Twilo, Miami



A floated wood dancefloor improves Twilo's acoustic environment.

Can those two words go together?
By John Landers

A sea of sweaty, shirtless bodies cavorts on the crowded dancefloor, gleefully gyrating to the relentless bass emanating from the four corners of the room. Outside, dawn is breaking, but inside, the party is still going strong. The entire room is glowing to the beat – toned torsos sway in pulsing washes of light, creating a colorful panorama of hedonistic delight. As the music builds to a thundering crescendo, waiters bring out platters of fresh fruit to the happy revelers.

Just another Sunday morning at a New York City superclub? Anthem-hour at a Midwest circuit party? Inside an Ibizan mega-venue? No, this is Miami…downtown Miami. But no, it ain’t Space. And believe it or not, the club going off isn’t formally open: This is a “sound check” party, a way for the tech team to tune the room with warm bodies in it.

Twilo Miami had its first paying patron in September, but the venue is still not done – and it may never be. While other club owners would be content to get the systems up and running, open the doors, and start making money, Phil Smith and his partners Jaime Cardona and Aaron Andre are intent on continuously improving the space first. “It’s still a work in progress,” says production manager Drew Bongiorno.

The improvements aren’t limited to moving sofas or making subtle adjustments to the EQ settings, however. “Every week we’ve made significant changes to the sound and lighting,” Bongiorno explains. New speaker cabinets are brought in, scanners are swapped out, and entrances are added on a regular basis (yes, contractors knock down walls to create new doorways, just to improve the flow of the main room).

So it’s impossible to offer a definitive description of the club’s evolving systems. Instead, consider this to be a snapshot of Twilo Miami – an accurate look at the venue as it was at press time. Only Phil Smith knows for sure what changes lie ahead, and he’s not one to give away his business secrets.

Lights are controlled by a Martin Fingers board with ELO touch screens.

“Just Like New York”
Twilo Miami may be physically located on downtown’s club strip – next to Space, Nocturnal and Studio A – but the venue seems to belong to a parallel nightlife universe, an alternate reality where dancing, not drama, matters most. In a town where clubbers pay more attention to the VIP section than the DJ booth, Twilo represents a dramatic challenge to the status quo: No celebutantes. No over-priced drinks. No smoking. No kidding.

Like its late, great New York City namesake, Twilo is the brainchild of inimitable Phazon head Smith ( Having been part of influential clubs like Paradise Garage and Sound Factory, Smith seems intent on resurrecting more than just a famous brand name. “It’s going to be just like Twilo New York,” he maintains.

The fact that Smith also runs the company responsible for the design and installation of his venue’s sound and lighting systems tells you where Twilo’s priorities lie: It’s all about the music, with regular appearances by DJs like Junior Vasquez, Victor Calderone, and Danny Tenaglia. “If you’re going to Twilo, you’re going to dance,” says Bongiorno, “not to see-and-be-seen.” While the club does offer limited bottle service and a modest VIP area (this is south Florida, after all), the emphasis is on the dancefloor.

One of the biggest factors contributing to the overall sound of the room is the polished wood floor itself, which Smith calls “critical.” While the wooden surface gently absorbs some of the higher frequencies, the entire floor was floated and isolated from the concrete sub-floor in order to avoid unwanted bass resonances. “That way,” Smith says, “you hear the speakers, not the room.” With additional acoustic treatment on the ceiling and upper part of the walls, the natural reverb of Twilo’s main room is exquisite. “We didn’t want it to be too live, like a gymnasium, or too dead, like a recording studio,” notes Bongiorno. “Phazon spent a lot of time getting the acoustics right.”

Currently, the sound system consists of premium Dynacord and Crown components, plus custom Phazon pieces, all carefully calibrated to create a balanced, detailed, and powerful audio environment. As good as it all sounds, though, Smith and his enthusiastic staff seem driven to make the Twilo system even better…even if that means the occasional massive change.

Before the initial opening, for example, “everything from the Berthas up to the ceiling was pulled out and re-installed,” Bongiorno says. Then they changed everything again, ripping out a Dynacord Cobra-4 system because the medium-throw design of some of the enclosures didn’t suit the room. So Dynacord developed special near-field versions, just for Twilo, which were still in the club at press time. While Phazon is best known for custom-built sound systems, Smith isn’t averse to mixing and matching certain off-the-shelf components with custom pieces, if that’s what yields the best results.

Drivers in the mid-bass Phazon quad boxes are also scheduled for an upgrade, and even more power is being added. “All new amplifiers,” Smith insists – not that the previous amps weren’t more than adequate for the job. But there’s no such thing as too much headroom.

Between major modifications, minor tweaks are made on a nightly basis. “The humidity levels down here affect the cabinets,” Bongiorno says. “You can’t set it and forget it.” To minimize environmental issues, the system is thoroughly warmed up before each event. Each driver is checked; all necessary adjustments made. “You want it to be perfect. Every. Single. Time,” says Smith.

The Phazon SDX3700 mixer anchors the DJ booth.

The Matrix
Twilo’s primarily Martin Professional lighting system employs a lot of smaller fixtures, like SCX700 Mania scanners. “Some people say they look like 48 UFOs over the dancefloor,” says Bongiorno. Twilo also boasts 16 Martin MAC 250 Krypton moving heads and half a dozen Martin Atomic strobes, so there’s plenty of candlepower to play with. The system is dead-hung on an industrial-looking flat black grid. It may not be as glamorous as polished, pre-fabricated trussing, but it allows the Twilo techs to fine-tune individual instruments, or even reconfigure the entire system with a minimum of fuss.

After getting the system operational, the club’s new production manager turned his attention to programming. “I’ve never dealt with an owner who had specific looks he wanted created,” says Bongiorno, citing Smith’s hands-on approach. “Phil wanted a look that he had created in New York with pinspots. He wanted the lights to march across the room; for the programming to have a lot of matrixing. He wants to push the established boundaries of club lighting, to make it more theatrical.” The end result is unique to the Miami market. Instead of running all of the lights all of the time, different sections seem to pulse and glow on cue. “It’s a more purposeful look,” Bongiorno says.

In addition to the moving instruments, Twilo has a substantial LED installation: an Element Labs wall at the far end of the dancefloor, conceived by Dan Agne of Sound Investment ( “The LEDs are on a custom rack system so that they seem to float, and you can see the people behind them,” says Bongiorno. The floor-to-ceiling squares also function as room dividers, focusing the energy on the dancefloor, without isolating the rest of the interior.

But guess what? Plans are in the works to swap out some of the fixtures and add even more intelligent instruments, including Martin MX-10 Extreme scanners. “It’s evolving like everything else,” admits Bongiorno. “We’re eagerly awaiting Martin’s first LED fixtures. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be swapping out the entire lighting system again.”

Twilo is taking care of its patrons in other ways, too. Besides serving up platters of fresh fruit to those still dancing at dawn, the club is gently moving towards becoming a tobacco-free environment.

“Phil and the rest of us would like to have a non-smoking club for health reasons,” Bongiorno insists. “Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to enforce in Miami. We are trying, but it’s hit or miss at this point. I believe once we have a covered patio area outside it will become mandatory.”

A covered patio? What else is in store for Twilo Miami? “All right, my friend,” says Smith with a mischievous smile, indicating the end of the interview. “We’d better get back to work.”

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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications