Like any native of New Jersey, much of my younger 20s were spent stumbling through the neon lit and awkwardly carpeted atriums of Atlantic City’s dated casinos. In terms of luxury and elegance there wasn’t much to look forward to along the Jersey coastline. Debauchery? yes, luxury? hell no. When news of Revel’s development began, our eyes once again looked towards the Jersey coast. Their mission was bold – make Atlantic City a destination for more than just geriatrics on slot machines. It’s aim was to bring all of the luxury and grandeur of Vegas’s preeminent hotels to the North East, giving the residents of New Jersey and New York a Vegas of their own. The second we set foot inside the world class establishment last summer for Avicii’s performance at Ovation Hall, there was no question — they had succeeded.
Leaving the city for New Year’s Eve was met with some serious hesitation, the lineups and selection for the night were vast and eclectic in New York but when news broke of Tiesto at Ovation Hall and subsequent after hours at HQ, I was all but sold. And then the other announcements came, Bambi, Kaskade, Otto Knows, Alesso, Ingrosso, Axwell – a star-studded lineup so impressive that it was matched that weekend only by the juggernauts of Vegas. Braving the Saturday snowstorm we began our drive down to Atlantic City, for progressive house fans on the Eastern seaboard there was no lineup more appealing that what HQ Nightclub and Angel Management Group had in store for the New Year’s Eve weekend.
Let us start by saying that HQ Nightclub is absolutely gorgeous – deep mahoganies and marble accents define its interior while it’s high vaulted ceiling, state of the art sound system, and festival-esque lighting rigs position the club high above anything else in the Northeast. This type of clubbing experience cannot be found anywhere in New York and puts Borgata’s MurMur and Harrah’s The Pool completely to shame. Setting foot inside Revel, and subsequently it’s nightclub, you instantly forget you are in New Jersey. The premise’s pomp and grandeur whisks you away to Vegas or Miami, and if it weren’t for the freezing temperatures outside, we’d have all but been convinced.
The first performances we saw were from Alesso and Otto Knows who delivered their Refune-fueled sets to a packed house on Saturday evening. Both young producers played as loud and as aggressively as they could, leaving no room for the Top 40 drivel that populates many of the other Atlantic City clubs. Taking dance music outside of a major market is always a risk, artists who may seem like huge names to those of us in New York City are all but mysteries to club-goers 3 hours south. On Saturday night the club was surprisingly receptive, vocalizing “Million Voices” as Otto spun and nearly invading the photo pit as Alesso’s “Clash” came blaring through the speakers.
On the second night of our three day trip, Kaskade played a 4 hour set to a crowd that had easily doubled in size from the night before. Even with the additional attendees, HQ still felt spacious and comfortable. Bottle service customers danced a top the raised platforms that surrounded their tables while Kaskade delivered a set reminiscent of his LAVO performance from earlier this year. Opening with “Turn It Down,” Kaskade immediately captured the attention of the room and for the next 4 hours refused to let it go. As the set continued he delivered some of his infamous mash-ups, including the energized “Eyes Reloaded” and ground-shaking “Stars Align Troll.” While most artists may play it safe at an unproven venue, Kaskade showed no hesitation – charming patrons with the big room vocal tracks they were expecting but pleasantly surprising us with groove-laden cuts like Chocolate Puma & Gregor Salto’s “Gimme Sum” as well as the Prok & Fitch vs My Digital Enemy remix of Alter Ego’s “Rocker.” Closing out his set at 4am with “4am” acted as the perfect send off to the night.
After two raucous evenings out, we woke bleary-eyed but ready to continue the weekend’s festivities. As we headed down into the hotel lobby, the casino had awoken with new life. Large swaths of people, all eager to celebrate the New Year with Tiesto waited on line to check in. The casino had spared no expense for their New Years celebrations, the gorgeous Bambi would ring in the New Year at HQ Nightclub while Tiesto spun for a sold out crowd at Ovation Hall, Revel’s crown-jewel concert hall that dwarfs the venues available in Manhattan. Saying the place was mobbed would have been an understatement. Concertgoers, all dressed to the nines in dangerously short skirts and GQ-friendly suits, funneled into the 1000+ person auditorium eager to ring in the New Year with the most popular man in EDM. The production in Ovation Hall is unparalleled, gorgeous acoustics and jaw-dropping lighting elements entranced us as Tiesto spun alone on the spacious stage. Opening with “Chasing Summers,” Tiesto ignited the crowd with what would become a set embodied by a veritable who’s who of progressive anthems. We could mention the power that “Pair of Dice” had over the crowd, or wax philosophical about how gorgeous “Adagio for Strings” sounded through the massive stacks, but that wouldn’t do adequate justice to what we experienced that night. As his set continued things quickly became a blur of bodies and beats. The energy in the room blinded us, enveloping everything in a euphoric haze. It was the sort of feeling that is so often amiss at the sardine-like clubs of Manhattan’s nightlife. As the clock struck midnight we were showered in a rain of ticker tape and for the next 3 hours Tiesto would deliver one of his most powerful performances of the 2012 (well, technically 2013) – it was one of those New Year’s Eves that everyone in attendance will surely never forget, closing out one of the most incredible weekends we’ve spent at a casino outside of Vegas.
Which continues to beg the question – if you haven’t been to Revel yet, what are you waiting for?