It’s Wednesday night in Las Vegas, shortly after 1am, and the party is just beginning. Outside Mandalay Bay’s Light Nightclub, a line stretches through an ornate entryway nearing the casino floor. Fans, tourists, industry workers, and party-seekers impatiently await entrance with hopes of brushing up against two of hip-hop’s hottest rising acts: Travi$ Scott and DJ Mustard.
Inside, smoke machines burst in intervals while confetti rains down from above. Girls are carried Egyptian Pharaoh-style through the crowd, shooting fireworks and pouring drinks. Patrons cover every square inch of real estate, strangers dance on couches, couples feud and forgive in the span of a minute on endless loop. It is a common scene across Las Vegas, where the nightclub gig has become something of a rite-of-passage for modern hip-hop artists on the path to super-stardom. Part appearance, part brief performance, and 100% guaranteed rager.
Light Nightclub just recently started dipping its toe into the live show realm, and Travi$ and Mustard’s appearance is probably their highest profile engagement yet. Mustard kicks the night off with a blasting session of Top 40 hip-hop, priming the room for Scott by mashing up his contemporaries against an animated backdrop that looks like a Windows 98 screensaver acid trip. Meanwhile the crowd pulses along to Drake, Bieber, and J. Cole, waiting for things to cut to black and the night’s headliner to arrive.
Travi$ hits the mic at 2:15 am, a time that doesn’t register as particularly late or particularly early—it’s just kind of non-existent. The already-high energy in the room surges with excitement as Travi$ bounces amongst the smog machines on a thin runway surrounding the Mustard’s DJ booth. There’s not an inch of unoccupied space on the dance floor, where fans press in as tight as cattle.
Despite the setting, the Houston-based rapper’s performance is refreshingly impromptu, not the overly polished perfection found in most Vegas showrooms. “Anything can happen at the night show” is the mantra/take-away from Scott’s current hit “Antidote” and the feeling permeates through his performance. Guests rush the stage only to be corralled by security, while overly excited attendees grab and tug at Scott as he eggs them on. The memory of Scott being arrested for inciting a riot at last summer’s Lollapalooza briefly flashes in my mind, but all flares are easily extinguished by the Light team’s omnipresence.
At one point Mustard joins in for a “Whole Lotta Lovin'” collaboration, then Travi$ launches into “Antidote.” And just like that it’s over, a blur of 20 minutes that quickly morphs back into an all-nighter DJ Mustard set. Outside the club, the surrounding restaurants are primed for the late-night, post-Travi$ rush. People flood the cab lines, stagger up to hotel rooms, stumble towards after-parties. After all, it is Wednesday night in Vegas.