Several years back, LD Steve Lieberman offered some advice at the Zoobar in New York--a collegiate, get-loaded type of place, with dancing on the bars and drinking from fishbowls. "The owners had cheesy lights that looked tacky, and I suggested hanging up a mirror ball and pinspots," he says. Owners Rick Oscher and Shawn Kolodony took his advice, and later called him in to do Bourbon Street and Venue, both on Manhattan's Upper West Side. "They've kept me busy," Lieberman says. Bourbon Street was the first job he did after starting his own company, and the club owners called him for that particular gig before the building was even secured. So it was only natural that Oscher and Kolodony called him when they took over the plush and velvety New York basement club, Cream.
Besides his design and programming work, Lieberman, along with two partners, owns a facility that rents out lighting equipment. He recently moved Cybertech Design's headquarters to Tucson, AZ. "I've been credentialed in New York, so now I can escape to a more relaxed environment where I can actually afford office space," he says.
This latest project, Cream, is a downtown-style hipster lounge that appeals to the uptown money crowd and trendy European set. The club's former identity was the Flipside, a live venue that featured jazz acts. When the Flipside flopped, the club Life came into the picture with a management contract--on a mission to redesign the place and get it going again. Coincidentally, Lieberman was the house designer for Life at the time, and he was hired to do the lighting. But even Life couldn't resuscitate the club, and after a month or two, Lieberman got a call from the new owners, asking him to redesign and program the newly named Cream. At this point, Lieberman knew every nook and cranny of the place. He brought in Arthur Weinstein, and in just three days in June they revamped the basement club, finishing the project on opening night.
After entering Cream on street level then descending a flight of stairs, clubgoers walk into a hazy, illuminated hall, and it's as if they are heading into a cone of light. At the hall's far end is an Emulator(R) laser simulator from High End Systems and an American DJ Supply FogHog Jr. fog machine. The walls are covered in Mylar. "It's kind of trippy. Then suddenly, you're in the jungle lounge area," Lieberman explains.
This jungle room is one of the club's four areas. With couches and foliage, patrons have a place to sit down and relax. Promoters designate the VIP room according to the event, using whichever room is most appropriate. Most often, the bubble lounge, with its inflatable furniture and water columned tables, acts as the VIP space. Architectural lighting highlights the bubble columns, making the tables change colors. Plexiglas divides the jungle room and the bubble lounge, separating the two sound systems (from Barry Scott at New York Sound and Visual) that pump out ambient and progressive dance music. In another room, hammock chairs dangle from the ceiling between the trees. There is an island bar that services two of the rooms, besides the bar in the main dance area.
"I had to pull everything down and put it back up because the owners had put up walls and different sound equipment," Lieberman says. He and his team cleaned the fixtures and redesigned the rig. The LD says the toughest aspect of the project was the lack of time he was given to build it. "There wasn't anything overly difficult about the club, really, but low ceilings always cause some sort of a dilemma when it comes to hanging lights." Because Lieberman couldn't hang piping or truss, he hung High End Trackspots(R) using Unistrut, strapping them as close to the ceiling as possible.
Over the dance floor, Lieberman set up four American DJ strobes at equidistant points around the room, with the Trackspots, and a number of PAR-36 pinspots, backed up against the wall, tight to the ceiling. Two Emulators above an offset nook of the floor supply the laser effects. Along the back wall, a scrim screen displays projections.
Weinstein took care of the pinspots and gelling. "Arthur's been in the business since before I was born," Lieberman says. Weinstein was Peter Gatien's right hand light man for Tunnel and Limelight, and he's been illuminating the club scene since the Studio 54 days. Steve Rubell used to refer to him as a "Pillar of Society," and Lieberman currently refers to him as amazing. "He's a bit wacky, but when it comes to his creative ability with conventional lighting, he's the master, and I'd trust no one else," Lieberman says. "I've learned to just shut up and let him do his thing, because he's a veteran and he knows what he's talking about."
Cream is a complete pinspot lounge. Lieberman left areas dark on purpose, just highlighting a few things here and there. "We want it to be mysterious in there, so you have to focus hard to see everything. You know, we're just trying to make everyone look good."