It’s 3:30 p.m. on a Friday, and while the rest of the working world is ready to phone it in for the next couple of hours, Ryan Craig and Ronn Nicolli aren’t clock-watching. With exactly three weeks until their highly anticipated KAOS nightclub and dayclub debuts at Palms, the veteran nightlife pros are spending “morning, noon, and night” perfecting every last detail.
This isn’t the first rodeo for Craig and Nicolli, who bonded as friends while working at Wynn Las Vegas in 2005. That was another era, back when the Palms was still basking in its Real World fame and the Fantasy Tower was a fresh sight in the skyline.
KAOS will be Palms’ grand re-entry into Las Vegas’ night and daylife scene, and to ensure its success, owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta tapped Craig and Nicolli to serve as Senior Vice President of Nightlife, Daylife, and Events, and Senior Vice President of Creative Strategy, respectively.
Craig and Nicolli chatted with the Weekly about their careers, creating KAOS and what’s to come.
Other than the immense investment in the redevelopment of the Palms, what attracted you to this opportunity? RN: At this point, I’m heavily driven by positive energy and passion. When I got to meet with Frank and Lorenzo—[I was] looking at two guys that, to me, didn’t know how to lose. As they speak about it, you see them light up.
RC: The team and a great foundation that was already in place, which really helped to integrate us a lot quicker.
What can you tell us about KAOS that we don’t already know? RC: The technology in the space will blow you away. When you incorporate the talent, art, sound capability, all of the LED and all of the entertainment options, it’s an incredible experience.
RN: We’re not necessarily competing with nightlife. It’s like we’re competing with festivals. I think we have the most diverse music lineup of any club in the world, and some of the talent lineup is on par with some of the festivals. There’s an opportunity to experience so many different sounds on any given weekend with the lineup that we’ve curated.
RC: When we were given the “keys to the kingdom,” we had an opportunity to build the most diverse musical lineup, probably at any nightclub or dayclub in the world. From our EDM acts to our live entertainment—people that have been out of market for a few years, people that are new to market, performers, DJ’s, producers—it’s more of an experience that caters to everyone, rather than one musical genre.
Is there a particular artist that you, personally, really wanted to bring on board? RC: I was super-excited about Marshmello headlining our EDM talent. I’m a big fan of a lot of the people we decided to book as residents.
RN: The ’mello residency, I think, was a huge one for us. He’s shaping up to be possibly the top EDM artist in the world. And then, the Latin-music culture is something that I’ve been passionate about for years, and to see us go out and kind of be the first club in Las Vegas to get these guys into residency deals and have that sound in a club setting. Prior to this, [opening weekend headliner] J Balvin would come to town and do another property from an arena perspective; now you’ll get to see him inside KAOS. That’s a pretty intimate environment to see a global Latin star.
What element do you think is the most groundbreaking: KAOS’ ability to operate as a year-round dayclub or its diverse talent/musical lineup? RN: As we open the venue, I think more things will pop up organically, but, obviously, the talent lineup being as diverse as it is, I think, is a huge thing. I think we can really have the opportunity to bring in a lot of different audiences. But also, from a production standpoint, it truly is a wonder. I don’t think I’ve ever seen technology like this at any other club in the entire world. I would say what we have rivals large format festivals.
RC: We have custom shows for some of our artists, custom DJ booths, custom stages—the production is custom for every single artist. The east side of the [Palms] Ivory Tower has an LED façade being installed on it. It’s part of our dayclub and nightclub experience, where we can actually do a live stream on it, we can put bottle package and presentations [or] guest and artist names on that. We’ve got multiple stages for inside and outside. It’s just a very, very interactive space that allows for a lot of flex space and options based on the crowd and the artist that we have on that day or night.
KAOS is a huge venue that will house a lot of different experiences. How do you think it will complement the other nightlife options at the Palms? RC: With the whole rebirth of the property and all of the money that the Fertittas have put into this, the nightclub is kind of the capstone to the entire project, and we’re seeing it act as the heartbeat of the property. We want to create this experience where you come in on Friday and you don’t want to leave until your flight on Sunday.
RN: All of the outlets and new restaurants that are coming in support the property as a whole, and that’s something I don’t think we’ve seen in Las Vegas. In my history of working in Vegas in different properties and clubs, there always tended to be a disconnect internally, and sometimes when the operator of the venue was a third party, that separation kind of eliminated some opportunities. Here, with the way the team is very refined and the synergy between different departments—there’s daily communication between key people at each of the outlets, [and] it really gives us an opportunity to have a solidified house and an opportunity to really take care of our guests and create a really amazing guest experience.
What would you want your younger selves to know starting out in this industry? RC: There were some special things, moments in time that we didn’t know how special they were. We were accidentally on the cutting edge of some of these venues. I wish we would have had a second to take our foot off the gas and enjoy the experience.
RN: When I look back at an earlier version of me, I think title—back then—dictated leadership. As I got older, I realized that it really comes from having a good relationship and rapport with your staff, really caring about your staff. The culture that we’re building here, and the culture that already existed, is just an amazing culture. –Jason R. Latham
The initial blockbuster reveal of KAOS residents Above & Beyond, Cardi B, G-Eazy, Kaskade and Skrillex set the tone for a truly diverse lineup, but the latest announcement branches out even more into genres you couldn’t catch before in Las Vegas clubs and includes superstar artists that typically play arena-sized venues around the world.
The dominant DJ names are Armin van Buuren, Brooks,Deadmau5, Gorgon City, Jauz, Louis the Child, Marshmello, Politik, Eric Prydz, Slushii and Vice. There are pop acts on the roster in Breathe Carolina and Cheat Codes, and hip-hop producer and rapper Southside is included. And Latin artists Bad Bunny, J. Balvin and Ozuna bring some serious global star power to the KAOS stage. –Brock Radke