Metropolis Concert Club, which opened last year in Perth, Western Australia, has the distinction of being the only custom-built concert club in the country. The owner of the club, The Metropolitan Group (TMG), which has operated a smaller renovated club in Fremantle, WA, since 1990, had been exploring for some time the possibility of a purpose-designed venue intended to provide premium facilities for live entertainment. Based on the reactions of artists and patrons alike to Metropolis, it's clear that their mission to create an exciting venue has succeeded.
Metropolis, strategically located between the central business district and the vibrant nightclub/restaurant area of Northbridge, is a stunning blend of internationally influenced architectural styles that creates a chic decor. For those who prefer a quiet drink away from the main buzz there are several themed bars discreetly tucked away.
When summer arrives, the club's open-air roof level is used for private functions, providing a panoramic view of the Perth night skyline. In these peak months a small, temporary lighting rig is installed alongside the permanent Griven Tracer 4000, which provides a mini-light show for patrons and passers-by.
Metropolis switches from live bands to dance parties with relative ease. As it can accommodate up to 5,000 guests, it has become a fixture on the national touring circuit. Prior to the club, Perth lacked a medium-sized concert venue, forcing promoters to use either stadium-sized venues lacking in intimacy or small nightclubs without adequate technical facilities. Metropolis has successfully filled that niche.
The exterior architecture belies that the club is built over seven levels which can be accessed via either elevators or chrome-and-wood staircases. The emphasis in the space is on height, with the main front-of-house grid suspended some 50-60' (15-20m) above the dance floor at its highest point.
This is a mixed blessing for the lighting. To maximize audience sightlines to the stage and dance floor, viewing levels are located directly above each other. But the fully motorized lighting grid has been designed to be lowered to mask off the upper levels when a more intimate atmosphere is required.
Lighting consultant and co-designer of the suspension system, Con Biviano from Universal Lighting and Audio of Brisbane, Queensland, is pleased with the flexibility the motorized trussing offers. "Metropolis is a high, narrow building that was designed by architect Tom Brooking to have an industrial/ warehouse feel about it. I felt it was important to have a flexible front-of-house grid to accommodate the different modes in which the venue operates."
Biviano, who was fortunate to come aboard the project early enough to have substantial input into the technical aspects of the club, worked very closely with Brooking, who also designed the interior and was co-designer with Biviano of the trussing. Biviano was first approached about Metropolis by two of the club's owners, who had gone to Entech (Australia's annual technical trade show) in Sydney in 1996 to source lighting equipment for the project.
The owners were impressed by the Universal Lighting and Audio stand, and in particular the German-made JB Lighting equipment which Universal distributes. On the final day of Entech, Biviano sat down with the owners and over a three-hour lunch sketched out his ideas for the club lighting. They liked his concepts and felt confident thathe would provide excellent after-sales service and support despite Brisbane being some 2,500 miles (4,000km) from Perth.
With a lighting budget of approximately AU$750,000 (US$500,000), Biviano set about designing a flexible lighting plan with the knowledge that the club would be doing quick turnarounds between modes. Biviano had eight months to complete the work, but relates that "the club had its grand opening on December 23, 1996, and although we thought we had a lot of time, of course it was hectic right up to the last minute."
The owners, Biviano says, didn't pinch pennies. "Their main criterion was to create a stunning club that looked great and had access to the latest technology. Every aspect of the club has used the best materials that money could buy. A huge advantage was that Tom Brooking has a background in the entertainment industry, so he and I developed an excellent working relationship."
The truss design was crucial to the lighting for several reasons: It had to be practical and flexible, and it also had to provide an interesting surface for beams of light to shoot through and create texture. Besides the main front-of-house truss, the proscenium arch stage with its 45'-wide (13m) opening is framed with truss that drops down to create a giant letter M in the center. Anthony Petruzio, Metropolis' lighting engineer, says the club often does a spectacular live reveal of the M.
Suspended above the stage are five lighting bars rigged with Infinity chrome PAR-64 lamps. Each of the levels of the club has luminaires rigged below the handrails to compensate for the height of the main grid and to provide front fill to the stage and additional coverage for the dance floor. The main components of the rig include 20 JB 1,200W HMI Varyscan 4s, 20 Varycolour 2000 color changers, 10 Varyscan 3 Special Pluses, 10 Varyscan 3 Specials, and 100 Infinity chrome PAR-64 cans.
Four Le Maitre Special Effects Inc. G300 smoke machines highlight the beams. A variety of effects including mirror balls, UV projectors, 20 Abstract Design to Light Futurescan 3 CEDs, four Abstract Twister 3s, 10 Abstract Gladiator CEDs, and six Moonlight Illumination Galactic Moon 2 CEs, six Monster Moon 250s, and four Hypermoon 100s add to the club's atmosphere. The lighting system is controlled through 900 channels of DMX. Petruzio favors the flexibility of the Avolites Rolacue Pearl control desk, which suits his style of constant hands-on operation, though the club also boasts a ShowCAD control system with MIDI and SMPTE inputs for preprogramming, and two Abstract 64-channel CE controllers.
A 10W argon laser is rigged on the rear wall of the 26'-deep (8m) stage and 70 bounce mirrors are positioned around the club to allow for different effects. The laser was purchased directly from US-based Laser Production Network, which came to Perth to install it. A G120 X/Y/Z scanner bed, driven by Lasermax and Smartmax software packages on an IBM-compatible PC, directs the laser.
One year down the road, Biviano is still closely involved in the club and regularly communicates with Petruzio to sort out problems or toss around new ideas. "It has been a great experience working on the club with everyone involved acting as a team. Nothing was ever too much trouble and there was no scrimping on the quality of anything." Biviano has cemented the relationship with the club's owners even further by consulting on their latest venture, The Clink--an underground nightclub that features original jail cells as part of its structure. The results of their "imprisonment" should add further excitement to the Australian club scene.
Jacqueline Molloy is an Australia-based freelance writer with a background in lighting and production management. She is currently technical manager of the Perth Concert Hall in Western Australia, and lectures part-time in technical theatre and lighting design.
Lighting Equipment (20) JB Lighting 1,200W Varyscan 4s (20) JB lighting Varycolour 2000 color changers (10) JB Lighting Varyscan 3 Special Pluses (10) JB Lighting Varyscan 3 Specials (4) Le Maitre G300 DMX smoke machines (20) Abstract Design to Light Futurescan 3 CEDs (4) Abstract Design to Light Twister 3s (2) Abstract Design to Light 64-channel controllers (10) Abstract Design to Light Gladiator CEDs (6) Moonlight Illumination Galactic Moon 2 CEs (6) Moonlight Ilumination Monster Moon 250s (4) Moonlight Illumination Hypermoon 100s (1) Griven Tracer 4000 (5) 400W UV projectors (100) Infinity chrome PAR-64s (9) 24" mirror balls with heavy-duty motors (6) 1,500W DMX strobes (5) Light Processor Q buffer DMX splitters (1) ShowCAD control system with MIDI/SMPTE PCB (1) Avolites Rolacue Pearl with 4D graphics tablet (1) MA Lighting MA Scancommander (7) Jands HP12 digital dimmers
LASER EQUIPMENT (1) Lexel Laser Beam Pro 10W argon laser system (30) 8"x8" bounce mirrors (40) 4"x4" bounce mirrors (2) mirror barrel effects (1) G120 12-way X/Y/Z scanner bed (1) Laser Production Network Smartmax software package (1) Laser Production Network Lasermax software package
RIGGING AND TRUSSING (28) Yale 1.5-ton chain motors (200) Litecraft safety wires (50) Litecraft half couplers 1,650' (550m) custom-made concert truss