It’s half past midnight, and clubgoers sporting pointy cowboy boots and high stilettos are pouring into Club 2100 on Fremont Street. As the band El Pelon y Su Puro Nivel takes the stage, the crowd moves from the bar to the dancefloor, where couples skip from side to side to the beat of Mexican polka under pulsing, multicolor lights.
Brenda Guerra is one of hundreds of local Latinos who spend their weekends out in Las Vegas yet far from the Strip. Latin nightclubs found primarily in North and East Las Vegas provide authentic entertainment to the Valley’s large Hispanic community.
“I go to dance and to meet new people. Half the people I know I’ve met at these places,” says Guerra, originally from Jalisco, Mexico. She says her friends and family prefer these clubs to better-known alternatives, because they play the music they enjoy.
More than half a million Latinos call Las Vegas home, and 40 percent were born outside the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. These clubs give Las Vegans an opportunity to see live bands playing music with which they grew up.
The sound of local Latin nightlife is dominated by variations of Mexican polka music called banda and norteño. This style developed in the 19th century, when a wave of German and Eastern European immigrants arrived in northern Mexico with accordions and tubas. That sound fused with Spanish musical traditions to create a unique mix of uptempo music popular all over Latin America. Chart-toppers in this genre include Banda el Recodo and La Arrolladora Banda El Limón.
Despite the dominance of norteño, each club has its own style and sound pulling from dozens of musical genres. Club 2100 hosts local Mexican groups like Banda Zacatecana de Tony Flores and Conjunto Peña Blanca. La Jolla, located five minutes east of the Strip, offers variety every night, with DJs mixing merengue, banda and reggaeton with English-language hits. La Rumba, on East Sahara, rounds out the scene with a focus on tropical music.
The Banda Zacatecana de Tony Flores has been playing Vegas clubs since 1988. The band plays five days a week at various venues throughout the city and still manages to fit in private events. “We have many followers that are always in constant communication with us through social media,” manager Tony Flores says. “At every show we do, people know us.”
Other venues are working on events to engage with this community. Station Casinos is getting in on the action with Sabados de Fiesta at Club Tequila inside the Fiesta Rancho in North Las Vegas. Embassy Nightclub, just a block off Las Vegas’ Chinatown drag, hosts Noche de Banda and Norteño every Sunday night. Cazino Lounge, a nearby hookah lounge and art gallery, hosts another popular Latin night.
“There is more competition, but not more people,” says Jorge Lopez, general manager of Club 2100, which celebrated its third anniversary in July. He says new venues don’t usually stay open for long. It’s getting harder for all the nightclubs to keep attracting crowds.
Lopez attributes his club’s continued success to its attention to local musical tastes and willingness to try new things. Every Tuesday, Club 2100 hosts a cumbia night, playing music with Colombian origins popular with locals from southern Mexican states like Puebla. On Fridays, it sticks to ballads called corridos, and Saturdays are Noche Latino with a wider range of music.
Here are some of the many local nightclubs where you can catch Latin music any day of the week:
Club 2100 2100 Fremont St., 702-885-8600. Tuesday & Thursday, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.; Friday-Sunday, 10 p.m.-6 a.m.
Corona Night Club 3787 E. Lake Mead Blvd., 702-274-8086. Nightly, 9 p.m.-5 a.m.
El Dorado 1415 Charleston Ave., 702-427-6533. Thursday-Sunday, 10 p.m.- 6 a.m.
El Rincon Nayarita 820 E. Lake Mead Blvd. #J, 702-415-0628. 24/7.
La Cima Nightclub 2015 Daley St., 702-633-6000. Daily, 11 a.m.-5 a.m.
La Jolla 2245 E. Flamingo Road, 702-818-9595. Friday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-7 a.m.; Sunday, 10 p.m.-5 a.m.
La Rumba Nightclub 4225 E. Sahara Ave., 702-910-4444. Wednesday-Sunday, 8 p.m.-6 a.m.
Ok Corral 1602 N. Nellis Blvd., 702-576-5233. Friday-Saturday, 10 p.m.- 6 a.m.; Sunday, 9 p.m.-4 a.m.
Sellito Rojo 3977 Vegas Valley Dr, 702-756-7135. Friday-Monday, 10 p.m.-6 a.m.