Next time you walk into a restaurant bypass all the wonderful sights and scents, and ask yourself: Do patrons seem vibrant or chill? Are they smiling? Sitting close? Groovin’ in their seats? Bored?
As the resident DJ of Hakkasan’s restaurant space since its 2013 Las Vegas opening, Matthew Tuttle a.k.a. DJ Shoe makes several laps a night around the dining room as during his Thursday-Sunday shifts, covertly assessing how diners are responding to an ingredient in their experience that has nothing to do with food: his music.
“In a club, the music is at the forefront, and the reaction from the crowd is immediate,” the 43-year-old Las Vegas native says.
“The key for the restaurant is in the subtlety. The specialty of being a restaurant DJ is to let the atmosphere and food be the star of the show and have the music be a consistent soundtrack that enhances, not overtakes, from the overall experience.”
Nobody knows that relationship better than Tuttle. When he was handpicked by Little Buddha owner Raymond Visan to craft that venue’s world-music vibe during his 2003-10 tenure, Tuttle became the first Las Vegas DJ to headline a restaurant. His career soon flourished on both coasts—he had a residency at Dragonfly, in Washington, D.C.,—boosted by his ability to create signature sounds for restaurants.
Tuttle was hired by Hakkasan to play to his strengths—notably, his ability to weave in a global sound for Hakkasan’s international crowd—and to have the dining room soundtrack “take more of a ‘musical wallpaper’ role instead of being a [heart]-pumping experience.” Next time you’re there, see if you recognize DJ Shoe’s signature set “flow.” It starts with an appetizer of chill, down-tempo lounge. Then, for a palate cleanser, comes an uptick in volume, tempo and energy, followed by an entrée of musical themes that mimics what’s going on in the world (winter begets winter songs; a full moon, songs about full moons). A meal of music, delicately prepared, for your aural—not to mention oral—pleasure.