THE MEN BEHIND THE NIGHTLIFE
Between four always-packed, heart-pumping, game-changing venues at Wynn and Encore, the hottest music on the planet, and high-profile clients that keep coming back, Jesse Waits and Sean Christie seem to be living the dream. Waits, Managing Partner of Tryst and XS, and Christie, Operating Partner of Surrender and Encore Beach Club, have built a roster of over 30 exclusive resident DJs, including deadmau5 and Tiësto, to put Wynn on the map as the ultimate destination for electronic music aficionados and fans. We were curious to see how these nightlife impresarios got their start, what keeps them level-headed in the entertainment capital of the world, and how they manage to cultivate the distinct Wynn sound.
Q: When did you first break into the nightlife industry?
JW: I first started in nightlife at the House of Blues in 1997 to help prepare for its opening on New Year’s Eve. I worked my way through every position before they gave me the opportunity to create signature events like “Thursday Night Fever” and “House of Blues Sundays.” From there, I was asked to open and manage Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay. I moved over to Bellagio in 2001 to help open Light before being recruited for the Drai’s Nightlife executive team.
I started at Wynn in 2006 when we took the reins of the space once occupied by La Bete nightclub and transformed it into Tryst. Based on its success, Steve Wynn asked me to help create and open XS in 2009. It was the first mega-club of its kind, and we were able to set a new standard within the industry.
SC: I first got involved in nightlife when I was 19. I started at an organization from Boston called The Lyons Group, where I worked my way up the ladder over the course of 7 years before moving to Las Vegas.
Q: How do people in the nightclub industry maintain a healthy lifestyle?
SC: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle means being aware of how bad being out all the time can be for you. I am an avid gym goer and generally try to eat healthy. If you drink all night, every night you aren't going to have much of a long term career in this business.
Q: What's a typical Friday night for you?
JW: My day usually starts early in the office, taking meetings and making calls. This job is unique in that no day is ever the same as the last. On a typical Friday night, I head into our pre-shift meeting and help the managers as they motivate the staff and brief on anything special taking place that evening. I compare this to a huddle in football where we develop our strategy and set the tone for the weekend. I’m running back and forth between Tryst and XS for most of the evening, making sure everything is running smoothly. Some nights I host our headlining DJs or VIP customers. These nights, I usually don't leave until they do. If the DJ stays until 7 am, so do I.
SC: A typical Friday night usually consists of going to dinner at Society at 9 pm, then heading over to the club around 10:15 for the opening of the doors. I usually am at the front for the first couple hours, surveying the crowd, helping out where necessary, then I go inside, check on tables, and shake some hands. The headline DJ goes on at 1 am. I usually stick around til 2 or 2:30, then it's back to Encore Beach Club in the morning.
Q: When you're booking DJs, how do you select them? What’s the checklist for the Wynn's perfect DJ?
JW: We really look into who is relevant and what will be a draw for our guests. We have a signature “Wynn” sound that is well known throughout the EDM and nightlife culture, one that you can only understand by experiencing it firsthand.
Q: With the growing popularity of EDM, how do you go about sifting through DJs in order to seek out new talent?
JW: Between the four venues, we have an incredibly talented team that keeps their finger on the pulse of the scene. They research up and coming DJs through music sites and blogs, as well as speaking with other artists, managers, and monitoring social media channels to see what's happening across the globe. I’ve been a fan of dance music for almost 15 years, so seeking out new talent is one of my favorite aspects of the job.
SC: As a team, we meet several times a week to review Youtube clips, Facebook, and links for select artists. We are always trying to find the next big thing. What we look for is a DJ that draws a crowd and is the right fit for what the customer base is looking for. Many times we know or have heard about a person, and it is a matter of trying to figure out if their music represents what they would play in person.
Q: What three words would you use to describe the nightlife scene at the Wynn/Encore?
JW: Dynamic, Enticing, Vibrant.
SC: Wow, Beautiful, Memorable