New Jersey's Bliss Nighclub and Loung creates a haven left of center, just west of NYC
New York boasts some of the hottest nightspots around, but if you want to check out the latest scene, you'd have to go across the river to Clifton, NJ, to experience the 6,500sq-ft., 1,000-person-capacity Bliss, designed by co-owner Tommy Dorfman (aka, Tommy D.) and Pedro Pons. Dougie Lazer of XS Lighting & Sound Inc. designed, installed, and programmed all of the club's lighting. Joe Lodi and Angelo Poulos of Advanced Audio Technology installed and programmed the audio, including one of the first full-club installations of a Turbosound Aspect speaker system.
Like most clubs, the dancefloor takes centerstage, but the venue also includes an actual stage for live acts and various areas broken up by a main and a side bar, and VIP areas with high-back banquettes overlooking the dancefloor. A motorized IFR Lurex Sheer curtain from Rose Brand on an ADC Rig-I-Flex® 140 Series Track can further divide the interior space on demand. ADC manufactured a custom-built inline motor; Rose Brand installed the track system.
In addition to design and programming, Lazer also supplied the lighting package. His philosophy going into the project was to create a sleek, customized look, “with kind of a New York City or a Las Vegas feel to it,” he says. “We wanted a sophisticated feel to the club.”
Lazer worked closely from the beginning with artist and interior designer Pons, who was contracted to create custom architectural elements and furniture for the space, as well as decorative components on the outside of the club, such as the columns. “He came to us and wanted us to light his custom pieces,” says Lazer. “We worked together to show him what we were capable of doing in terms of lighting, and when he realized what we could do with Color Kinetics LEDs and traditional lighting, he customized his furnishings to best showcase what the lighting could do.”
Pons, who started at a sign shop making neon signs and has been a glassworker for 18 years, adds that he was going for a very modern look with lots of aluminum and acrylic overlay. “It's a modern, industrial-looking club,” he describes. “I planned the bars first and then spaced the layout. When I knew where the bars were going to go, I knew they'd work within city codes, and I was able to come up with renderings for the structure while selecting available materials that meet the fire and life safety codes.”
Examples of how Pons' interior design integrates with Lazer's lighting are easy to see throughout the space — an “icicle” design over one of the mid-room bars, “butterfly” pieces behind one wall of VIP banquettes, and a futuristic “halo” over the main bar. “If you don't diffuse light the proper way, you won't get illumination the way it's supposed to be,” says Pons. “Bliss also looks good during the day.” Pons used a type of strong Lexan® material for his custom pieces. “It's like an acrylic that's unbreakable,” he explains. “They use it in banks at the teller windows. We used it in case there are any fights at the club; if you try to kick it, it'll bounce back.”
“The lighting inspired the design, rather than being given a design and having to light it,” says Lazer. “Ideally, custom design should incorporate lighting because there's only so much lighting can do once a piece has been built. If, say, he were to design a structure with the glass being the wrong thickness, the light's not going to go through it.”
To light the space with effects, Lazer made heavy use of LEDs, incorporating Color Kinetics units throughout and using Elektralite and Martin fixtures and mirror balls for effects. Trussing is all from Applied Electronics, with rigging gear from Granger.
Lighting is run from the DJ/lighting booth via a Martin Professional Maxxyz PC and Playback Wing, except in the restrooms and in the front entrance, which requires its own controller. “What we can do with the Color Kinetics is we can put in a keypad controller with a dimmer switch that overrides the main controls from the DJ booth,” says Lazer. “Also from the booth, we control the smoke machines and everything down to the lights in the bars. When I'm running lights, at any given moment I can have a complete blackout of the entire room. That makes a really dramatic effect, although the bartenders don't like that too much!”
Video is also an important element in the venue, both for nightly content and to draw top-name DJ and VJ talent; world-class DJs including Dubfire (from Deep Dish), Skribble, and Tommy Lee & DJ Aero have graced Bliss' booth. “There are actually some DJs who come into Bliss with video when they play, so it's ideal for international DJs like Sander Kleinenberg, who plays a lot of video,” says Lazer.
To accommodate the video demands, there are four custom drop-down video screens, four projectors, and a video-matrix system. Content is both live and prerecorded, with a VJ and cameras set up to capture live feeds from the crowd. Reportedly, the video setup was a key factor in convincing rocker-turned-DJ Tommy Lee to play at the venue. The VJ can then mix live footage with film footage or graphics. Playback is via a Pioneer DVJ-1000 and a Knox Matrix switcher to Sharp projectors on low-light dropdown screens.
“At a recent party, the VJ running the visuals was using the Pioneer DVJ-1000 and manipulating fight scenes from the film The Matrix,” Lazer says. “It totally enhanced the night and brought a very futuristic feel to the party.” Lazer refers to one of the custom LED screens — composed of thousands of individual Color Kinetics iColor Flex SLX nodes — that was programmed to play film clips controlled by the VJ. A glass sheet protects the nodes, and a cascade of water flows in front of the scenes on top of the glass. “The visual effect is really trippy when you play movie scenes because the water cascading over the LEDs makes it seem like the image is liquid,” Lazer adds. For certain parties, a conventional flat-fabric screen is also hung, and visuals are shot onto that and viewed from both sides.
Additional video can run through a wall of Color Kinetics iColor LED Tiles — also used for color-changing effects — that can be synched with the main video input in one of the VIP areas. There is also a Hitachi LCD CPX 995W projector shooting video from overhead at one of the bars onto a silver curtain at a nearby wall.
All curtains, including a valance, were sewn by Rose Brand, including some from black IFR 27oz. Charisma velour, lined with black DFR 15oz. Encore to dress the stage and for sound control. Rose Brand also upholstered silver IFR Lurex Sheer fabric to the coat check walls.
Lazer adds that the Color Kinetics ColorDial and DMX power supplies for the LEDs worked out particularly well, especially considering they were wired three months in advance, and, “We'd never really had the chance to see them until the week before Bliss opened,” he says.
The Sounds Of Bliss
Audio designer Lodi was tasked with laying out the dancefloor, positioning the speakers and sub-cabinets, and the DJ booth for an optimal sound system. Like the lighting and video system, the role of the sound system is to lure top DJ talent.
Lodi presented the owners with the Turbosound Aspect system early in the game. “We designed a few different systems, and Tommy [Dorfman] wanted the best-of-the-best,” says Lodi, who started his career in the car audio business. “Duvet in New York — a venue I also installed with Dougie Lazer on the lights — also has the Turbosound Aspect system. This system is the cleanest, tightest, most articulate sound, and the loudest I've ever heard. On top of that, the directivity of the box is pinpoint. What you hear is what you get. If it says it's 60° wide, it's 60° wide, and it doesn't taper-off at the end of the dispersion. What's really neat about it is the size of the cabinets is not overly huge.”
Lodi positioned the sound systems to enable areas where the volumes don't reach the peaks that are more desirable in the dancefloor area. “All of the perimeter systems are there to fill in, and you're able to have a conversation in those areas without blasting people out of their seats,” he says. “We concentrated the sound on the dancefloor — that was key to the system. Also, the levels in the bathrooms are lower, where there are a couple of in-ceiling speakers.”
In addition to the main Aspect system, Lodi's design includes EAW custom-slot tweeter arrays, AAT/RCF speakers, XTA EQ and digital controllers, and a combination of MC2, Mackie, and Crest amplifiers. A Rane RPM-88 digital system controller manages all sections of the DJ booth, the main bar and second bar, the perimeter VIP areas, and restrooms. These sections are controlled via Rane SR-3 smart remotes.
Other than the usual time constraints of working against a club opening, Lodi notes, “The only other challenge would be keeping the sound inside the building. The speakers are so powerful, you could hear them down the street.” Luckily, Bliss had extra soundproofing installed since its opening, so the neighbors won't complain too much. Then again, there's always room for a rooftop lounge.
BLISS EQUIPMENT LIST
1 Rane RPM-88 Digital System Controller
1 AAT Custom DJ Console
1 AAT Custom Lighting Console
1 AAT Custom Parametric Equalizer
1 AAT Custom Drive Unit
1 AAT Custom Patchbay
1 Allen & Heath X:ONE 92 Knob Preamp Mixer
1 Crest Audio PRO 8001 (2,400W Power Amplifier)
1 Crest Audio Pro 7001 (1,700W Power Amplifier)
3 Pioneer CDJ1000 MK3 CD Turntables
2 Technics SL1210 Vinyl Turntables
2 AAT Custom Three-Way Loudspeakers (Double 12" Horn-Loaded, Single 8" Horn-Loaded, Single 1.75" Horn-Loaded)
2 AAT/RCF Self-Powered Single-18" Subwoofers
1 Furman PSPRO2 Power Distribution/Sequencer
8 Littlite 12" Gooseneck Lights
Main Dancefloor Speakers
4 EAW Custom-Slot Tweeter Arrays (Beyma-Loaded)
8 Turbosound TA 500 Aspect Series High-Output Three-Way Loudspeakers (Each Loaded With 1 Single 15" Horn-Loaded, 1 Single 10" Horn-Loaded and 1 Single 2" Horn-Loaded)
8 Turbosound TSW 218 Very High-Output Subwoofers (Dual 18" Horn-Loaded)
Main Dancefloor Amplifiers And Electronics
2 XTA DP226 Digital System Controllers
1 XTA GQ600 Dual-Channel 31-Band Graphic Room Equalizers
2 Crest Audio PRO 9001s (4,100W Power Amplifier)
2 MC2 Audio E45 Amplifiers (4,500W Power Amplifier)
2 MC2 Audio E25 Amplifiers (2,500W Power Amplifier)
2 MC2 Audio E15 Amplifiers (1,500W Power Amplifier)
VIP One And Two
1 Rane RPM88 Digital System Controller
2 Crest CA-9, 1,800W Power Amplifiers
9 AAT/RCF C3108 8" Two-Way Loudspeakers
1 Rane RPM-88 Digital System Controller
1 Crest CA-18 2,000W Power Amplifier
3 Mackie M-2600, 1,000W Power Amplifiers
4 AAT/RCF S8018 Single 18" Front-Loaded Subwoofers
6 EAW JF-200, 12" Two-Way Loudspeakers
1 Martin Maxxyz PC Controller
1 Martin USB/DMX-2 DMX Outputs
1 Color Kinetics Light System Manager
4 Ethernet-Controlled Keypads to be Used With Light System Manager
2 Dimmer Systems 12-Channel Rackmount
1 Relay Pack 4-Channel
2 Ethernet Switches 16-Port Rackmount
2 Monitor 17" LCD Microtouch Keyboard & Mouse
10 Elektralite 575s
12 Martin Atomic Strobe 3000s
202 Color Kinetics iColor Cove QLs
16 Color Kinetics iColor Cove ECs
48 Color Kinetics ColorBlast 6s
16 Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12s With Black Frosted Lens
4 Color Kinetics iColor Flex SLX 12s
22 Color Kinetics iColor MRg2s
2 Color Kinetics PDS 500es
7 Color Kinetics PDS 150es
1 Color Kinetics PDS 150W Power/Data Supply With Indoor Enclosure
2 Color Kinetics PDS 70MRs 24V Ethernet
2 Color Kinetics PDS 60CAs 12V Ethernet
9 Color Kinetics PDS 60CAs 24V Ethernet
4 Cryo-Jet Systems
1 Mirror Ball 2'
1 Mirror ball 3'
9 Applied Electronics 10'×12"×12" Box Trusses
2 Applied Electronics 5'×12"×12" Box Trusses
4 Applied Electronics 3'×12"×12" Box Trusses
1 Applied Electronics 2'×12"×12" Box Truss
3 Applied Electronics 12“×12" Box Trusses Custom Angle
1 Applied Electronics 12“×12" Box Truss 6-Way
1 Applied Electronics Custom Circle Truss 8' OD 12"×12" Box
1 Applied Electronics Custom Circle Truss 14' OD 12"×12" Box