When DJ Five isn't playing some of the biggest clubs in Las Vegas, you can find him at the gym early in the morning or hanging out with his nephew and his parents. This is the real Vegas, he tells us. A city where, yes, you can party at any time of day, but life can also be pretty chill and consistent. Provided you can stand the heat.
VICE: Give us the backstory. How did you end up in Vegas?
DJ Five: My parents moved out here when I was young. I was living in LA with my aunt and grandmother. As I was a teenager, I started DJ'ing and they thought I was out doing, I don't know, bad things with my friends. So they decided to ship me to Vegas to live with my folks. And that's how I ended up in Vegas.
How old were you when that happened?
I was 15.
How have you seen the city change?
Vegas, it changes every year.
As far the music scene, I think it's still growing. I just feel like we're getting a lot of talent coming through, but a lot of time we'll get kids moving out of Vegas or whatever. It just hasn't really bubbled for us yet. I think it will in a few years. It's still a growing music scene out here.
They're still paying a lot of money to DJ, but there's more clubs now that are going back to what we call "open format," which is like a DJ that plays all genres. More like a party-rocking style of DJing instead of just playing like one genre of EDM or a big DJ playing their EDM songs or whatever. Clubs are going back to more like a party atmosphere. Like you come for the party and the DJ plays everything from Trap to House to EDM to Rock. I think it's going back to that now.
What's the craziest night you ever had in Vegas?
Oh, man. Well, I never ended up in jail. There've been times where I've like...just like blacking out. Remembering flashes here and there and in and out of different strip clubs and having a couple thousand on me and waking up in the morning not knowing how I got home. I don't know where my car is. All my money's gone. It hasn't happened in a while.
Do you still go to strip clubs? Any favorites?
Yeah! I go to Spearmint Rhino or Crazy Horse 3. We used to go after we all worked. Like, we'd get off around 3 AM and a lot of people would just go meet up there to go eat, actually. They're known to have really good food. Like, Crazy Horse 3, they have good sushi, surprisingly, at 4 AM. And Rhino is known for their chicken fingers and Hawaiian food. And you're sitting there eating Hawaiian food surrounded by naked women. There's nothing better than that!
Where else do you party when you're not working?
I really don't like going out, but if I do, I go downtown. There's a place, a bar/club called Commonwealth. It's more like a lot of locals and they play more music I like. More like hip-hop, more like 90s stuff. More classic stuff. That's one of my places I like to go to.
If I feel like going to the Strip, I'll go to maybe like a Mad Decent Monday [with Diplo] party. It's always a fun party. A lot of people come out. A lot of my friends are usually there. But usually, I choose not to go out. I'm always working on the Strip.
Vegas is a food town. Where do you go to eat?
I mean, the Strip has a lot of great food, but I always end up in Chinatown. The Japanese food scene is growing. I love Japanese food. Pho has been down in Chinatown for years. I go to Raku for more like a high-end Japanese izakaya. And for sushi—it's actually in the same shopping center—I go to Kabuto Sushi. It's like real traditional style sushi—it's called like a "trust me" menu, where the chef serves you whatever he thinks is the best catch of the day or whatever. The freshest sushi.
I love Chinatown. They have such good cheap eats down there.
Yeah. There's a lot of stuff popping up downtown too, though. There's a place called Flock & Fowl. They specialize in like Hainanese chicken and rice, like, Singapore style. I think it's probably the best on the West Coast I've had.
What bars do you hit up?
There's Velveteen Rabbit. That's located downtown. That's a good local spot I always hang out in. They have a good whiskey selection. They have DJs there, too. It's a different environment. When I'm there, I feel like I'm not really in Vegas. They have a nice little patio backyard over there. There's the Laundry Room.
The one in Commonwealth?
Yeah. It's like a speakeasy. It's pretty cool. I like that place.
There's a place called Other Mama. It has a good bar. It's weird. It's like a seafood restaurant kind of, but the guy does sushi, too. It's really good. And they have a crazy mixologist there.
There's Golden Tiki, which is a tiki bar in Chinatown. I actually go there a lot after work. They have really good rum drinks and Mai Tais.
And Tokyo 365, which is a members-only bar that the Downtown Project brought in from Tokyo. They have amazing whiskey drinks that are smoke infused. Kind of interesting.
As a local, what's your advice for someone coming to visit or just moving to town when it comes to gambling and gaming?
It's probably different for people who are visiting because they save up money for months just to come blow it in Vegas. I say come in, sign up with one casino, say, The Cosmopolitan or the Wynn, and get a player's card. You actually build up points like that every time you gamble. That way you start getting the comps—the free rooms or whatever. I feel like that's good for people who are visiting and living here.
Though if you're living here, I say you don't gamble. I used to be a part-time poker player and I quit.
You don't play poker anymore?
No. I actually stopped playing for like three years now. New Year's Day I was like, "You know. I have the day off. I'm gonna go gamble with my friends. Go play some poker. Maybe I'll start rehashing this little career again." And then I took out five grand and I lost it all. I'm like, "Ok. That's enough. I'm done with my poker career. Again."
Is there anywhere you go in Vegas when you just want to chill and relax?
There's a lot of spas out here. Not like the illegal rub-and-tugs, but there's like a lot of spas. Actually a lot of the casinos off the Strip offer local discounts. Like for 30% off, you go there and hang out, I guess gamble a little bit.
Lately I've been actually bike riding downtown. Me and a couple of my buddies, we'll meet up and just start biking all over Vegas. And that's relaxing for me. It's good exercise. We like exploring.
It gets so fucking hot, I can't even imagine trying to bike.
Yeah, I mean, you stay indoors or go to the pool. Go to one of those the pool parties. That's really all you can do. Sometimes it's so hot the AC doesn't even work. The heat overpowers the air conditioning.
Are there any misconceptions about Vegas?
People think Vegas is this wild place that you come to get crazy and you lose everything—your money, inhibitions, whatever. But to me, Vegas is super chill. Living here, people are always like, "Oh my God. You live in Vegas. It's so crazy. Blah blah blah." I'm like, "Nah." I hang out with my friends. I work on the Strip. Yeah, I DJ in the clubs, but on my days off, I'm actually chillin' doing normal stuff.
There's no traffic. Housing is cheap. If you can deal with the heat, Vegas is a good town. It's a nice, easy town. And if you want to go a different route and go crazy a couple days, you can. I wouldn't say it's good for a gambler. I've seen a lot of people go broke and deal with gambling problems. But other than that, if you only gamble for fun, I think it's a great town.
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