LJs exercise restraint for an energetic light show, rather than the "look of a baseball diamond."
There's no place like...St. Louis?
Inside the massive Ameristar casino, located in St. Charles (a 30-minute hike from downtown St. Louis), a cobblestone – not yellow brick – road is the main thoroughfare from steakhouse to casino, coffeehouse to nightclub. City-style benches line the road, with smokers enjoying themselves as if they were actually outdoors. Outside new nightclub Home, velvet ropes are slung around the front carpeting and a slew of security staffers oversee clubbers queued on VIP and general admission lines.
Once admitted, the club’s entryway seduces with a plethora of softly glowing candles that adorn its ornately tiled walls. It leads through the serene “ultra lounge,” a secondary room filled with plush earth-toned couches and polished with a roaring fireplace. Beyond it lays the lub-dub of the club, the dancer’s crux, the main room.
A 30'x60' sunken dancefloor sits in the center, sandwiched by two 30-foot bars decked with ostentatious red chandeliers. The two other sides are lined with alcove banquettes, actually recessed into the walls, for bottle service. Down on the dancefloor, the four corners are also outfitted with VIP tables, whose clients are friendly enough to forego a dugout cover from the clubbers along the walkways above. These in-the-action tables have high-backed red vinyl banquettes and are each partially enclosed by a performance platform/custom bass enclosure.
Above, a dizzying lightshow dazzles from a starscape of lights hung like planetary rings around a four-foot mirror ball. An ample DJ booth, literally a box, is elevated in front of the dancefloor. From here, DJ AM is spinning the room into mashed-up frenzy.
Wait, did you say this was…St. Louis?
“I think it’s probably just as well that the regulars at Home in New York don’t realize what they’re missing,” says systems installer and designer Frank Murray, of UK-based Audio-Tek (www.audiotek.ie).
Emerald City not being an option, St. Louis seemed the next-best locale this side of the rainbow for the extension of the Home brand beyond its hometown of New York. And it wasn’t simply a matter of not being in Kansas (City) anymore.
“St. Louis may be considered a secondary market,” says Angel Music’s Derek Silverstein, “but with three professional sports teams, multiple casinos, a couple of million people living here, it’s definitely not a soft market.”
Back in 2004, Ameristar CEO Craig Neilsen (now deceased) decided that he wanted to insert a nightclub into one of his seven casinos, which dot the Midwest from Black Hawk, Colo. to Vicksburg, Miss., including the St. Louis and Kansas City sites. For what was soon a $262 million renovation project, Neilsen brought on nightlife development experts at Angel Music Group (www.angelmusicgroup. com). The Las Vegas-based company, which has global club brands Godskitchen, Global Gathering and NapkinNights.com under its umbrella, began as consultants, and eventually took on the operation and management of the $20 million, 17,500-square-foot Home.
Beyond the two-and-a-half years of planning, Silverstein has remained on board as the club’s general manager. Angel Music president Neil Moffit, however, was the one to bring New York club owner Jon B. into the deal, along with his Home brand.
Despite the tumultuous state of New York’s 27th Street, B continues to operate the original Home on that block, seven nights a week. The street, known as Nightclub Row, lost its two superclubs (crobar and Spirit), and gained a heavy police presence following a series of underage misadventures, including the rape and murder of a patron who had been drinking at Home. But with his new environmentally friendly Greenhouse slated to open in New York this spring (far away from 27th), two more Home locations (“in major club markets”) in the works, and, of course, St. Louis, B’s brand is poised to reveal a much different face from its 2005 beginnings.
Home's interior is classy, but modern.
Xbox + Aspects + Subs, Oh My!
The first audio elements to catch the eye are the sub enclosures. To the untrained eye, particularly with a crowded dancefloor, the four wooden boxes seem to be arms closing in the dancefloor’s corner VIP booths. But head-on it’s hard to miss the fat T-shape of speaker grills: a pair of Turbosound TA880L Aspect subs, over a TSW218 sub.
“We’ve actually got a degree of bass on the dancefloor that’s not normally associated with the club habitat,” Murray says, speaking of the combination of lows and sub lows in a single unit on the dancefloor. “They’re also suspended within those enclosures, on a spring-loaded acoustically calibrated isolating platform. That means they are isolated from the main structure of the building, both from an acoustic and from a mechanical point of view.” Working with on-site acousticians, the boxes were weight-factored and tuned to minimize the transference into the structure.
Balancing out the dancefloor, mid-highs are arrayed in groups of three TA880H cabinets, and additional NU Q 10 speakers flank the walkways.
“We have the ability to move people’s kidney stones physically out of their bodies,” Murray adds. “We could do surgery on that dancefloor, just by pushing buttons. It is one of those systems that has a huge amount of energy, but with musicality. Because from my point of view, if it doesn’t sound like music, if it doesn’t make you smile when you hear it playing what you want, it doesn’t work.”
Within the outermost layer of alcove seating, each booth has its own individually addressable dance system, with mid-highs on the walls and a subwoofer built-in underneath the seats. And all of that is in addition to a private plasma screen and Xbox. The video system runs off the Xbox systems, offering special effects and digital loops displayed over a smattering of 32- to 42-inch LG plasma screens.
While the main room serves as an all-out dance club, the second room was created as a conjoined ultra-lounge. “It is primarily a less energetic room,” Murray says. “And as a result we’ve toned it down quite considerably.”
The system here is zoned to merge with the main room system, or operate independently via its own DJ booth. The audio gear is also much more nipped and tucked: Subs are built into the couches all along the edge of the room. “The speaker clusters above are hung in pairs at the corners of that seating area,” Murray adds. “So there’s no defined dancefloor, but a dance-everywhere vibe.”
DJ AM on Home's premiere night, where he mashed old school Beasties with classic Daft Punk.
The Wonderful Wizard Extreme
“With the lighting, they wanted to make a statement over and above what is expected in a normal club,” Murray says. “They wanted what we call a ‘f*ck me factor,’ to bring it to a level that people would walk into the door and go, ‘Oh, what the f*ck is that?’”
To create that reaction, Murray and his team used what he calculates as three to four times the lighting power typically used by similarly sized venues in the Midwest or otherwise. With an array of Martin Professional’s MAC Entour, Wash, and Profile fixtures, Murray contrasted the more languid fixtures with the faster, more aggressive X10 moving mirrors.
“What we have there is an absolute panoply of the very best Martin [fixtures],” he says. “That said, because of the programming, you don’t get overly saturated with too much light at any time. And it could very easily be; with just the right switches you could have it look like a baseball diamond.”
Totaling nearly 100, the fixtures are set up in concentric circles around the Holland-imported disco ball, a tongue-in-cheek nod to certain gentlemen’s club interior design notes. It was initially planned to be constructed as a multi-tiered “chandelier” of lighting fixtures. But when the headroom remained undefined at deadline, they opted for a design of two circles around the huge mirrored centerpiece, and a surrounding square shadowing the dancefloor perimeter.
“Obviously, because of the very way moving heads are engineered, there is a lot of high quality optics,” Murray says. “And because the head you’re moving is slightly heavier than a mirror, the movements are more balletic and slightly more leisurely, whereas a mirror is a very, very light element to move. You can do very jagged, very quick, very precise, rapid movements. So you’ve got the contrast between the two elements all the time, particularly with hip-hop.”
In addition to the dazzling show the concentric setup creates in the center of the dancefloor, there are four clusters of color changers and moving heads above the four subwoofers. Those pods are programmed to spotlight dancers or performances that take place on top of the speakers, which are finished with a non-slip surface.
“It stemmed from that old-school idea that, once you’re on the dancefloor, you’re essentially on stage for the rest of the venue,” Murray adds. “We wanted to do something more, so we used the platform, [and] where the restraints are gradually less you get more freedom of expression within the dancefloor area.”