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Etched on Their Faces: A 24-Hour Descent into the Heart of Las Vegas Featuring Avicii At Marquee Club

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Photo by Bennett Sell-Kline for Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub

The heavily chipped and cement-beaten display of my iPhone read 5:30 am when I decided, for the first time since arriving at the club several hours prior, to check what time it was. A mere 24-hours ago I was wandering the quaint, sea-breezed Main Street area of Santa Monica in an alcohol-induced, blacked-out haze, spewing half-digested New Year's champagne into finely trimmed shrubs and haphazardly avoiding the all-too-plentiful police cars on diligent patrol. I was alone.

I now found myself in the same position, albeit way more sober, and transported to a foreign location, as if my drunken self had tripped on a rip in space-time, multi-dimensional fabric and landed in a parallel universe. The surrounding architecture certainly resembled an otherworldly craft, complete with huge floating “Q” symbols above me, bright lights shooting from a massive console holding what appeared to be a caged disco ball, descending from the center of the room in front of me, and a command station, filled with beings, seemingly controlling the whole production, not too far from me. The other people who had accompanied me here, the promoters, the other journalists and bloggers, had long since left this railed-off VIP area, and the buckets of ice they left behind were now melting, undoubtedly missing the unending supply of over-sized Grey Goose and Patron bottles these upside-down, steel volcanoes once intimately held. Though many other attendees had also left by this point, chaos still raged inside the belly of the Marquee Club. I wondered to myself: would it be calmed by the antacid; the sun’s rising in less than an hour? Or would the indigestion continue on, excreting sunken, tired eyes, sweat drenched, plaid dress-shirts, and functionless brains when it and they could hold onto nothing more, no longer.

Gallery by Hew Burney

Fifteen hours ago my plane landed in Las Vegas. After weeks of corresponding with the Marquee Club promoters, emails saved from the depths of Spam Filter Hell and sacrificed to the Magnetic Magazine Gods, I was summoned from the other side. My earthly mission: to provide coverage for the Marquee's One-Year Anniversary event featuring Avicii, while enjoying the complimentary luxuries the Cosmopolitan Hotel, and The TAO Group had to offer. My latent hangover nausea was coaxed out of hiding as I stood in the Cosmopolitan lobby, enduring the gaze of pillars, seemingly extracted from the Tron movies, coated in IMAX-grade LED screens, which displayed artfully depicted branches in clashing colors, growing, molting, and evolving constantly. Red, brown, and neon blue hues made the acid dance in my stomach, and the sweet, bile-infused taste of champagne reawaken on my taste buds. It was hard to tell if the almost inconceivable opulence was at fault here, if it was the sole cause of my sickness, or if I was being reminded that I had indulged a little bit too much on my New Year's binge. Either way, this was Las Vegas, a reality that refused to operate on normative, physical laws, a realm where petty ailments like hangovers or even fatigue, failed to affect normal people. It was a good thing I arrived with an empty stomach.

Gallery by Hew Burney

One year ago a star formed in Las Vegas, establishing a center of gravity for EDM music in the American Galaxy. Particles and dust that had been around since the dawn of time, holding vast and untold amounts of knowledge, coalesced into a super-giant day and nightclub, The Marquee. The forces behind this anomaly: the TAO Group, an entertainment mothership responsible for invading New York and Las Vegas and implanting the highest grossing establishments of the decade, including both the Manhattan and Las Vegas incarnations of the restaurants and clubs, TAO and Lavo. Perhaps even more remarkable, The TAO group succeeded where so many other nightclubs had burned-out and imploded, by only playing EDM and catering to its quickly growing American fan base. Of this, Jason Strauss, co-owner of the TAO group remarked:

What started off as a garbage truck garage (the original Marquee Club in New York) soon became the only night club model to actually be taken seriously as a business, even being studied at Harvard Business School, and is now evolving to represent whats happening in Vegas, and whats going to happen overseas, and how our brand has evolved.

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And evolved it has. Branching off from its humble “garbage truck garage” brother in New York, the Las Vegas Marquee Club features 62,000 square feet of space, housing multiple indoor floors and an outdoor area with tables fused with Jacuzzis, a $3 million sound system, and the best DJs in the world performing on a nightly basis (some of the resident artists on The Marquee’s 2012 schedule: Above & Beyond, ATB, Benny Benassi, Chuckie, Dirty South, Erick Morillo and Kaskade). Not only this, but the Marquee Las Vegas also offers up-and-coming EDM artists a chance to showcase their talent on their stage, along with all the resources the Marquee marketing team possess. “Being at the Cosmopolitan and being able to use a Jumbotron and a ticker-tape in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd. where hundreds of thousands of people walk a day, to have an artist brand front and center with his or her likeness is a dramatic value to a management team or an artist,” Jason Strauss told us in the cozy Library Room, a book-shelfed study that would seem more fitting in Gatsby's manor than the top floor of the Marquee. He continued: “But the one message we always get across is the long-term thinking, about the building of the brand.” This, above all, has been the Marquee Clubs, and to a greater extent the TAO groups, greatest triumph. Appearing at events like Coachella, Ultra, and Insomniac's Electric Daisy Carnival with specialized VIP staging areas, they have established necessary rapport with the EDM community, flirting with fans and artists alike, and inviting them back to a one-of-a-kind venue they can call home. Without a doubt, American EDM fans have been hungry for more, and Jason and the TAO group aims to feed, operating under their self-proclaimed mantra: “deliver an experience without worrying about the money coming in. If you build the experience, the money and the finance will follow.”


Photo by Bennett Sell-Kline for Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub

Eight hours ago I took a seat at an endless table carved out of dark matter, sprinkled with candles that intoned a mood more ominous than romantic. The restaurant was Lavo, an exuberant Italian joint acting as a jewel encrusted in The Palazzo's royal crown, a hub for Las Vegas and International patrons dressed in suits I would have to sell my soul to afford. Fortunately, my inner being was safe for tonight, thanks in part to the TAO Group and the experience they wanted me to have. Shots were promptly ordered, in addition to our drink of choice, though a pair at the end of the table had already unsheathed and consumed miniature, travel-sized bottles of vodka, as if Lavo's selection would be insufficient. It was Vegas after all. They came prepared. At a table that large, and a restaurant that crowded, interpersonal conversation was inevitably impossible, all noise overlapping and blending together into a sonic orgy that only Skrillex could make sense of. “The Meatballs, you need to try the meatballs!” a voice repeated on every other downbeat, as baskets and cast-iron pans of decadent dishes appeared on every end of the table. “It tastes like High School, in Mexico!” another voice shouted, though it was unclear if that was in reference to the aforementioned meatballs, or the Christmas tree of shot glasses that was being passed around. “Could be both,” I proclaimed, mid-laugh, to the vacuous black hole of sound.

Gallery by Hew Burney

But before long, my appetite matched the atmosphere. Garlic bread with a perfect, crusted crunch, flaky, tender salmon, crispy calamari ringlets, pastas of all types, paper-thin, oven-roasted pizzas, succulent chicken parmigiana, leafy salads tinged with vinaigrette dew, and even succulent deep-fried Oreos lathered in a vanilla bean milk-shake topping approached my event-horizon-mouth, never to be seen again. Oh, and of course, the Kobe beef meatballs were superb, with a soft and delicate tenderness delicately soaked in a tangy, tomato-y marinara, like a sun-tanned teenager being licked by waves on a Cancun beach, with no cares, no worries. Essentially, both voices had been right. I then proceeded to gargle with the last bit of my Gin and Tonic and floss my teeth with a lime rind, freshening myself up for the rest of the night. Though I had been charitably treated to a fine meal, my stomach full of the richest foods, I was still hungry.


Photo by Bennett Sell-Kline for Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub

Five hours ago Avicii appeared at the Marquee DJ booth.  Hand tightly gripping the rail in front of me, I braced myself for the massive wave of energy that would surely erupt from the crowd as light-up batons, outstretched arms, and girls atop sturdy shoulders waved furiously.  For many of these fans, this would be just another spectacular performance added to a collection of photo albums, ticket stubs, or entry wristbands, but for the Marquee, this occurrence was more than serendipitous.  Two years ago, when both the Marquee and Tim Bergling (aka Avicii) were getting their start in New York, the TAO group invited the young artist to perform at the original Marquee Club for what would be his first US gig and tour.  As previously mentioned, the TAO group utilizes all of their resources to help showcase and develop new talent, Avicii being the ultimate testament to this fact.  Thus, the One-Year Anniversary cake that was cut in the middle of the dancefloor, the “Avicii One-Year” sunglasses and rubber wristbands attendees bought and wore, were materialistic reminders of the Marquee’s success, bearing about as much significance as Las Vegas being christened the “New Ibiza.” Instead, what truly mattered was that the TAO group had succeeded in creating an experience, one that brought both fans and artist back to a singular destination: home.


Photo by Bennett Sell-Kline for Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub

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