The Church sees the lights

The Church


Denver's elite nightclub shows what
it takes to be dubbed "the country's best club"

By Daphne Carr

While most of the world’s pilgrims go to their sanctuary by day, we of the night have increasingly found nirvana in former places of worship. Dance clubs love to exploit the notions of pagan beat worship, the DJ as God, and the hedonistic return to our childhood places of Sunday monotony.

Denver’s The Church, recently named “Best Club” at Club Systems’ Club World Awards in Vegas, has become known by DJs, promoters and partiers as one of America’s premier dance establishments. Housed in a gothic cathedral over 100 years old, The Church radiates natural ambience and a certain romanticism that gives an average of 1,600 clubgoers a night a chance to indulge either their pious or extra naughty sides. And since
the building in which The Church resides was slated to be a parking lot when it was saved in 1994 by Denver club guru Regas Christou, its resurrection offers Denver-ites a place for any transformation they may need.

But while researching The Church for the January nominee issue, this writer stumbled upon some troubling words about the club. While the atmosphere, the staff and the DJs were magnificent, many websites agreed, the sound and lights were “terrible.” Too few fixtures and not enough sound in this cavernous space made for a hollow, underwhelming impact. Frankly, I was worried. How could one of Club Systems’ top clubs have a kitten-sized show for their lion-like space?

Bribing Sasha
That’s what Brad Roulier of Together Productions also wondered. A longtime rave promoter, Roulier came in to book talent for The Church’s Thursday nights about two years ago. But he was concerned that the booth and system didn’t match the world-class talent – like Carl Cox and Paul van Dyk – he was bringing in. Legend has it that one evening he spotted a way to make his worries known, and slipped super-DJ Sasha $100 to drop the news on Christou: You need a new system.

All this was happening while Tim Hannum, of Houston-based Diavolo Systems (so named because, according to Hannum, “the devil’s in the details”), was revamping The Church’s light show. For the venue’s high, vaulted ceilings, Hannum opted for a multi-tiered design with a custom steel piping system integrated into the shape of the arches and surrounding space. The top tier was fitted with Coemar iSpot 575 moving heads; lower tiers with ProSpot 250 LX moving heads, pre-existing Dataflash stobe lights and Antari foggers. Hannum also switched to the Avolites Azure 2000 desk, replacing the Hog 1000 on which The Church’s light jock Ron Tucker had become a true artist.

To help Tucker out with the new desk, which Hannum called “more ideal for a nightclub setting than the Hog,” Hannum offered a complete training session on the functions and practical uses of the Azure 2000. “I believe that knowledge is power, and in knowing how to program sexy, theatrical shows instead of the constant, bloated overkills that most clubs do, a good light operator like Tucker can only become stronger with this board.”

“It’s a very hands-on board and encourages creative lightshows that work with the unique architecture of the building,” he continued. “After a big build-up, a fade out on the ceiling of The Church is amazing. People notice these simple things.”
Hannum adds that in addition to his technical prowess, light jock Tucker is a wiz with the rotating talent. “Ron has to deal with the freaks, the DJs, every night. Some can’t stand the lights; always want it dark. Others, they come in and they don’t know what they want. Ron always gets it right for them and keeps the club looking 100 percent.”

Also added to the mix was a custom video system made up of three Hitachi CP-S317W video projectors pointed on special Plexiglas screens made by the Speed of Sound, onsite sound tech Mike McCray’s custom-fab company.

Within weeks of the light rig’s completion, work began on the sound system. Soon, a plan was sketched for a fully customized JBL rig, including eight JBL AM6200/64 horn loaded mid/high packs, four JBL ASB6118 mid subs, and eight JBL ASB6128V super subwoofers arrayed in two packs of four. The booth was brought up to par with two Pioneer CDJ-1000 CD players and two Technics 1200 turntables, controlled by an Allen & Heath XONE:62 mixer and monitored through two JBL MPro 415’s.

Teens and Trash
Another fabulous feature of this main room is the bar – a custom-built structure created with pieces of The Church’s original pews. Perfect for high volume and totally organic to the space, it is the paragon of good planning in a historical building like that of The Church.

The club also holds a wine bar, sushi bar, cigar room, basement area and an outdoor patio, each with a distinctive feel and intended audience. Christou hopes to turn his basement area, which now features local DJs spinning retro classics and live bands playing “funky, jazzy dance music,” into a Denver-style ultra lounge “not unlike Tabu,” he said, referring to the swank MGM Grand space where he won the Club World disco globe this past March.

A more subtle reason for winning this award was their sense of community. Working at The Church isn’t just passing drinks over the pew bar to Denver’s hot young things, it’s going out after close to pick up trash in the surrounding area or, mid-eve, testing sound levels behind the club to make sure they meet the neighbors’ standards (and those neighbors, after hesitancy over their local church becoming “a bar,” are now dedicated regulars). With the JBL system Hannum installed, the deep bass and crisp highs stay within. The system can do little, however, about the garbage.

The Church also has an 18+ Thursday, a logistical nightmare Christou’s willing to have, because in his book, “if you’re old enough to drive a tank, you’re old enough to dance in my club.” But this young crowd is musically educated, explained Roulier. “We can book different types of DJs and get different crowds. A good percentage actually come to hear the music, not just get drunk and get…” Well, you know. And given those options, why are so many people there for the music? “Well, Denver clubs are only open until 2am,” said Roulier. “and when we put on raves, they’d go until 6am. We brought in a lot of talent to those parties and people learned to love a certain sound. Now, they’re older and so are we. But many of them came from those days and know what a good DJ is.”

“No Compromise”
It’s not all high-art DJ skill that Roulier books for The Church though. For a recent “pimps and hoes” theme night, Together Productions booked one Ron Jeremy as host. If you see the affable Roulier around (as if he’s ever not working), ask him to tell you a funny story about Jeremy throwing a tantrum while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sweatpants. It’s these stories that keep promoting from being all about the money.

And of course, neither is club owning. Christou is one of Denver’s nightlife gurus. His properties include the Funky Buddha, a martini lounge; 2am, an after-hours bar; The Deadbeat Club, a college bar; Fat Daddy’s, a hip diner; and the temporarily closed Vinyl, a club the size of The Church which suffered a collapsed roof in this winter’s brutal snowstorms. But The Church, Christou said, stands out in his group of clubs because “there could be no compromise to the structure of the building” and therefore its anything but your traditional “disco lounge” full of intrusive toys and in-your-face effects. They’re there, of course, but The Church’s natural grandeur and its staff’s good planning make them just another part of what makes it the crème de la crème of the American club scene.

The Church, 1160 Lincoln, Denver, Colorado,

DJ Booth
(custom DJ booth counter designed by Mike McCray of The Speed of Sound)
2 - JBL MPro 415 DJ monitors
2 - Pioneer CDJ-1000 CD players
2 - Shure White label stylus/headshell cartridges
2 - Technics 1200 turntables
1 - Allen & Heath XONE:62 professional mixer
1 - Shure SM58 vocal microphone

9 - Crown IQ-PIP-USP2 DSP-based IQ modules
8 - JBL AM6200/64 mid-high packs
8 - JBL ASB6128V dual 18-inch subwoofers
5 - Crown Audio MA 5002vz amplifiers
4 - Crown Audio MA-24X6 amplifiers
4 - JBL ASB6118 mid subwoofers
1 - BSS ProSys PS-8810 system processor

12 - Coemar ProSpot 250 LX moving heads
6 - Coemar iSpot 575 moving heads
4 - High End Systems AF-1000 DataFlash strobes
2 - Antari Z1200 foggers
1 - Avolite Azure 2000 Touring System w/graphics tablet
1 - Grey Interface DMX splitter/terminator
3 - Hitachi CP-S317W video projectors
3 - Peerless video mounts
3 - Custom plexiglass video screens by The Speed of Sound

Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications