For years there’s been one name that’s synonymous with dance music, and clubbing – Ibiza. Since the mid-70s, the tiny island has held host to hippies, rock stars, and some of the biggest parties Earth has ever known. However, things are apparently changing on the tropical isle. A host of A-list celebrities flocking from stateside, a shift in the tourism industry’s target demographic, and a general tightening of party legislation is forcing global clubbers to seek out new locations.
As Ibiza’s appeal seems to be waning, another hot spot of hedonism-by-night’s is rising. Enter Las Vegas. Sin City’s always attracted a clientele seeking a good time but in recent years, a surge of high profile DJ residencies across the city’s largest casino and hotel complexes is helping to seal the destination’s place as the number one party city on the planet. Already operating under a “city that never sleeps” ethos, Vegas’ infrastructure lends itself to the kind of night owls, and speed freaks that are drawn in by electronic dance music.
Whichever you think is the rightful king of clubland makes little difference. One thing is sure. The importance to these two heavy hitters to the global EDM scene is grandiose.
The third largest of the Balearic Islands, the once-backwater, autonomous Spanish community reinvented itself in the mid-1970s and has since expanded to become the world’s largest dance centred resort.
What had previously been the stomping ground of a thriving hippy community became host to some of the biggest clubs around, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood A-listers, and rock icons began to cherish Ibiza for its then-secluded atmosphere. Of course, the peace didn’t last and at the beginning of the 1990s, a wave of British DJs like Paul Oakenfold, and Danny Rampling discovered the island’s untapped potential for sun-fuelled overindulgence.
For many, this would mark the start of the golden era of partying on Ibiza. Throughout the 1990s the island’s super-clubs would host regular nights by the world’s biggest names in dance music, and any EDM act worth their salt would make sure they dropped by at least once each time they hit the road.
Ibiza is trying to keep it fresh with new venues.
The end of an era?
As the nineties turned into the noughties, and they became whatever we’re calling this decade, things began to change on Ibiza. Never exactly famed for being an affordable clubbing experience, the already steep club prices began to climb. Increasingly high-profile visitors (both to the clubs, and the island generally) sought greater exclusivity, and the cost of clubbing in Ibiza followed suit. The likes of P Diddy and Paris Hilton famously spent time on Ibiza, and just like that the prices shot up. A beer which might have been $5 just fifteen years ago now can cost more than $15 in some clubs, and door prices are even more outrageous.
All this neatly coincides with recent attempts by the island’s authorities to curtail the number of open air raves occurring, citing noise complains as the primary reason. In addition, many of the largest clubs have experienced raids over the last decade. These have led to various arrests and investigations, and when combined with the restrictions on open-air parties and shortening club curfews, represent an attack on the older, more hedonistic Ibiza which many know and love. As DJ Guy Gerber says, “they’re doing their best to kill the vibe”.
Enter: Las Vegas
Whilst Ibiza was enjoying its heyday, something was brewing on the other side of the Atlantic. The city’s early EDM fanatics would host elaborate raves in obscure locations throughout the 1990s. The exuberance and theatre that pioneers like those involved with the Desert Move scene, AWOL and Utopia echoed that of Las Vegas generally. Like Sin City itself, it was all about escapism and as Robert Oleysyck, former resident DJ at Utopia points out the pyrotechnics, acrobats, and elaborate stage art installations “transported you out of the city”. Despite the scale of the early EDM parties in Vegas, they were still considered underground events and were largely held off-strip, often in unconventional surroundings.
The casino dancefloor?
During the early noughties, EDM parties were conventionally “throw up” “tear down” events. Casinos would host dance music nights sporadically and their increasing popularity highlighted a gap in the market. It would be filled by Paul Oakenfold, and the Palms Casino on an evening in 2008.
Describing Vegas in 2008 as “an adult playground” Oakenfold was the first international DJ to take a full-time residency at one of the then-new casino clubs. It wasn’t long before many others began to copy the example set by Perfecto at Rain, and unbeknownst to them, the Palms Springs started a phenomenon.
These days the Vegas’ clubbers are spoiled for choice. All the best casinos have their own onsite EDM shrines. You can transition effortlessly from blackjack table to ballroom in less time than it would take to call a cab in most resorts. The MGM hosts Hakkasan, Aria Resort and Casino has Jewel, and The Bellagio ‘s club is Hyde Bellagio.
The King of Club Land?
With recent events in Ibiza miring clubbers’ overall vibe of the island, there are many in the EDM community who feel the time has come for Vegas to be considered king. It makes perfect sense too. Sin City is synonymous with excess and what could be more excessive than dancing well into the following day?
Vegas really offers the whole package. It’s about so much more than just the clubs. You can hit the casinos, you can dine in some of the most amazing restaurants on earth, and visit a myriad of world class shows before the dancefloors even begin to fill. I mean, in Ibiza you can you can win online before bouncing around until dawn at Amnesia but it’s never really going to be as cool as striding into Hakkasan after taking it to the house at the blackjack table.
That’s not to say Ibiza is totally washed up though. It’s still a stunning island paradise that hosts some of the planet’s most exciting EDM performers. As a resort, it offers some things that Vegas, no matter how hard it tries, will never be able to. The ocean breeze, the days fooling around on a banana boat, or those spent sweating out last night’s excess down at the beach. It might have gotten a little pricier, and there might be a bit more snobbery around but Ibiza will always have a special place in many clubbers’ hearts.