Nightlife Impresario Jesse Waits on Life After XS and What’s Next

JesseWaits_0013_t1000.jpgThe finely tuned Las Vegas nightlife machine was thrown a surprising wrench when Jesse Waits, longtime managing partner of XS and Tryst at Wynn Resorts, left his post in July. The industry buzzed as to where the tastemaker would take his talents. Waits will join fellow former Wynn executives Andrew Pascal and Rob Oseland at Australian billionaire James Packer’s Alon hotel and casino, planned to open in 2018. Though his first day on the job is only this week, we caught up with Waits to reflect about his time at Wynn and what he’s been up to during his time off, and get a few hints about the new project.

What has your break from day-to-day nightclub operations been like? It’s been really nice. I was in Europe for a month almost, touring where everybody goes during the season, the socialites and the travelers. I went to Ibiza for a week, London, Capri and Mykonos. I didn’t have any plan, either. I just went out and decided each place to go when I got there.

What was the best thing you saw? What I liked this year was Mykonos. I had been there before and didn’t like it that much, but this year it changed—it’s kind of the new Ibiza. The energy is there, the vibe and people are there. I think Ibiza’s kind of where Saint-Tropez was the cool spot at one time, then Ibiza took that, then it was too over-done and too much of the bridge-and-tunnel, where Mykonos is newer and took that vibe from Ibiza.

So Ibiza is bridge-and-tunnel now? It’s just too Americanized. I think after all the celebrity things happened last year, the vibe changed. The same people aren’t going there anymore.

What’s the nightclub sound like in Mykonos? It’s deep house and minimal house. I like the music, actually. To me it’s really cool and chill; it’s not banging music.

Have you been missing anything about XS or the daily grind since you left? I miss XS, the routine, where I eat and go to work and see my friends and people that came into town and take care of people. I love taking care of people. That’s one of my things, I’m a people-pleaser. I’m still able to do that, and I have people call me and can sort and organize things. I miss that, but I’m really excited to be moving into this new venture. It’s the biggest decision I’ve made in my life, and I feel really good about it.

What were the best lessons you learned during your time at Wynn? I think I learned a lot from [Steve] Wynn. He’s so detailed and a perfectionist and demanding on certain things, and he’s a genius. I think the biggest experience I got out of it was from Steve [as] the biggest influence.

Was your contract up or nearing its end, or was it that another opportunity presented itself? The opportunity came up, but I’d been contemplating [a change for] the last five years. I just knew that in my line and career there has to be a natural evolution and I needed to make a new step, and if I didn’t make a change … I didn’t want to be the nightclub guy in my 40s sitting in a nightclub. I wanted to be more than that. I wanted to evolve into bigger things and more things and make some changes. I think it’s natural to want more.

I know you can’t go into too much detail, but what’s next for you in your role at Alon? I’m developing and pioneering and pulling things together with Andrew [Pascal] and Rob [Oseland] and James Packer. As we get closer to opening the resort, I’m in the social scene, building and managing experiences from the lobby area to the bars, to the nightclub, to the restaurants, all the facets that create that life—an experience-maker, basically.

Are you in a position to procure some of the DJs you worked with before? Do you know the direction of the music for the property? It’s three years away, so I can’t think about exactly what we’re going to do, but Vegas is constantly evolving into different sounds and different acts. We’re the entertainment capital of the world, so there’s always something happening with entertainment. I’m not going to say we’re not, I’m not going to say we are.

What would you like to hear in Las Vegas? When I was at XS I was starting to get into Robin Schulz. I like that softer, vocal, deeper house stuff, sexy. It doesn’t translate as much in Vegas, but there’s places it will fit, like at a restaurant or pool area, certain kinds of bars and atmospheres. In a nightclub atmosphere—big room, 10,000 people—it doesn’t translate.

Is that what’s on your iPod right now? I have Klingande, Hot Natured, Eric Prydz, Felix Jaehn, Alina Baraz & Galimatias, DJ Assad & Greg Parys, Mr. FijiWiji, Automat, Henry Krinkle.

Is there a specific element, from a feature to a certain artist, that you’d want to have? I think what I’d like is to have a variety of different people like Pharrell and the Biebers from the younger pop culture, then some of the cool stuff that works in Ibiza and Mykonos. I like all of it and [don’t want to] stick to one specific genre.

Is it a possibility that you could work together with your brother Cy again?Anything’s possible. We’ve worked together a lot in the past. I got him into House of Blues with me, then he left to go open another club, I moved to another club, we joined forces again at Tryst and XS, he left and now maybe he’s going to come back. It would be best-case scenario for me, to be honest.

If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream club be like? We’re building it in Las Vegas! Literally from scratch, and I’m going to start working on it.

Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly.

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