Everything old is new again at the Bleu Room Experience, an upscale South Beach-flavored club located in Detroit's thriving theatre district. Bleu, as it's known around town, is housed in the historic Telenews Theater, a precursor to CNN that ran newsreels for information-hungry Detroiters in the 1940s. The theater was home to the first live television broadcast in the city, and eventually was converted into a cinema in the 50s. It has been vacant for the past nine years, but never fell into the state of decay that makes demolition the only choice for many urban structures.
Enter entrepreneur Jeff Moran, a man whose goal was to bring a fashionable club to Detroit. Moran visited numerous clubs across the country and refined his vision for Bleu. He then decided on an EAW sound system, which brought the project to Advanced Lighting and Sound of Troy, MI. "In the trendy club scene, a lot of times you can just open up the doors and throw a little bit of sound in and have a nice interior and people will come," notes Advanced Lighting and Sound project manager Bob Sullivan. "In Bleu, they created a nice-looking club; they didn't eliminate the architectural history of the room. They brought in high-end technology, creating a complete package for the clientele," he adds.
When Moran first came to Advanced Lighting and Sound, he had very definite ideas. "They wanted a flexible lighting system that would give them a lot of splash and bang, but they wanted to keep it neat and clean-looking," Sullivan notes. "They didn't want any truss," he adds.
But life without trussing can be a challenge in a club. "It was difficult to come up with mounting positions that wouldn't look too cluttered but would still give us flexibility in our design," says Sullivan. The answer? "We used pods and Martin MiniMAC clusters," he says. With a quick stop at Universal Manufacturing in nearby Clinton Township, they created four rigid pods that went up through the ceiling and plated off to the beams above. "We put three MiniMACs in the pods in four areas around the dance floor," reports systems integrator Larry Jones of Advanced. "Basically, there are 12 MiniMACs hanging out in free space-everything's in black, so you really don't see that there's anything holding them up."
To complete the automated lighting package, the team from Advanced turned to the MAC 500. "The owner wanted a fixture that could be used as a spotlight," Jones notes, "so we mounted the MAC 500s about midway through the theatre on the sidewalls, instead of in the middle of the dance floor, so they can be panned by the DJ."
To make the system pop even more, some conventional units were added into the mix. "We wanted another layer of color, so instead of going with another automated unit, we used ETC Source Four ellipsoidals, with Wybron color scrollers, to get intense color saturation and good washes across the entire floor area," notes Sullivan.
For control, the Advanced team chose the Martin LightJockey. "I love it," Jones says enthusiastically. The team also kept in mind that the board was going to be operated by a DJ rather than a lighting director. "One of our biggest concerns when we're doing club-based projects is that the operator really must know how to get the most out of the system," Sullivan explains. "We find a lot of systems are clumsy and you need a lot of training—and most of the guys in the club scene don't want to put the time into it." However, Jones had an answer. "Basically, we hooked up two 32-note Fatar keyboards for control through MIDI," he comments. "You can call up cues on one keyboard and scenes on the other, which lets the operator change the colors and the looks by just tapping the keyboard keys," Jones adds. "It's a real-time light show with hardly any work," he concludes.
The club, sporting a 4x4 Dotronics video wall, a Fujitsu plasma display, LeMaitre Neutron Pro hazers and Diversitronics super strobe cannons, opened on New Year's Eve to rave reviews. However, the club isn't resting on its laurels. "We have a laser system that's going to be installed soon, we're looking at adding some more Martin MiniMACs, and we're looking at adding some exterior lighting on the building," he adds. Party on, Detroit!
Photos courtesy Martin Professional.