Tantric, Providence



Booty shaking Buddha.
By Mike Amon

When Rob Stepic opened Tantric in Providence last year, he wanted to give the city’s nightlife something it was sorely lacking: an upscale lounge where one could get a good drink at a fair price,” “have a sophisticated conversation,” and “sit down and relax.”

It had a Buddhist theme and a lot of style. Its sleek suede couches were custom-designed to make patrons feel at home. Italian glass mosaic chandeliers hung above VIP tables, while four hand-made statues of Buddha watched over the lush interior. The music was vibe-heavy but low volume, the lighting dark and cozy, the walls butter cream set off by blood maroon trim.

Tantric was definitely something this tidy city of 175,000 had never seen before. But Stepic soon discovered that originality alone was not enough for success.

“It was too boring,” says Stepic, a former promoter of Boston nightclubs.
Tantric’s target demographic, the 20-something after-work crowd, “wanted to dance and release energy. On Friday night, they’re stressed out from work, and they just want to let off a little steam,” Stepic soon learned.

So Stepic, a businessman who owned trucking and embroidery companies before launching Tantric, decided to compromise with his customers. He allowed his DJs to stray from strictly jazzy vibes to hip-hop, house and rock. He installed a new lighting system to make the dancefloor more exciting. He began holding themed nights and closed the lounge’s kitchen.

But he also held fast to the lounge’s founding theme – a zen haven from the real world.

“There’s all these distractions in life, and you just want to escape, and that’s the idea of Tantric. You just come in and relax.” Stepic says. “The first part of the evening is still laid back and chilled out. For the first few hours, it’s still that place where you can come in and get a good drink at a good price. Then, as soon as midnight comes, it’s a full-on dance club.”

Lounge Plus Lighting
Turning a quiet, Orient-themed lounge into a dance party pad without completely upending the essence of the space was a delicate task. Stepic sought help from East Coast Lighting & Production Services, a Warwick, R.I.-based company that has been serving nightclubs and concert venues in the Northeast for more than 32 years.

“A lounge has to be more comfortable,” said Derek Iorfida, the ECLPS operations manager who handled the installation of a new lighting system in February. “You walk into a dance club, you are walking into a more excited environment right off the bat. With a lounge, you have to pay a lot more attention to the LED fixtures above the bar. Everything has to be dimly lit. It’s more of a living room feel.”

“The biggest challenge for Tantric,” Iorfida added, “was to keep it upscale without turning it into too much of a dancefloor atmosphere.”

For the main dance array, Iorfida and Stepic chose Martin Professional MX-4 scanners and Atomic 300 strobes, a major step up from the old lighting system.

“It’s like going from a HoJo to a Four Seasons,” Stepic said. “I could not wait to get rid of [the old lighting system].”

But because the dancefloor was in the middle of 5,000 square-feet of wide open lounge space, one big challenge was minimizing the effect that the dance lighting would have on the lounge’s feel elsewhere.

Iorfida rigged a mobile, 15’ x 6’ Trilite truss so that it concealed the scanners and strobes and prevented the space from looking industrial. It also isolated the more animated lighting effects to the dancefloor.

The new system “can set the mood,” Iorfida said. “When people start dancing, it can move. It added a huge dimension to the club.”

For mood lighting, Iorfida strategically placed 12 Chauvet Color Mist LED fixtures around the perimeter of the lounge. The Chauvets can be programmed to tie in with the main light array, but mostly provide a constant laid-back atmosphere for the bar and seating areas.

Tantric also now features a Chauvet HZ100 hazer for smoke effects. The entire system is run by a new Martin Professional Exciter controller, which gave the club “the most bang for the buck,” Iorfida said.

Unshakable Zen
The new lighting system compliments a sound system that was installed by one of Stepic’s friends. Though ECLPS will be installing a new audio system in Tantric this summer, Stepic added some interesting features into the current setup.

Because exposed speakers would detract from the lounge’s Eastern escape concept, Stepic rigged the DJ booth to conceal the club’s four Cerwin Vega EL-36 Earthquake subwoofers. Steel pipes support the DJ’s oak-wood console and props it well above the subs so their vibration doesn’t affect the DJ’s ability to mix. To keep the subs from vibrating violently against each other, Stepic applied insulating foam between the individual enclosures.

“It doesn’t affect the mixer,” Stepic said. “You can’t feel any vibrations.”

The DJ booth is set right next to the dancefloor to make the space seem more personal. Inside, the DJ has a Denon DN-X500 mixer, a Denon DN-S5000 CD player and two Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables.

Tantric’s sound system is powered by Crest commercial amplifiers. Four 15-inch RCF powered monitors surround the dancefloor, but those big guns aren’t typically used until prime time. Earlier in the evening, when Stepic likes to maintain a quiet lounge, 24 Klipsch surround monitors are in use throughout the club. A few are placed in the large VIP room, where patrons can adjust the volume.

Small Town Karma
With its new lighting system, Tantric has finally filled the niche in Providence Stepic had identified a few years earlier. Back then, he was running an embroidered uniform shop out of Newport and was often in Providence for business and pleasure. But he rarely had a good time.

“I always had to ask myself, ‘Where can I go?’” Stepic said. “Everywhere I went, it was always, ‘Why does my ice taste funny?’ or ‘Why are there no seats in here?’”

After he sold his company in 2003, Stepic decided to get back in the nightclub business and start his own in Providence. The Buddhist theme appealed to him, though not spiritually (“I have no religion,” he says). It was a business decision, he says, because it’s worked elsewhere.

The Buddhist-theme may seem a little tired to those who have seen it all, but club scenes, like politics, are local and what’s played out in Paris can play well in Providence.

“There was nothing like that here,” he said. “Most clubs in Providence are just a mosh-posh of shit. We wanted a club that really reflected a theme.”

But Stepic says a key to success is the ability to make changes within that theme.

“If something hasn’t worked, we’ve canned it,” Stepic said bluntly. “There’s still a huge list of things to do. I don’t ever want people to get bored with us.”



24 - Klipsch CMS 4.1 Satellite speakers
4 - RCF ART 315A powered monitors
4 - Cerwin Vega EL-36 Earthquake subwoofers
4 - Crest CA 12 amplifiers
2 - Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables
1 - Crest CA 9 amplifiers
1 - Ashly 3102 dual 31-band equalizer
1 - Ashly crossover
1 - Denon DN-S5000 CD player
1 - Denon DN-X500 mixer
1 - Sirius Satellite Radio

12 - Chauvet COLORmist LED fixtures
8 - Martin Professional MX4 scanners
4 - Martin Professional Atomic 3000 strobes
2 - Chauvet COLORmist Panel Packs
1 - Martin Professional Exciter 512 DMX controller
1 - Chauvet HZ1000 hazer
1 - OPTI Kinetics Trilite truss

1 - NEC PLUS 1000 lumen projector
4 - Sony 12”h TVs


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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications