Las Vegas is internationally famous for its bright and bustling Strip. The bright lights and the jumbo screens invite tourists and locals alike inside with the promise of endless parties and sex. Sweaty bodies in their tight shirts and tiny skirts await inside countless cliched nightclubs writhing to tunes spun by DJ’s, some famous across the world and others famous across the city.
Around the city numerous venues have tried for years to establish themselves as competitors in the city’s nightlife market. The vast majority of these places appear with a flash but most are gone as quick as lightening. In his article, “Does Las Vegas Have a Nightclub Bubble?” for Seven Magazine earlier this year, David G. Swartz suggested that such flops could be a problem that soon move from off strip attempts into the heart of Vegas’ nightlife scene itself, on Las Vegas Boulevard.
But not everyone is suffering from such failings. On the edge of the Arts district, just past the Naked City and about halfway between the main Strip and Fremont street, sits the Aruba Hotel. Nestled between two of the city’s most prominent quick hitch wedding chapels and across the street from one of its sleaziest fully nude strip clubs, the Aruba is what now remains of the formerly famous Hotel Thunderbird.
For much of the week the motel is as quiet as the rest of the neighborhood, far from the glitz and glamour of the party city’s hubs. But every Saturday night the Thunderbird Lounge and Club Aruba come alive as DJ Handgun spins the beats for the most continuously successful reggae event the city has seen over the last decade. According to Catherine Nguen, the event, Positive Vibrations’, head promoter, the weekly dance hall party consistently sees between four and five hundred patrons on a weekly basis, with a line frequently out the door.
“I’ve been playing reggae for twenty years,” says DJ Handgun, “I’ve been here at the Aruba Hotel since 2005 and weekly since 2006. Playing dancehall, roots and soca.” When asked how he has been able to keep his event so successful week after week, in an out of the way venue his answer was simple. “Me and my partner, DJ Charlo, we play the best music, we have the best vibes,” he answers. “It’s good people and good times, we draw them in from California, the Caribbean and even Africa … they keep coming back because we play what they are here to hear. No one else does.”
You can hear electronic dance music on almost any block almost anywhere you find crowds in Las Vegas. If you want to hear Reggae, you go the Aruba Hotel.