for Drai’s Nightclub, which wanted to improve upon the programming practice to elevate it for everyone involved, including the guests.
“One of the things we believe is that our clientele deserves better—better than some quote-unquote host who may or may not sing or perform,” Drai’s partner Michael Gruber says.
It hasn’t been officially announced with a residency lineup—though a few exclusives like Chris Brown (who performs on May 2) and The Weeknd (next date: May 23) have been individually revealed, with more to come—but Drai’s Live has been a part of the Cromwell rooftop venue’s schedule for nearly all of 2015. It actually has been booking performers since September 20, when the 4-month-old club featured a 30-minute live set by Iggy Azalea. She returned on New Year’s Day for another performance, and Drai’s went on a talent-signing spree.
Since then, acts as diverse as singer/actress/dancer Tinashe and hip-hop vocalist/producer J. Cole (both one-off/non-exclusives) and electro-funk duo Chromeo (a new resident act that also DJs) have performed on the Drai’s Nightclub stage. The latest unveiled resident is rhythmic indie duo Capital Cities (debuting May 8), and Ciara was just announced for June 5. They all fit into the club’s strategy of executing social media-ready elements upon its guests, be it the pool’s Strip-side view, the LED disco ball above the dancefloor or your favorite singer playing a mini-concert 50 feet away from you.
“I grew up in a world where the wow factor was a performer coming onstage at some point in the night and wowing you,” Gruber says.
It has worked so well that Drai’s has featured more live performances—and signed more resident performers—than it originally planned. It seems a 45-minute to an hour-and-some-change set has hit the sweet spot for both clubbers and performers wanting more than a quickie but less than a 90-minute to two-hour concert. And Drai’s—and, by extension, its casino partner, Caesars—gets added value for its talent investment, not to mention bragging rights.
“I think when you’re part of a career that is just breaking forward, like The Weeknd, and they’re on the cusp of superstardom—to have that as it’s unwinding both for venue and consumer is incredible,” Gruber says. “Just as importantly, taking a superstar artist like Chris Brown and being a part of his comeback is also exciting for us and for the customers. That’s what we want to always be a part of.”