Moon will soon pop the top off the show new Palms building (at left).
Raising the Roof
In theory it was a beautiful idea. A boutique nightclub called Moon on the top floor of the new Palms Casino Resort Fantasy Tower in Las Vegas. It would be complete with terrace views of the city, a state-of-the-art light show and, most spectacularly, a 30-foot by 60-foot retractable roof opening to the desert night sky.
But all big ideas come with trade-offs.
When Adam Wuertz, the technical director for N9ne Group (n9negroup.com) and the developer of the club, heard about Moon’s roof, he groaned. Remove the ceiling and you lose the overhead lights; conventional wisdom of club lighting is lost as well.
“I loved the idea,” Wuertz said, “but that’s killing me on lighting. The workhorse of a lighting rig is right over the dancefloor.”
So N9ne and its partners – Kelley Technologies, a Vegas-based AV and visual effects firm, and TOMCAT, a Midland, TX, company that designs trusses and staging for large rock shows like the Rolling Stones – threw out the conventional wisdom.
Months of brainstorming produced a solution: a lighting pipe affixed to six motorized steel arms controlled by the club’s lighting tech. When the roof opens, the arms extend eight feet over the dancefloor.
“It’s going to have a little bit of a ‘Wow’ effect,” said Adam Gregory, lighting and effects designer for Kelley. “We wanted something unique, something that would amaze people.”
N9ne Group's Ghostbar also has "wow" lighting.
Moon opens this month with Martin Professional lights hanging from the motorized arms, a powerful audio system anchored by Dynacord Alpha Concept speakers and subwoofers and an eye-popping video projection system anchored by Christie digital projectors.
Awash in a celestial palate of gold, yellow, nickel and silver LEDs, the intimate, 12,500 square-foot Moon is, in the words of one person involved, “very VIP.” VIP booths with table service, and reservation lists booked into next year, surround the dancefloor. Another VIP room is accessible through a discrete entrance just off the elevator, while two outdoor terraces feature views of the Strip that will make you drop your $60 Martini.
“There will always be tons of celebrities,” says Michael Fuller, director of corporate marketing for N9ne. “There’s nothing comparable to it.”
All In The Family
It is meant to be the crown jewel atop the 53-story Fantasy Tower, the newest temple to instant gratification offered by Las Vegas. For all those waiting anxiously for bowling alleys, hardwood basketball courts and stripper poles right in your hotel room, your prayers have been answered.
Described as a “boutique” nightclub – P.R.-speak for small – Moon has a capacity of only 500, which is much smaller than N9ne’s other recent efforts in Vegas. But it will be more exclusive, no less ambitious and just as hot a ticket, Fuller says.
Like N9ne’s other big Vegas project, the Palms’ tower next door featuring Rain, ghostbar and N9ne Steak House, Moon is surrounded by family. A quick trip down the escalator puts visitors in the posh Playboy Club, a N9ne partnership with Hugh Hefner. N9ne principal Michael Morton’s late father, Arnie Morton (founder of Morton’s of Chicago) worked with Hefner on opening several Playboy clubs in the 1960s and oversaw the closing of the last one 17 years ago.
Another floor below is Nove (pronounced no-VAY, Italian for the number nine), a restaurant that promises a hip atmosphere, beautiful people and a new take on Italian food with dishes like Mediterranean sushi.
Moon, the Playboy Club and Nove “are all integrated. It makes us the preeminent nightlife destination for Vegas, and quite possibly America and maybe even the world,” Fuller says.
Rigging A New Solution
Moon’s star attraction is the roof, which will be closed at the beginning of each night. Devoid of trusses and overhead lighting, the ceiling instead provides a canvas for a video show powered by Christie LX-55 and High End DL.2 digital projectors ringing the dancefloor.
The projectors feed into a Jupiter Fusion 940 controller, allowing a VJ or LD to break video into eight segments that swoop around the room and merge back together at the ceiling, painted a semi-gloss gray to provide the perfect background for digital images.
Sometime during the night – and the timing varies every night – the roof is opened in theatric fashion, preceded by an eerie fog show created by four Martin Magnum Club smoke systems as the video show becomes more frantic and the music more delirious.
When all goes to plan, party-goers won’t even notice that the roof has opened until the desert winds blow away the fog.
“It’s definitely a gag that we will exploit to its full effect,” Wuertz said.
With the roof opened, the motorized truss goes into effect. It is called a telescoping assembly – meaning the arms slide out from within themselves like a telescope – and the apparatus is run by a single-gear motor controlled by a touchscreen, said Dave Sowa, TOMCAT project manager.
“This is the first nightclub application that we’ve ever done using a telescoping assembly,” Sowa says. “So we feel it is very unique.”
Attached to each arm are four lights by Martin: three MAC 250 Kryptons and one MAC 250 Wash. Eighteen Martin MX-10 scanners are also attached to light pipes around the perimeter of the dancefloor. The moving lights are all controlled by a GrandMA console.
“Even with the roof open, we can still keep a decent level of atmosphere throughout the club,” Wuertz said.
The surreal environment is heightened by the shimmering glass floor embedded with more than 400 LED tiles that change color as dancers move about them. Another 40 ColorBlast LED fixtures line the walls around the roof opening to illuminate the retractable roof.
The truss at N9ne's Rain is also unique.
A lot of brainpower was expended keeping the place lit. But integrating a top-notch sound system into the club’s intimate atmosphere also proved a challenge.
“Being up on top of the tower, space was extremely limited,” Wuertz said. “We didn’t want to have just a big stack of speakers in the middle of the walkway.”
Infinite Audio Systems solved the problem by jury-rigging six Dynacord Alpha Concept B3 subwoofers and six Alpha Concept X-1/90 full-range speakers to serve as go-go dancing platforms around the center of the club. A few smaller boxes, Alpha Concept V-1/90 full-range speakers, were bolted to dancing poles.
“Working with N9ne poses challenges,” said Lord Toussaint, the president and CEO of Infinite Audio Systems. “Their aesthetic concerns are second to none. We took a lot of steps to find architectural solutions.”
Toussaint said N9ne spared no expense with the Dynacord Alpha Concept system, which is also featured at Rain. “The best thing about the Alpha is that it’s amazing in every bandwidth. This stuff has it all,” he said.
Rounding out the sound system are several EAW products, including the JFX 100 full-range amplifiers in the VIP room, and the weather-protected, insect-proof UB82WP speakers and SB250WP subwoofers for the outdoor terrace.
“They make the best weather-protected speakers in the business,” Toussaint said.
Moon is merely the latest addition to the growing N9ne empire of upscale, hip nightlife venues. Moon guests will soon be able to look down and see the N9ne Group’s other planned venture with Palms’ owner, George Maloof, Jr. The Palms Pool and Bungalow will be three acres of aquatic-themed food, drink and fun right next door.
Fuller, N9ne’s corporate marketing director, said the various N9ne projects are meant to complement each other, not compete. The company expects guests to start their evening at Nove, head up to the Playboy Club to relax and then finish their night at Moon.
It’s a formula that worked for N9ne at the original Palms tower, where the N9ne Steak House, ghostbar and Rain worked together to make the company a force to be reckoned with in Vegas.
“It’s like maybe the Gas Light District (in San Diego) or SoHo in New York,” Fuller said of the Palms and its N9ne venues. “Except this is one nightlife destination under a roof.”