Jonnie Houston halts when asked what was the greatest challenge he and his brother, Mark, faced while opening On The Record at the Park MGM.
“The biggest challenge? Oh my God ” he says. “I can’t even say just one.”
There is a long pause, then a light comes on.
“The lights!” he finally says. “Honestly, I went to four light-bulb shops, and bought 200 light bulbs and changed every one myself. It’s almost to my standards. I’m all about lighting and sound and creating a vibe.”
“My brother and I are so design-and-build types. We’re used to going into a space, grabbing a piece of wood and a saw and building a cabinet or fixing whatever we want on the fly, but it just took a lot more time here.”
Such protocol reigns at Park MGM, which is undergoing widespread renovation and throwing open myriad amenities. Apart from OTR and Lady Gaga’s 29-show residency at Park Theater, Eataly also opened this weekend. The energy Friday night and in to Saturday morning was inside the 11,000-square-foot club cluster for Gaga’s official after-party, where an omnipresent collection of celebs helped the Houston twins open their first Vegas nightclub.
In the mix, at the club and earlier at the Gaga spectacle: Marisa Tomei, Jeremy Renner, Joel Kinnaman, Jesse Tyler Ferguson with husband Justin Mika, Regina King, Adam Lambert (who headlined the venue with Queen this year), rocker Dave Grohl (who would be great in residence, somewhere in VegasVille, with Foo Fighters) with wife Jordyn Blum, reality show phenomenon Lisa Vanderpump and “Dancing with the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba. Samantha Ronson was the unbilled DJ. The club mashes live musicians with its guest DJs, advancing the idea that live players have a place in the EDM culture.
The venue’s first “Bartender-in-Resident” was Aaron Polsky from Harvard and Stone in L.A., who held forth in the Vinyl Parlor, a cozy haunt where the star tender of bar served the “In the Evening” cocktail, a tribute to Led Zeppelin whose ingredients were a mix of Suntory Toki, Gran Classico bitters, Maurin Quina and a dash of Bittermans Burlesque bitters (but sadly, no squeeze of lemon down my leg, and I hope you get that reference).
It wasn’t possible for this first-time, but not last-time, visitor to hit OTR’s every nuance. But I did sidle up for a fizzy-and-cranberry at the ‘63 Bristol Lodekka double-decker bus, which has been turned into a bar and DJ booth. The bus was lifted to the property via helicopter in the early morning of Oct. 10 and hoisted into place on the club’s second floor by a crane. Stirring, really.
Elsewhere, the unmarked speakeasy room — well, it’s actually marked by dozens of cassettes concealing its hidden door — is a neat concept. The spot reminds of the secret room at Intrigue at Wynn Las Vegas, and the unmarked cloak room at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at the Cosmopolitan.
Certainly, there is more to enjoy in subsequent spins through OTR. By the time Grohl hopped up for an impromptu (I understand it was impromptu, at least) karaoke performance, I was long gone. But as I left, the Lights of Houston still shone brightly.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.