Points of view

Learning from Las Vegas: from Scott Venturi to Martin Garrix, the story of a city that managed to combine pop culture and EDM music

14.03.2019 | By PAOLO BOCCHI

Before Las Vegas there was only desert. Then came prostitution, alcohol and gambling.
Together with the unholy trinity arrived music. And, today, music is the salvation of this artificial oasis. Here is a short story in 3 chapters of a city that is always worth visiting.
Because, in Las Vegas, you never stop learning.

 

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Chapter 1: Birth

The name Las Vegas derives from the Spanish for “the grasslands” or “the fertile plains”. The thing is, Las Vegas is located in the Mojave desert, which — unless you’re among those who believe the “theory of oases” — already makes it pretty clear how fantasy, around here, has always been in power.
In 1844, the current Las Vegas area was still a part of Mexico.
In 1855, after becoming star-spangled land, Las Vegas turned into a “post house” for worn-out travelers, located on the “Mormon trail” stretching from Salt Lake City to San Bernardino, CA.

 

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Las Vegas was then founded as a “railway village” on May 15th 1905, gaining its official status of city a few years later, in 1911.
In 1931 gambling was legalized in the State of Nevada; but it was in 1946 that Mr Bugsy Siegel opened the first casino hotel of Las Vegas, the Flamingo.
Hence, the legend of the “Fabulous Las Vegas” was born.
Mafia, cigars and fine women; all you can think of, and more.
The mirage had opened its doors.

 

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Chapter 2: The architecture and the neon signs

In 1972, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown released a book titled “Learning from Las Vegas”, about the development, architecture and neon signs of this incredible city. It’s a book on Las Vegas’s uniqueness, describing its pioneering town planning based on the street — namely, the Strip — as a breakthrough in a history of metropoles structured by right angle street networks, like New York. The book analyzes the city of vice’s “Pop architecture”, letting us look into the unique perspective behind its urban design. Las Vegas lives according to a “new spatial order”, where cars and highways take over the stage; a stage where architecture has abandoned its pure form in favor of a clever, alluring combination of media.

 

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In Vegas, cars, space and long distances have created a land where “symbols in space” win over “shapes in space”.
It’s a meta-linguistic revolution.
Here, in the middle of the desert, symbols rule the space, as signs are more important than the architectures behind them. With no signs, no place would exist.
In Las Vegas, everything works its own way, compared to the customs of any other American metropolis.

 

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Car parking lots are placed in front of casinos, while their interiors are designed to make sure that the player loses their sense of time.
The gaming rooms are dark, with no windows. The only lights shining are the slot-machines’ messy, artificial flashes. Therefore, time becomes infinite. You lose your understanding of “where” and “when”. A relentless gambling spree inside timeless non-places.
Inside casinos, the day is banned; down the Strip, the night is denied.
“Learning from Las Vegas” explains why, in urban design, popular culture is the key and should always be used as the starting point; you can only proceed by tuning high culture to the frequencies of common people. An Andy Warhol kind of operation, if you will, that unites artists, collectors, critics and museum visitors.

 

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Chapter 3: Music saves

But time wears out everything and even gambling ended up losing its appeal over the years. As a consequence, the worlds portrayed in movies like “Casino” or “The Godfather” collapsed from structural failure. And the temporary inhabitants of the Las Vegas pipe dream got older and older, offering the world the vision of a “decay show”: elderly people spending their last days completely numbed by the flashes and sounds of greedy cash-guzzling spinning machines.
It’s Las Vegas’s crisis.
Then came a savior: music.
In all its forms, but especially EDM (electronic dance music).
And now Las Vegas has risen again like a phoenix, having replaced gambling with EDM or the concerts of its famous ‘residents’.
America’s fun factory has opened its doors again, and everything is back to spinning and ringing.
After Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Dean Martin, Las Vegas is now home to new names.

 

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Britney Spears has just announced her new residency at the MGM’s Park Theater from Feb 2019, after performing as a Planet Hollywood resident from 2013 to 2017.
News that came hand in hand with that of the end of Celine Dion’s residency at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace, after no less than 15 years, scheduled for June 8, 2019. Enigma is the name of Lady Gaga’s residency show at the MGM’s Park, where Bruno Mars is also performing as a 2019 Las Vegas resident.
And so on.

 

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Until the newest chapter of this story, the “electronic frenzy” that brought new blood, new vibrancy, new customers and, above all, a new dollar flow to Sin City’s cash registers.
Here are some of the names involved, listed as Hotel-Casino-Club-Resort-Deejay-Producer-Rapper:
OMNIA: Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix, Loud Luxury, Zedd, Calvin Harris, Armin Van Buuren, etc.
XS: Chainsmokers, Alesso, Diplo, DJ Snake, Steve Angello, Mark Ronson, Afrojack, etc.
HAKKASAN: Lil Jon, Tiesto, Nervo, Borgeous, etc.

 

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DRAI’S: Method Man, Redman, 50 Cent, Chris Brown, Big Sean, Future, Lil Wayne, Migos, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, etc.
ENCORE BEACH CLUB: David Guetta, Kygo, Jamie Jones, Sebastian Ingrosso, Major Lazer, Cedric Gervais, Dillon Francis, etc.
No more words needed; let’s just all follow the book title and ‘Learn from Las Vegas’