Richard Rutherford, a club lighting veteran and the senior systems designer of Burbank's Towards 2000 Inc., recently redesigned the famous Los Angeles hotspot Whisky a Go Go. This club, which has been around since the 1960s, has been a launch pad for acts like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Sex Pistols, and Blondie, to name a few. "The bands of tomorrow are playing there today," he says.
Dealing with several acts a night in a live room with a live system was the main challenge at Whisky a Go Go, which is owned by Michael Maglieri and managed by Tisa Mylar. Rutherford's inspiration for feel, movement, and color came from looking at lighting on tours like Metallica and Aerosmith. He and his team (including project developer Pat Pennington, system programmer Patrick Dierson of Group One, crew chief Lee Stoutameir, and house LD/operator Andrew Blair) created a big look on a small stage by placing 90% of the fixtures upstage, where their effects were obvious to both the audience and the video cameras that tape bands at their request.
The LD attempted to create a system that would be easy to operate. "Because they're putting five to six bands on that stage every night, they've got to turn the house over fast," he explains. His utilitarian setup builds from the system's roots, using PARs and other instruments to give bands a proper look. Throw in ETC Source Fours and High End Systems Intellabeams(R) out front, and the dimensional effects are in full swing. What's more, the placement gives the stage a sense of depth, and renders skin tones correctly on videotape.
The venue is about 5,500 sq. ft. (495 sq. m), with a balcony around the back half. The stage, built into the room's corner, is roughly 500 sq. ft. (45 sq. m). Rutherford draped the back area of the stage with black velour to dress it up and give it a look--a decision that ended up being the most cost-effective part of the entire project. Custom Whisky logos in all the High End Trackspots(R) and Intellabeams splatter the walls between sets. Because there was no need to provide a lot of heavy hanging strength, the LD saved even more on the budget by using ladder truss instead of box or triangular truss.
All the system's Trackspots are located no further than the downstage edge because the designer needed to create looks with moving lights, rather than actually light anything with them. The use of Trackspots in upstage positions, pointing downstage, makes the audience think the lighting is coming straight at them. "We get big movement and big looks with a low maintenance fixture that has inexpensive lamps to change," Rutherford says. He and his crew also set those fixtures in lamp saver mode, which knocks the light level down 10%, still more than adequate.
This basic system features an upstage cluster of seven Martin RoboColor Pro 400s, used for the predictability of their performance and their color ranges. Also, by manipulating the imagery with DMX, Blair can get three colors out at the same time by simultaneously splitting colors with both color wheels. "This gives you a lot more of the moving light look on a small scale," Rutherford says. The LD left in the club's original 16 500W PAR-64s for bands that prefer to hang on to a traditional rock-and-roll stage look minus moving lights.
Instead of a remote dimmer rack, Rutherford used an NSI remote four-channel digital dimmer with DMX options. This cut the electrical installation cost in half, and gives the house lighting personnel complete control. Three phase locations are available in case someone wants to hang a 208V High End Cyberlight(R) or Studio Color(R). Control is provided by an Elektralite CP-100 console.
"Some bands will really care about their lighting, and some won't," Rutherford says. "The trick is making 85% of the bands 100% happy." So far, the lighting, which was installed in the first week of January, has survived more than 350 shows with essentially zero glitches.