Tens keeps adult club hours with Color Kinetics LEDs; upstairs Wicked gets dance club energy fom Martin and High End System fixtures.
Ace lighting on a hot pair of clubs
It’s Friday night and the entire building is bumping to the beat. Downstairs, the crowd is watching sultry dancers get dirrty (sic) onstage, illuminated by a wash of saturated, sexy color. Upstairs, the crowd is the show, gyrating together in hedonistic bliss as high-speed scanners sweep across the holographic dancefloor. Same patrons, different floor – and different fixtures. The overall vibe is deliciously decadent, but the sights and sounds in each room have been customized to meet the distinct demands of the separate entertainment environments. Welcome to Tens Show Club in Salisbury, Mass.
In the past, dance clubs and strip clubs were strictly separate entities: different patrons and very different lighting and sound needs. Today, however, with adult entertainment becoming an integral part of pop culture, the traditional distinctions between nightclubs and gentlemen’s clubs, as well as their respective system requirements, are fading away.
This emerging, anything-goes marketplace allows creative entrepreneurs to find new ways to attract dance club clientele to adult clubs, and vice versa. In order to add a new dimension to Tens, which opened in August of 2005, owner Mark Filtranti converted an unused upper area of his gentlemen’s club into Wicked, a swanky lounge space. Now, weekend patrons pay a single cover charge for access to both establishments, a policy that encourages a profitable cross-pollination between the clubs.
New England’s largest “adult entertainment complex” owes much of its success to the sophisticated lighting and audio installations that bring life to the 16,000 square-foot space. But filling the massive venue with enticing sights and sounds was no easy task.
Fortunately, a team of professionals came together to make it happen: Alan Redstone of Leominster, Mass.-based Wavelengths Pro Audio (waveproaudio.com) took care of the sound; Bob Harriman of Seabrook, N.H.-based Port Lighting Systems and Rick Naples of Boston-based TKO Sound (tkosound.com) handled the design, sales and installation of the lighting.
The separate lighting systems in Tens and Wicked were carefully designed and configured to meet the distinct needs of each room, but both feature some common elements and design goals. “The three main concerns,” according to Port Lighting’s Harriman, “were the bottom line, maintenance issues and electrical operating costs.”
To minimize maintenance headaches and cut energy consumption, Harriman specified plenty of LED fixtures and fitted conventional instruments with high-efficiency, long-life lamps. “Adult clubs are open seven days a week, 14 hours a day, and those lamps are on the whole time,” he explains. The initial investment in high-tech lighting has already paid off. “The club’s been open for a year now, and they haven’t had to replace a single lamp.”
As a bonus, the LED wash lights and stage PARs have added significant flexibility to both systems. Instead of changing out color gels to update the lighting palette, operators can simply press a button and get any hue in the spectrum. “With intelligent LED fixtures, we can make any color they want – instantly,” Harriman says. “And we don’t need dimmer packs.”
Downstairs, Tens has an upscale gentlemen’s club look with a 21st-century edge. One obvious difference is the quality of the black light effects. Instead of typical fluorescent near-UV fixtures, the venue is fitted with specialized luminaries. “The room is huge,” says Harriman, “but we were able to cover it all with just four 250W Altman black light fixtures.”
There’s no shortage of color, either. Martin MX-4 scanners sweep the main stage, while Color Kinetics LED instruments provide rich illumination for the performers. Overhead, a fiber optic installation provides 1,200 points of light for a night sky effect.
Everything is controlled through a Flying Pig Systems Hog PC with a custom interface that limits the DJ’s access to the programming functions. “You can’t do anything without a laptop, a serial cable and a password,” says Harriman. Operators can choose from a variety of preset cues that are updated on a regular basis.
The lighting system upstairs in Wicked is, well, wicked. “We had to make it look like a dance club,” Harriman remarks. “We put in a custom circular truss and other traditional nightclub elements.”
Holo-Walls enhance Wicked's club lights.
The only limitation, from a design perspective, was the relatively low ceiling. To maintain sight lines it was vital to keep the installation as low-profile as possible. “We only had an eight-foot ceiling,” recalls Harriman, “so we made a circle out of I-truss. It only took up a few inches, instead of a conventional box truss.”
Once the truss was in place, the rest of the system came together quickly. Color Kinetics LED wash fixtures provide powerful color, both around the room and on stage. Movement is provided by Martin MX-4s, as well as some first-generation High End Systems TrackSpots that were recycled from the original incarnation of Tens.
To enhance the lighting, holographic film was applied to the dancefloor and other surfaces throughout the room. The polyester-based film from Holo-Walls (holowalls.com) adds a three-dimensional kaleidoscopic effect to flat surfaces without the expense or complexity of a video wall installation.
“When I gave the owner the price on the dancefloor, I didn’t really think he’d go for it,” Harriman admits, but the effect was apparently well worth it. Whenever light hits the film the resulting refraction is quite dramatic, especially with a truss full of powerful scanners overhead. “That holographic dancefloor reflects the gobos back up to the ceiling,” Harriman explains.
But even more modest lights can create an eye-catching effect when properly applied to the special film. “[The owner] wanted that holographic film over a whole wall. We lit it up with just 12 track lights fitted with Congo Blue gels,” Harriman says. “For ten bucks, we were able to get exactly the look he wanted.”
Up on the Wicked stage, LED PAR cans provide live acts with all the illumination they want, without the heat and power consumption of conventional theatrical instruments. “We didn’t use normal PAR cans for the stage,” explains Harriman. “Now, the bands don’t complain about the stage being too hot, and each light only draws 30W, as opposed to traditional PAR cans that draw 500W or 1,000W.”
Like the separate lighting installations in Tens and Wicked, the venue’s dual sound systems had to satisfy the specific demands of each club environment. “Bob Harriman called me and asked if I’d like to bid on the Tens installation, and I said sure! They were working on a brand new building, and we always like that,” says Redstone.
Getting the job, however, required coming up with an appropriate system that would fulfill the club owner’s desires. “He wanted a lot of sound throughout the venue, but he didn’t want big black boxes taking away from the glamorous look of the place. We were the only company to offer specific speakers that would give him the high SPL that he wanted, but with a very small footprint.”
In order to create a system that would be heard and not seen, Redstone relied on low-profile loudspeakers and his own Yankee ingenuity. To rock the main stage, four two-way QSC ISIS I-282H surface-mount speakers were hidden under an existing wall soffit, powered by a pair of QSC CX902 amps, providing plenty of punch. “The theory is that the dancers perform better when they’ve got great stage sound.”
The real low-frequency thump comes from four McCauley AC22 subwoofers located under the stage itself. “That was another tough one, because the stage is only 15 inches high.” Fortunately, the relatively compact enclosures fit perfectly in the available space. The subs are also powered by QSC amps and create an impressive amount of bass for the entire room.
“There were a lot of requirements, but because we’re dealers for a lot of different pro audio companies, we could definitely put it together,” notes Redstone. By mixing and matching the right products for each aspect of the installation, Wavelengths was able to tailor the sound to create a seamless audio environment.
The upper floors at Tens are served by two dozen strategically placed speakers from QSC’s AcousticDesign line. AD-S52T two-way cabinets provide superlative sound in the VIP areas, while AD-C52T two-way ceiling speakers cover the dressing rooms and other peripheral areas. The 70V distributed system is powered by two four-channel QSC CX204V amplifiers for maximum flexibility.
Overall, the system offers Tens a winning combination of power and finesse. “There are eight separate zones,” Redstone says. “There are ceiling speakers that go around the perimeter of the bar, and surface-mount speakers in the VIP and balcony areas. You can walk from the front door, all the way around the first floor, start walking up the stairs, and go all the way up to the top balcony without experiencing any sound delays or phasing.”
Tens have eight sound zones, and DJs have limited system access.
And careful attention was paid to point-of-sale areas, so that customers would never have trouble ordering drinks at the bar or conversing with dancers in the private rooms. “The highest SPLs are on the stage, and then it tapers off from there.”
The system pleases the patrons, dancers, management, but certain DJs might find it a little frustrating. Although the booth is well appointed with an Allen & Heath Xone:62 mixer and a pair of Denon DNS3500 tabletop CD decks, the rest of the system is off-limits to DJs. “It’s all remotely run,” notes Redstone. “The amplifiers and DSP are hidden away so the DJs can’t get to them.” Since Tens is already tuned to perfection, any additional tweaking would only compromise the sound, risking damage to eardrums, speaker components and the bottom line.
After the success of Tens, Wavelength Pro was called in to design and install the Wicked audio system. This time, the owner wanted a traditional nightclub installation. “Upstairs, it’s a whole different world,” Redstone says. “We put this massive dance system in, all McCauley, and then [the owner] wanted a live area to have comedy or acoustic acts. After we put that system in, he decided he wanted to have bigger show bands, so we had to put a bigger live system in with a bigger board to accommodate all of the inputs and monitor mixes.”
The upgrade prompted Redstone to utilize another line of QSC Audio speakers, the Modular Design contractor series. “The live area has MD Series powered speakers, and a couple of powered subs on the floor, with McCauley wedges for the stage.” The self-powered cabinets were chosen for their sound quality as well as the convenience factor. “We had already designed the racks for all of the gear and amplifiers, so we didn’t really have room for more amplifiers,” Redstone says. “We were out of space, so having the amps in the speakers made sense. It worked out really well.”
Power for the passive speakers comes from a combination of QSC PLX2402 and PLX3402 amplifiers. “The room isn’t that big compared to downstairs, but there’s plenty of headroom,” maintains Redstone. “It’s like driving a Ferrari. You’re not going to drive 200 miles per hour all the time, but if you want to punch it, you can.”
All of the parties involved in the project seem delighted with the end result. Instead of working independently, the sound and lighting specialists were able to collaborate and equip this adult entertainment complex with some impressive systems. “Even though it was separate companies, it was a team effort,” says Harriman. A case where too many cooks were just enough.