Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Escape from Douchery, Part 10: Savile Row

If you're like me, the thought of a typical Las Vegas club gives you a serious case of the douche-chills. 

The scene in most Vegas clubs is always the same, the air thick with the scent of Axe Body spray and desperation as teeming masses dress so uniformly that it feels more like a twisted military exercise as everyone dances badly to the same four or five horribly auto-tuned "bangers" played at volumes that make conversation (and coherent thought) impossible while strobe lights flash garishly. The whole thing is enough to make you understand why terrorists, or at least The French, hate us. One Vegas club actually has columns of flame blasting from the ceiling as scantily clad women hang from trapeze in a setting that inches so closely to Biblical style debauchery you expect to be smited, Old Testament style, before last call.

The thing is, I'm not categorically against the concept of partying at a place where you can hang out and drink strong cocktails and listen to decent music while you impress the ladies with your sweet moves. It's just hard to find a club in Vegas that doesn't make you want to retch up the buffet food you over-indulged in before hitting the dance floor. Savile Row at (of all places) The (ridiculously un-hip, Egytian themed) Luxor strives, and in a lot of ways succeeds, at bringing something different to the crowed club scene.

One of the things that drives me bananas about nightclubs is the velvet rope culture of the whole thing. You have to wait forever to get in to a place that you will probably want to leave pretty much right away, and often end up standing in line for longer than seems possible in an exercise in humiliation that will inevitably bring back memories of getting picked last in gym class. Savile Row is different, though it does not, and let me repeat, DOES NOT eschew with the whole bouncer as gatekeeper of cool thing... in fact, the place kind of doubles down on the exclusivity. The only people who are guaranteed to get in to Savile Row are those who picked (by a shadowy and mysterious committee) to pay yearly memberships, and if you're willing to pay an exorbitant sum to be a member of a nightclub in Las Vegas, then you're probably too stupid to even understand any clever joke I could come up with about how stupid you are.

The membership program isn't the only way to crash the gates of the club, but Savile Row has the strictest line policy in all of Las Vegas, which is both a drawback and what makes the place special. It's not easy to get in, but that's because management's goal is to throw the most eclectic party in town every single night. That means the bouncers here are not as moved to lift the velvet rope by a giggling gaggle of girls in short skirts as they are at other clubs. Savile Row's main gatekeeper, the very coolly named Mike Diamond, truly strives to populate the place with a mix of interesting people that don't fit the normal club scene mold, so creative fashion choices, interesting tattoos and outside the box personalities are more likely to get in over dumb-dumb Sorority girls and Fratboy meat-heads. Fashion and style are important factors in getting into the club, something more creative than the button up shirt and expensive jeans combo that most dudes wear or the skanky short skirts and absurdly angled high heels that usually serves as the typical club-goer uniform. I was able to get in because I was rocking a fedora and a nice jacket over a T-Shirt for a band so cool you've probably never heard of them, no big deal. Also I convinced the bouncer that I was Wes Anderson's cousin... but how I got in isn't important, you guys!

Once I broke through the hallowed gates, receiving dirty looks from the kinds of bros who used to beat me up in high school, I realized that this was the Las Vegas nightclub I'd always dreamed of visiting. First of all, there is no cover if you're invited in, which is a huge plus. I've never understood why you have to pay admission for the privilege of overpaying for drinks at other clubs, but that's another rant.

The intimate, Speak-Easy inspired space is beautifully decorated, with glass tables displaying beautifully lit vintage fashion and sewing machines (keeping in step with the venue's namesake, the fashionable street in London... I know, I don't care about fashion either, but I do care about thematic coherence), velvet curtains, multicolored walls, an inexplicable metal Rhino sculpture (am I starting to sound like SNL's Stefon?), and a gorgeous giant domed chandelier illuminating the intimate, 2,000 square foot space. Beautiful  and attentive female servers wearing Men's dress shirts and no pants never leave you with an empty glass for long. Okay, so maybe that's gross and exploitative on some level, but being a sensitive post-feminist man doesn't stop me from being a man, so pretty pants-less ladies are okay in my book.

And the cocktails those pretty ladies without pants brought me? Some of the best in Las Vegas. Savile Row has miraculously kept up with the LA and New York, post-Mad Men haute-cocktail culture trends, as the super knowledgeable barkeeps can mix you any number of innovative and classic concoctions. I ordered an Old Fashioned and it was one of the best I'd ever tasted. They also stock a great selection of craft brews, something I always appreciate.
But the true triumph of Savile Row is the totally unique vibe. Look, the place still is a Vegas nightclub, which means you will encounter some douchebag elements when, and if, you get in. But the mythic gatekeepers truly do an admirable job of ensuring that the crowds are diverse and interesting. While many of the more hipster-ish elements of the city are probably hanging out at The Double Down or First Fridays, there really was an eclectic mix of people on the night I partied at the club. I talked to a tatted up musician and a very funny young comedian from LA, and we were all surprised that we were actually having such a good time in a Las Vegas club.

Savile Row's strict "no cameras" policy is something I didn't expect to make a difference, but it turned out to be truly awesome. Designed to stop onlookers on from snapping pics of the celebrities who often hang out there, the policy actually made my group enjoy ourselves and stay in the moment and present, because none of us were posting for Facebook or Instagram pics to commemorate the evening as it happened... we chatted and danced instead of Tweeting and posing, and the memories of the evening exist nowhere but on the insides our mind palaces. 

The music selection was downright miraculous. Sure, the DJ played some Top 40, but he also spun great 70's soul tunes, old school hip hop, a plethora of great (and not typical) 80's crowd-pleasers, a few nostalgia inducing 90's jams, a decent selection of impressively obscure-ish indie tracks, and some moody cool electro music (M83 and the Drive soundtrack FTW!). Best of all, I didn't hear one song from LMFAO all night (or at least until I exited the club and hit The Luxor's gaming floor for some very late night gambling). The music wasn't just eclectic... it was played at the perfect level so that I could actually have conversations with my friends without shouting.

Savile Row is really something different in terms of Las Vegas clubs, with a unique ambiance, an emphasis on eclecticism, perfectly mixed cocktails, gorgeous ladies without pants, and truly excellent DJs spinning atypical playlists. I hope more clubs follow Savile Row's lead and create an alternate to the generic club template that exists all over town.

The one true drawback of the place is that it really is hard to get in, but let me leave you with a few tips on how to stand out from the crowd and get the attention of the gatekeepers at Savile Row:

-Wear a powder blue prom tuxedo or a 70's style leisure suit.
-Dress up like an astronaut or in a full Spider-Man costume.
-Be Bill Murray or in an up and coming buzz band like The Cults (if your band's first record got less than an 8.0 on Pitchfork, you probably won't get in).
-Ride a mini-Pony up to the back of the club's line.
-Walk by the club multiple times in different outfits until you get the "green light."
-Convince the gate-keepers that your Wes Anderson's cousin.
-Somehow make the bouncers believe that you DON'T want to get into the club. This is hard because why would you be near the line for Savile Row if you didn't want to get in? But, just like hot ladies, the bouncers will want you more if they think don't care about getting in there.
- Hope that the bouncers mistake you for one of the stars of Portlandia.
- Name drop your influential and widely read blog.
-Have the most awesomely unique or crazy weird tattoos and make sure the bouncers can see them.
-Show up without pants. This will probably only work for ladies, but dudes are welcome to give it a try.
-Guilt head-gatekeeper Mike Diamond into thinking you knew him in high school until he feels bad enough to let you in. If that doesn't work... "Incept" him.
-Casualy name drop Can, Suicide, The Slits or other bands mentioned in LCD Soundsytem's "Losing My Edge."
-Show up with your good friends Penn and Teller (which still might not get you in).
-Be Ryan Gosling (but that'll get you "into" pretty much anything these days, if you know what I mean, hint hint, wink wink).
-Be Kanye West (this may be a big positive or a big negative, depending on how the bouncers feel about Kanye West).
-Have a more bad-ass name than "Mike Diamond." But you better be able to prove it with your ID.
-Be cooler than everyone else in Las Vegas.

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