The dancefloors and bottle-service booths might be packed just like the before-times, but the pandemic will continue to impact and change the Las Vegas nightclub industry for the immediate future.

Some club hoppers have noticed that many support acts—veteran DJs who open and close for big-name headliners—have catapulted to the top of the bill during busy weekends. One of the most familiar names to make that jump recently is Mikey Francis, a Las Vegan who conquered the local music scene and toured nationally with former acts Afghan Raiders and Black Boots before he hit the Strip for DJ residencies at Omnia and Jewel.

“During the pandemic, everyone lost so much work, and then had to start from square one,” Francis says. “In March, [Hakkasan Group] gave me a call to help open up the Terrace at Omnia, just to try it, and nobody knew how it was going to go. But it snowballed into everything that’s happening now, and this has probably been one of the best years of my career.”

Now in his seventh year playing Hakkasan Group venues, Francis will star at Hakkasan at MGM Grand on December 18 and appear next at Omnia at Caesars Palace (in the big room, not the tiny Terrace) on January 25. When there were no gigs to be had, he spent a lot of time at home writing music and honing in on his production skills, while also logging valuable family time and getting a real estate license.

“The ramp-up was intense,” he says, reflecting the general consensus that the Vegas club comeback moved more rapidly than anyone anticipated. “Once things started moving again, and they didn’t have the big headliners yet, they gave me some opportunities and the next thing I know, I had these headlining slots going.”

It’s been an interesting transition for many local, experienced DJs, often underappreciated and unsung talents who “know the rooms, know how to do it and put in long hours,” Francis says. “It was a no-brainer for us and for the clubs, too, which didn’t have to spend those crazy [headliner] dollars.

“Ultimately, it comes down to demand. Were people going to come? But it was like opening the floodgates—people were so excited to [come back],” he continues. “It was a really golden time from March to May, and the [audiences] were mostly people who really wanted to connect with others and just be there for this really magical time.”

Things are cycling closer to normal now, but it’s likely you’ll still see Francis and names like Kid Conrad, Karma, Mondo and C-LA atop the marquee at these venues next to Steve Aoki, Lil Jon and other luminaries for quite some time.

And Francis is working to continue to expand his musical footprint, possibly taking advantage of the Tao-Hakkasan merger to spin at other venues (“I would love to play Marquee, but ultimately Omnia is home for me,” he says) while branching out with streaming on Twitch and gradually collecting an album’s worth of new tracks.

“I’ve been definitely working a lot in the studio, and I think next year will be a big year for me getting some releases out,” he says. “As a DJ that kind of plays everything. It can be a little convoluted with where you want your music to go, but for me, I have to stay true to my roots. I like the tech-house sound mixed with my vocals, and I’m just trying to be on the cutting-edge of something new. That’s my goal musically, and I’m not in a huge rush, but I feel like I’m close to some really good stuff.”

MIKEY FRANCIS December 18, 10:30 p.m., $25-$40. Hakkasan Nightclub, hakasangroup.com.

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