How to write about Hush, the new multi-level mega-club that opened in Houston on August 14? Lazy writers will be all too tempted to latch onto the club's Texas location, in order to spin out a series of clichés about a Texas-sized space, a Texas-sized rig, etc. Then again, a cliché is a cliché because it's true: with its eye-popping statistics, everything about Hush is oversized, as befits its Texas location. After all, where else would you open a 25,000 sq. ft. venue costing $9 million? Not in New York, where such acreage simply can't be found. Not in California, where clubbers prefer the lounge life to dancing til dawn.

Then again, the paradox of Hush is that its size makes it, pardon the expression, un-American. With its Texas-sized square footage, battalions of lighting and sound gear, and sleek industrial-chic interior design, Hush is something new: an super-sized American club modeled after the extravagant pleasure domes of Europe, where even mid-sized cities boats enormous clubs that appeal to a broad cross-section of the populace. It's a bold experiment that's certain to grab the attention of Houston's night people — and of the US club industry.

Funnily enough, this exercise in grandiosity is the brainchild of owners Dan Deschamps and Kevin Johnson, both of whom had logged too many hours on the wrong side of the velvet rope. “I really built my own club because I got tired of waiting in line at clubs to get in,” says Johnson, a computer graphics artist who has also worked as a DJ. “My dream was to open a huge nightclub. I wanted to have the best light and sound of any club in the world.” With that in mind, Johnson and Deschamps traveled around the US and Europe checking out the competition, looking for a concept that would work for them.

The pair also researched lighting and sound companies, eventually choosing Martin Professional, with Dave Chesal of Martin coming onboard to provide lighting design and systems integration (Martin sound gear was also used). At times, Chesal may have wondered what he had gotten himself into, as the club went through conceptual change after change after change. Houston was chosen as the location only after the idea of Reno was discarded (Deschamps already owned the building where Hush is, although it was enlarged considerably to accommodate the club). Hush was originally conceived on a grand scale, then downsized to a mere 12-14,000 sq. ft., then it ballooned back to its current size. Meanwhile, interior designers came and went. According to Deschamps, “We brought in a bunch of different design companies, but they all wanted to add was this ‘foo-foo’ stuff — cone-shaped, fuzzy elements and things like that. They couldn't understand what we were explaining to them, so we decided, since we were the ones with the vision, why not do it ourselves? So we did the design in-house.”

The resulting club is a series of ever-larger connecting spaces that lead guests from a small reception area through two bars onto the dance floor, which is dominated by a spectacular truss concept. Skyboxes on multiple levels allow guests to via the action from many different perspectives. Most of all, Hush is about seeing and being seen.

THE GUIDED TOUR

Hush is visible from Interstate 10, a large building featuring a porte-cochere with six columns that are lit by Martin Architectural Exterior 200 color-changing units. (Note: All lighting gear is by Martin, unless otherwise stated.) Inside, one enters a tiny foyer in which six recessed Alien 05 color-changing downlights provide stripes of color on the black-slated walls and floors. In addition, a pair of FiberSource CMY 150s units are built into the wraparound sofa, to power ALSI FL-19 stranded fibers that illuminate the surrounding wall. A MiniMac Maestro image projector is used to sweep the room with the Hush logo. Here one also finds the first two of 35 plasma screens that are distributed throughout the club. It's an enormously detailed look that sets the tone for what is to come. From here, a stairwell leading to the upstairs bar is lit by three Alien 02s.

The upstairs bar area, which is located some distance from the dance floor, is meant to be a place for more intimate conversation. The main feature here is the liquor display, an array of 96 square holes, each of which can accommodate a liquor bottle. Each is backed by Plexiglas® and back lit by four Mac 300 wash units; this display has been designed as a marketing opportunity — think of Absolut or Tanqueray paying to have 96 bottles given the color-changing glamour display treatment.

Also in this space, another MiniMac Maestro scours the space with the Hush logo (or, in another marketing opportunity, with custom-made company logos). The black-granite bar is underlined with CMY FiberSource 150-powered 3m HL12 fiber (this is true of other bars in the club, as well).

Connected to the foyer via two narrow black-slate hallways lit with Alien 05 units is the main bar area, which is the central social space in the club. The sensory overload really starts here, with eight video screens hung overhead to form a video ceiling. Among the space's lighting effects are provided by six 250 Krypton profile spots, with four Mac 300 wash lights providing color washes.

It's in this room that the club's see-and-be-seen ethos reaches its extreme. Guests sitting here can see, through a two-way mirror, the bank of sinks placed just outside the intermixed men's and ladies stalls (the mirror is lit with LyteTrak light bars, which facilitate the two-way view). Sitting in the bar area, one has a perfect view of everyone else primping as they wash up after using the bathroom. The bathroom area is lit with CMY FiberSource 150-powered FL-61 and FL-37 stranded fiber-optic; the stalls themselves are lit with fiber-optics; other stall amenities are 6” LCD screens and drink holders.

DANCE WITH THE SPIDER

The main event, however, is the 2,300 sq. ft. dance area, in a three-story space with a sunken hardwood floor. “Sinking the floor was a big project,” says Deschamps, “but we wanted to create a feeling when you walk in that you're walking down into the club and the only way to get that feeling of space was to go down. It was a huge job but we felt is was important to put the dance floor on a different level. With the sunken dance floor, the club is actually on about eight different levels.” Custom metal lattice and sheetrock provide decoration on the walls.

However, one could easily miss all of these details, because one might be gaping at the enormous spider truss that is hung nearly 42' above the floor. The six-legged truss was designed by Chesal, working with Mike Guttman, Hush's technical director. It consists of several concentric rings and legs. As it lowers to the floor, the double articulation in each arm allows the legs to rise above the body. (At times, it looks like one of those creatures that Sigourney Weaver is always fighting off in the Alien pictures.) On the small inner ring are four Atomic 3000 strobes with a Wizard centerpiece cluster on each leg spoke. An outer ring contains 32 MX-10 scanners. Each arm features two Mac 2000 Profiles, two Mac 600s, one Mac 500, two RoboScan Pro 918s and two Atomic strobes. 24 RoboColor Pro 400s are used as truss toners, with another dozen or so Atomics placed elsewhere on the unit. (Trussing in the club was provided the Total Fabrications and Tomcat.)

The truss features CM Loadstar chain motors and is controlled by a Skjonberg system. (Lighting and sound equipment was provided by Creative Production & Design, of Austin, TX.)

If this weren't enough, 240 bars of Color Kinetics iColor Accent LEDs are also attached to the end of each arm, arranged in curved pieces that resemble railroad tracks or, perhaps, a xylophone. As the lighting units washicolors and patterns all over the room, as the arms of the truss move menacingly, and the colors chase through the LED bars, the effect is of an infernal machine creating surreal visual displays.

However, there's more: the dance area also features truss towers, each with a Mac 400 on top and four Mac 250 Kryptons along their lengths. Custom-made stainless steel dancepods with Plexiglas bottoms are uplit by four cross-focused CX-4 color changers; there is an Atomic strobe at the center of each pod. Two Jem ZR 24/7 hazers provide continuous haze. A first-floor mezzanine is lit with color-changing downlight by 24 Alien 05s, with two Alien 02 Pendants lighting tables overlooking the dance floor. And a shadow dancing platform is cantilevered off the wall, 10' above the floor, with a Lycra screen designed by Pink, Inc. of New York.

Control for the club's lighting is provided by the Martin Maxxyz console, placed in the DJ booth, which is located on the second floor, overlooking the dance area. Chesal and his associate Justin Jenkins also used Martin ShowDesigner software package to design the lighting rig.

Astonishingly, this is only the beginning of the Hush story. In addition to the interior, the club also has a 4,000 sq. ft. outdoor patio and stage for live performances in the warm weather. And Deschamps and Johnson are already expanding the club, adding a restaurant and a jazz club on the premises. The big question: If Hush is a success, will other promoters imitate this model in other American cities? Keep an eye on this one.

HUSH EQUIPMENT LIST

All equipment Martin, unless otherwise specified
Quy Item
12 Mac 2000 Profile111
12 Mac 600 NT111
6 Mac 500111
12 RoboScan Pro 918111
32 MX-10 Extreme111
38 Mac 250 Krypton111
16 Wizard111
36 Atomic 3000 Strobe111
17 Mac 300111
16 CX-4111
12 RS 485 Optosplitter
6 Exterior 200111
42 Alien 05111
7 Alien 05 Driver Box111
6 Alien 02111
2 Alien 02 Pendant111
20 FiberSource CMY 150
2 MiniMac Maestro111
24 RoboColor Pro 400111
1 Maxxyz control console111
1 LightJockey Club version (PCI 2048 channels)111
3 Jem Club Smoke (6 heads total)111
2 Jem ZR 24/7111
4 Jem ZR 12 DMX111
6 Jem AF-1 fans111
4 2-ton CM Loadstar chain motor120
17 1-ton CM Loadstar chain motors121
Truss motor control: Skjonberg MotorControl122
Trussing: Tomcat116 & Total Structures123
Power distribution: Motion Laboratories124
150 Color Kinetics iColor Cove LT 6" LEDs114
240 Color Kinetics iColor Accent 1' LEDs114
Advanced Lighting Systems, Inc. (ALSI) stranded fiber: FL-19, FL-37 and FL-61125
54 ALSI NL-6 stainless steel end element (32 lobby, 22 bathroom doors)125
24 ALSI NL-5F stainless steel end element (bathroom stalls)125
12 ALSI NL-5S stainless steel end elements (bathroom sink basins)125
8 ALSI Lyte Trak 88in high-intensity 60m 3M HL12 solid core sidelight fiber125
35 42" plasma screen monitor
26 6" LCD monitor
8 Eiki LC-X1100 LCD projectors, with custom wide-angle lens126
1 Eiki LC-XTC LCD projector, with custom wide angle lens126
Circle Number On Reader Service Card