Last month, I was covering a Nine Inch Nails show, sitting in the balcony at The Joint, when a couple of ladies next to me almost got into a fistfight.
It was a pretty typical concert scenario: The woman to my left was multiple cocktails into her Friday night, drinking as if there was a roaring inferno in her lungs that only a mixture of vodka and Red Bull could extinguish, talking loudly with her equally tipsy friend, digging the show but not being consumed by it.
The woman directly in front of her, however, was locked in on the performance, a tractor-beam of concentration who didn’t want to hear some drunken chick chattering away behind her, interrupting her pursuit of oneness with Trent Reznor.
The latter made this known to the former, loudly.
Profanities were exchanged.
Each party threatened to have the other kicked out of the show.
Tension hung in the air — the show was a part of NIN’s “Tension 2013” tour, fittingly enough — until the inebriated instigators left to hit the bar yet again, ending the confrontation.
Scenes like this are fairly commonplace, because concerts are inherently social events — you’re there to have a good time, often with friends, and share an experience — and yet to be too social is to potentially spoil someone else’s experience.
I doubt that The Chelsea, the eye-popping new venue at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, was built with the specific goal of alleviating near-skirmishes like the one I witnessed.
But the venue was designed to account for, even facilitate, social interaction in a way that won’t annoy the crap out of those who just want to shut up and watch the show.
“It felt like there was a gap in the model,” says Lisa Marchese, chief marketing officer at The Cosmopolitan, speaking of conceptualizing a music venue while sitting in the bar area in the back of The Chelsea’s upstairs gallery level. “The idea of putting someone in a theater facing forward quietly and not embracing the social dynamic at all felt like an opportunity for us to create spaces that are more social.”
Marchese’s is one such space.
Appointed with mix-and-matched ottomans, mirrors and rugs, the large, lounge-style environment has a living room feel to it, comfortable and inviting.
It has personality — the personality of a theater enthusiast with an eye for vintage wares.
And yet, were a band to be playing on the stage below, we’d still be in the halo of the performance, not wholly removed from it, able to hold a conversation, hear the show and not bother anyone in the process.
Nearby are The Chelsea’s VIP boxes, which, in keeping with the social vibe that the venue is aiming to cultivate, are open as opposed to closed-off from the rest of the room.
The whole venue has an open feel to it, in fact, with excellent sight lines throughout its 40,000 square feet, which provides for a capacity of just more than 4,000.
Aesthetically, the space is a mix of grit and glamour, what Marchese describes as a theater dropped into an industrial factory, with lots of exposed metals and reclaimed wood contrasted with stage props like rigging rope and theatrical backdrops, which hang above the illuminated staircase that leads to the gallery level.
“We wanted to resurrect the theater concept, but in a way that felt reinterpreted,” Marchese says of the mix.
“We think that mashup is what makes it feel interesting, makes it feel homey, but like it has a story behind it.”
The Chelsea opens on Dec. 29 with a show by Bruno Mars, who will kick off a series of 10 performances at the venue spanning through 2014.
So far, rapper Childish Gambino and country singer Eric Church have also been confirmed to play the room next year.
The new Chelsea replaces the old Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan, which hosted shows from such big names as Stevie Wonder, The Killers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Black Keys, but was not designed as a full-time music venue.
Instead, it was really just a large ballroom where a stage would be erected and then dismantled following a performance.
The new venue has been a year-and-a-half in the making, with an emphasis on an attention to detail, right down to the pillows on the love seats, Marchese says.
“It’s those small touches,” she says, “that make it feel like a place you want to spend some time.”
And, if all goes according to plan, that time won’t be spent arguing with talkative strangers.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.