By Brock Radke
Saturday, June 18, 2022
The Blended Festival, a music and wine event set for three cities this fall, announced this week the musical lineup for its earliest edition in Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 10-11. Las Vegas Strip nightclub headliners the Chainsmokers, Lil Jon, and Kaskade are among the acts set to soundtrack the weekend festival that also includes art installations, a huge wine tent, a culinary stage featuring renowned chefs, and other demonstrations and vendors.
It sounds like the kind of event that set up camp in Las Vegas, which has become a festival hub in recent years. While Blended is currently only planned for Nashville, San Diego and Austin, Texas, a future expansion to Vegas could become a reality, considering the event’s freshly formed connection to burgeoning hospitality company In The Moment.
Local nightlife and entertainment veterans Jason “JRoc” Craig and Michael Fuller formed their company prior to the pandemic and began work developing and managing operations at Élia Beach Club at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which opened last summer. Once COVID started to clear, In The Moment accelerated several other projects, including signing on to handle the Blended Festival.
“We’re excited to be in that space, and we’re looking at how we can enhance the festival experience by … really creating a show around the music and the wine and everything else that’s happening,” Craig said.
“Blended is something that would work here [in Vegas], and we are pursuing that. If you look at something like EDC [the annual Electric Daisy Carnival dance music festival], they sell out without even putting out the lineup, because people understand what they are going to get from that experience. We’re trying to get something going close to that, just on a smaller scale.”
In recent years, Craig has partnered with Clique Hospitality to develop venues in Las Vegas including The Barbershop and CliQue Lounge at the Cosmopolitan and Oxford Social Club in San Diego. He started his hospitality career as a bartender at the infamous Center Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel and spent several years in nightlife at the Palms during its heyday, where he worked with Fuller.
Fuller has been an instrumental promoter of the Las Vegas nightlife scene through the years, creating influential events at the House of Blues, Foundation Room, and China Grill at Mandalay Bay, also spending time managing seminal venues like Club Utopia, Baby’s, Ice, Studio 54, and the Nine Group venues at the Palms.
In The Moment also recently added Bob Shindelar as managing partner, a UNLV grad who spent years with the Tao Group and more recently started his own consulting firm collaborating with Temple Nightclub in San Francisco and Denver. “Bob coming into the team is a huge piece of the puzzle looking forward,” Craig said. “His energy is important to us and we want to surround ourselves with the brightest and best.”
Now in its second summer season at Virgin, Élia Beach Club is emerging as an intriguing alternative in the big Vegas pool party scene, lining up diverse musical artists and programming theatrical experiences to augment the fun. Snoop Dogg performs tonight and will return for Fourth of July weekend, and French producer and pioneering future-house music DJ Tchami will play Élia on June 25.
In The Moment is preparing to unveil another Vegas partnership soon with a new ultralounge inside a major Strip resort property, but that’s not all the group has coming up this summer. Fantasy Lab, a themed experiential venue that launched in Mexico City in 2020, will be opening up in a first-floor former retail space at the Fashion Show mall on the Strip in August, thanks to its management deal with ITM.
“These types of experiences have had an explosion here in the last few years, at places like Area15,” Craig said. “This fits into that category in a lot of ways but it’s a different style of space. It’s exciting and different, it caters to young and old, and it’s the first one in the United States, and we’re super happy to take that on.”
Fantasy Lab will offer a 70-minute experience as guests move through seven different rooms, each curated to present an immersive, dream-themed experience. Craig said it’s perfect for social media content creators who “want to take that cool picture or video,” and there will be a paired food and beverage component as well. And since the Fashion Show spot will have its own direct entrance and valet, it can operate beyond mall hours.