It took years before the megaclubs embraced dance music as the primary programming format. But thanks to the hundreds of millions of dollars it has generated and the cultural "EDM" explosion that has made our Electric Daisy Carnival the most popular music festival in America, those party palaces have largely trapped themselves in a cul-de-sac of commercial music far removed from the house and techno roots of modern nightlife. So it's taken an almost equally interminable amount of time to find other groove options in the tourist corridor.
Tonight marks the official reopening of Body English, the spot that reigned as Hard Rock Hotel's chief nightspot for most of the 2000s. It was mostly dark for the past couple of years, making room for the slicker Vanity nightclub, and relegating its activity to one-off DJ and live band events. But the property's nighlife and entertainment staff saw a niche it could fill -- one that's akin to the one it used to occupy in the late 2000s, when its "Godskitchen" party booked the sort of progressive house and underground talent the other major clubs wouldn't touch.
"I think the history of Body English is something we want to embrace, and the fact it was a cutting edge establishment and helped break music in town a little," says Michael Goodwin, vice president of nightlife and daylife at Hard Rock Hotel. "Most of the electronic acts that came later played Body English as they were up and coming, and there is that kind of thought process with booking Body English this time around. We want to lead the forefront of what’s cool and coming, or right on the breaking edge of becoming big and relevant, in music."
What does that mean? One need to only look at the schedule to see how Body English has largely scheduled alternatives to big-room trance and commercial electro house.
Tonight, the club relaunches with Sharam, formerly one-half of pioneering prog/tech house duo Deep Dish. Tomorrow, Anthony Gonzales of French synth rock act M83 will partially make up for the cancellation of a spring Cosmopolitan live show with a DJ set at Body English, with up-and-coming local act Black Boots opening. Major Lazer principal and M.I.A. collaborator Switch headlines a Dec. 30 bill, and Kele of British modern rock band Bloc Party will help ring in 2013 on Dec. 31.
Some of the DJ highlights of the winter schedule include: The Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi (Jan. 11), techno fave Adam Beyer (Jan. 12), turntablist Cut Chemist (Jan. 13), Ali of hip-hop royalty A Tribe Called Quest (Jan. 20), a real-house double-header of Mark Farina and Doc Martin (Jan. 26), rap pioneers De La Soul (Jan. 27), indie hip-hop icon Peanut Butter Wolf (Feb. 3), Evitan (members of Black Sheep and A Tribe Called Quest) and tech/minimal house jock Carlo Lio.
Each night of operation will follow a musical format: Thursdays will largely be devoted to bass music, programmed by locals Frequency Events. Friday nights will feature indie rock and dance music for those who like to party in their Chuck Taylors. Saturdays will be reminiscent of "Godskitchen," with progressive electronic sounds. And Sunday will be more of a throwback, 1990s hip-hop sound, though Goodwin says the emphasis will be on the more indie and traditional "backpacker" styles.
Friday and Saturdays will also include afterhours parties, with a possible expansion to come. And the venue will still occasionally feature live bands that the newer and smaller HRH venue Vinyl might not be able to accomodate. Goodwin tells us he's just waiting for the ink to dry on some contracts for the new year.
So where does this leave Vanity? Regular operations have ceased there, as it will now serve as the one-off nightlife venue Body English became in 2010, especially for more commercial talent and events. To wit, Pauly D of Jersey Shore fame will DJ there Dec. 30, and Vanity will host parties for AVN in January.
Despite its legacy, Body English will have to flex some serious promotional muscle to compete with XS, Marquee, Surrender and Drai's. But with the right marketing tightroping between the bottle service customers that keep the money coming in (and will hopefully not infringe upon the dance floor) and the sort of anti-velvet rope crowd it appears to be luring -- as well as working with promoters and DJs with legit pedigrees in left-of-center music (such as Frequency and Jordan Stevens, the latter being formerly aligned with "Godskitchen" and now working for Body English in multiple capacities) -- perhaps there's room for more than vocal Euro house on and near the Strip.
"There’s a balance between being cool and being profitable," says Goodwin in regards to the financial viability of venue's adventurous-for-Vegas calendar. "We’re certainly cognizant for the need for both. We’ve got a good team helping us with this venue between [Creative Director] Branden Powers and DJ Beej and … along with different groups in town that are doing events in town. ... We’re really going community-wide and not just saying, 'This is what we think is cool and what’s relevant' to drive bodies to sustain the product."