Having hosted some of electronic music's biggest names as resident DJs over the last few years, the premiere nightclub at Encore Las Vegas, XS, has become synonymous with Sin City's lavish debauchery, firmly embedding itself on the shortlist of Las Vegas powerhouses in the process. As lore of XS has grown by word of mouth (and through a few national advertising campaigns), it has come to represent a unique cross-section of dance culture, being one of the few places you're just as likely to see a glover as you are a dapped-up gent in a three-piece, who also may be gloving. With the Strip currently in the midst of an all-out arms race between clubs, resting on your laurels will surely get you left behind. So what do you do to stay relevant in Vegas? Easy. You up the Vegas.
Using the club's sixth anniversary celebration to showcase a recent $10 million renovation, Saturday, March 28 was even more monumental as it also served as the perfect platform to welcome back one of dance music's biggest names, Avicii. For the hitmaker, it was not only a return to his exclusive residency at the Wynn property but also back to the ranks of electronic music's elite after an extended absence.
At first glance, the renovations look like money well-spent. A revamped dancefloor and upgraded DJ booth featured more prominently in the center are the first changes you'll notice. New HD screens are aplenty, including a retractable one over the booth, another one installed on the front of it, and a trio of them outside that show what the DJ is doing. In the outdoor area, LED lights are now strung overhead and the sound system has been significantly improved. Increased attention on the DJ extends to the cabanas where even more screens have been installed to focus on the DJ's movements so patrons can now follow the action in luxurious comfort. On this night in particular there was definitely a feeling of pride in the air, and with plenty of VIPs in the building you could tell staff was doing their best to be on point.
To those on the periphery, these improvements and the anniversary were reason enough for a Vegas blowout. Ask those who staked their claim on precious dancefloor real estate and it was obvious tonight was about way more than a new facelift. The return of Avicii was very much the draw for many, and XS did its best to make this reemergence felt long before he stepped on stage. Beyond standard promo posters with his face plastered everywhere, Swedish flags were not only waving on screen during opening sets but also accompanied sparklers with Ace of Spades purchases (bottles start at a mere $550).
There was a slight moment of anxiousness with the clock creeping to 2 (well past his 1AM set time) and Avicii chants broke out among the restless crowd. Thoughts of his cancelled Ultra set from last year came to mind but were soon diffused as the man of the hour was introduced. It's not until the arrival of the headliner that you realize how XS really went full-tilt with their upgrades. Perhaps the dopest and most unique feature they now boast is how they unveil the main act. A kabuki sheet hangs, serving as a canvas for a light show and graphics to dance on, all other lights are dimmed and epic music heightens the moment. Then the sheet is dropped, on this night revealing a fresh-looking Avicii to the gleeful delight of the crowd, as more new outdoor features are also unleashed as pyrotechnics explode in a burst of flames aimed at the sky.
The union of a revamped XS and a revamped Avicii looks like one that will pay dividends all spring and summer. When everything is firing on all cylinders (seriously, those fucking lasers are unreal) it's impossible not to be impressed. The features the club allocated money to reflects and acknowledges past shortcomings (fixing the outside to make it a destination not just an afterthought) but also a full embrace of DJs with open arms. Already heavy in the game, XS appears on track to remain a can't-miss hotspot on the Strip, in the face of stiff competition. More importantly though, it would also appear that one of dance music's most dedicated and loyal fanbases finally has their man back in the booth where he belongs.Find XS on Facebook // Twitter.
Find Avicii on SoundCloud // Twitter.