People can be sadistic when it comes to music. We often love a certain type or genre of music and cannot fathom why anyone would listen to anything else. However, with over one-hundred-thousand albums released annually, the world of music is much more divergent than anyone would or care to imagine. Because of the competition growing, subsets of genre specific music are more common than universal acceptance. I still long for a collective enjoyment and understanding of great records the way Thriller, Jagged Little Pill and Purple Rain once provided. The closest this generation has come to this communal agreement is with Adele's 21. Despite the fact that record sales are not what they used to be does not mean that music is not still exciting. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I walked through Encore en route to the XS nightclub on a Saturday evening. The temperature had finally succumbed to double digits (98 degrees at 1am) and youthful splendor filled the casino before the line into the XS nightclub. Inside was more than just a series of DJ's spinning tunes for the crowd to dance to but a way of life. Love or hate Las Vegas, everyone would stand in awe and astonishment at the interior beauty of the Encore casino. Developed by Steve Wynn and opened in late 2008, it is far above almost any other hotel on the strip. When you enter the hotel, the first sights are of a flower garden whose beauty surpasses your wildest imagination and feels like a scene out of a Tim Burton movie, but it is real, tangible and it will astound you.
Since opening in 2008, the XS at Encore Las Vegas continually has been one of the top two nightclubs in America and for good reason. The spacious room lack decadent design, 40,000 square feet of space with an indoor and outdoor section allowing the attendees to roam in and out. People enter a dark hallway that leads into a thumping world of glitter and gold to escape every day life. Amidst an ocean of booze, beats, short skirts, tan bodies, hula-hoops, dazzling lights and confetti the music is more than a distraction but a heartbeat. My reasons for going to the XS were a French electro-house DJ, Martin Solveig, who talents expand beyond basic beats and reimagining of classics. Solveig has worked with a variety of musicians, but the undeniable hook-laden hit "Hello" is what ignited my interest. The song with more melody than thumps is rhythmic and one of the most powerful and potent dance songs I have ever heard. His partnership with Dragonette is easily one of the most listened to collaborations on my iPod.
In a headband and striped t-shirt, Solveig was unassuming when he made his entrance into the DJ stage around 1am. With flag waving dancers on either side of his setup, Solveig maneuvered the tunes into battle plans for the dance floor with ascending bass crescendos for over seventy-five minutes. There was an orgasmic reaction to every pounding crescendo, every new song and every sample. It does not hurt that the setup also included a dizzying array of lights, confetti cannons, foam, spray mists, lasers and a rotating chandelier. At one time rock n' roll used to be this grand and majestic. While the over-the-top nature of the setup does not work for every rock band, somewhere along the line, it lost its sense of fun for many fans.
Solveig's set does not lend itself to hushed outsiders, the music and magic forces everyone to be a dynamic participant even if your moves are unproven at best. You do not see people like Solveig on your standard television shows in the mainstream but this is his advantage, those who listen and follow him are true believers. Rather than feed the fuel of someone for a moment in time, Solveig and his contemporaries aren't concerned with mass fame, but rather attracting an conscientious audience in the right venue. "Ready 2 Go" and "Big in Japan" fueled the crowd into dissimilar stages of dizziness. When he closed his set with "Hello", the crowd erupted as a baseball stadium would with a bottom of the ninth inning grand slam that wins the game. Despite the exclusivity of the nightclub culture and bottle services, clubs like the XS are not just for the wealthy and young. For less than $30, you can enter a collective community. The ambiance is one of intense dedication. Fans swish and swirl their bodies against one another as song after song opens up the dance floor. Ironically, the shared space and mindset reminds me of heavy metal; both feature fans seeking some solace from a world that is bitter and cold and from the music, they find acceptance. Solveig and his unassuming nature engage the crowd more than most performers I have seen. His does not have to try hard to engage, it is simply part of his being. It was such a vitalizing scene, because while Solveig was hard at work, there was an almost serene essence coming off him. There did not appear to be a dividing line between star and audience.
His latest single "Hey Now" received an airing with Solveig hand bopping and taking pictures of the crowd. "Hey Now" continues Solveig's multi-marketing mission where there is more than the song, but several videos on his YouTube channel and of course the live performances. A special remix package is forthcoming and "Hey Now" will join "Big in Japan" and "Hello" as another bona fide pop hit. As Solveig spun and weaved the melodic grooves, you find your body moving even if you are not by definition a good dancer. It is not so much about dancing or the stylized moves you can make but it is specifically part of a larger community. DJ's like Martin Solveig do more than merely recreate existing musical landscapes, but journey out into the unknown and reinventing it, taking us along for the ride through our fantasies, desires and dreams.
Visit Martin Solveig's official site here.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Martin Solveig Live in Las Vegas