Marquee Nightclub has been a jewel of New York City’s nightlife for nearly ten years. So when it came time to renovate the popular club, Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss from Tao Group, the club’s owner and management company, turned to Steve Lieberman of SJ Lighting to work with interior designer Josh Held to recreate the magic they had achieved at Marquee in Las Vegas (LD, January-February 2011).
Lieberman notes that this was closer to a new build than a renovation. “From a design perspective, this was ground-up—a completely new approach, new philosophy, new interior designer—so the only things that came forward from the previous incarnation of Marquee were the owners and operators, and also Andrew Gumper, who was involved in the original club.”
It started with a structural gutting, “beyond gutting,” says Lieberman. In fact, general contractor Carlo Seneca actually cut the roof off the building right around the time of Hurricane Sandy, in order to heighten the roof approximately 15'. “We made some other additions, but the front of the building has the same entrance on Tenth Avenue, and there’s still a mezzanine level in the back, but instead of the ceiling being touchable, it’s now 15' higher,” he adds. “The ceiling also has a slight rake to it now, so it really opens up the perspective to the stage environment.” Also new is a catwalk around the perimeter of the main room that crosses over the stage, the railing of which used to be where the old ceiling was.
Lieberman, who also collaborated with Held on Cherry at Red Rocks in Las Vegas (LD, February 2007), describes Held’s space design as industrial with a lot of creative finish work. “There’s balance to the industrial look,” says Lieberman. “There’s raw metal, for example, but then some of the wallpaper and wood treatments are beautiful and make the other industrial details pop and look like finished product. So working around that, one of the directives given to me from Tao Group was to tie the Marquee brand together with the flagship Vegas property, as far as the technology part of the design.”
One of the first things Lieberman did was design a pod system for some of the lighting and video technology, since he has a similar setup at Marquee Las Vegas, though keeping in mind that the room and dance floor in Las Vegas are elliptical, and the New York venue has more linear, 90º edges. “The pods reflect the architecture, so in Vegas they’re round, and in New York they have 90 º corners—in both places emulating the shape of the room.”
The four square pods on the ceiling comprise custom AG 37mm LED video panels that can move up and down, each with an Elation Professional Platinum Beam 5R fixture in the center. The pod frames have Diversitronics Finger Strobes, and Philips Color Kinetics iColor Flex LMX nodes with custom Marquee lenses. “I built a custom frame around every detail,” says Lieberman. “There is no truss here, so everything is a frame structure with iColor Flex and lenses, so it has that Marquee feel, and on the outside edge are the Diversitronics Finger Strobes, a detail I also did in Vegas. On each of the square pods, a custom bracket penetrates through the video screen and picks up the moving light on the other side, so the moving light and the video are attached together.” Milo Sa, who created the video content and is the VJ at Marquee Vegas, designed the video control system, a custom dual Apple Mac Book Pro laptop setup based around GarageCUBE Modul8 and MadMapper, and VidVox VDMX software.
A fifth square serves as a centerpiece, using the same video technology as the pods, except using Elation Platinum Spot 5R Pro fixtures. It also has an opening in the middle to accommodate a mirror ball inside a custom frame with tiny flicker lamps on it, very similar to the one in Las Vegas. Flanking the centerpiece are two custom built side hang positions, with additional Platinum Spot 5R Pro fixtures and Chauvet Legend™ 412 units.
“There are three distinct areas in the venue—the main room, the mezzanine level, and then the boom box underneath the mezz—but there is no hard surface separating these areas,” says Lieberman. “It’s really one big room. As you go from the ceiling to the upstage wall, it flows straight into a video wall [custom AG 18mm LED panels], that has the same frame detail around it, just minus the Finger Strobes.” Below that wall, under the bridge of the catwalk, is another second half of 18mm LED wall, broken by the catwalk but mapped as one image when seen from afar. The front of the DJ booth also features the same custom AG 18mm LED panels. “Everything has the same frame, with a minimum of the Marquee lenses, while everything in the ceiling has the addition of the Finger Strobes.”
On the face of the bridge are Eurolite LED two-light audience blinders, as well as two X-Laser X-Beam RGB systems. In the upper mezzanine area is another moving light strobe package attached directly to the ceiling, without framing and using minimal hanging hardware. Additional effects include a liquid nitrogen system installed by Alejandro Gonzalez of Kryogenifex, as well as Antari Z-1020 Foggers and HZ-400 Hazers, and an Antari S200 snow machine.
The lighting system is controlled via MA Lighting grandMA 2 onPC, including an MA onPC Command Wing and an MA onPC Fader Wing, running on a Cybernet iOne-H5 All-In-One PC. “The Fader Wing and the Command Wing, as a combination, give you eight universes of DMX, which has been great,” says Lieberman. “Basically, I’ve used most of this gear multiple times on multiple live events, and it’s all proven equipment. I try not to guinea-pig new products into a project, unless I absolutely can’t find a solution. People always ask me what the new hot thing is. I always say, ‘If you go outside and see a new building going up, do you think they would build a new building with brand new tools, or would they use the tools that have been proven already?’ These are all just tools. It’s application and execution. You’re not going to get noticed for your design because you put up x, y, and z manufacturer instead of a, b, and c manufacturer. You’re going to get noticed for your design because of how you applied that manufacturer’s product in a creative way.”
Lieberman programmed the lighting system himself, using his tried-and-true practice of what he calls “unfolding the fixtures onto the console. If you’ve ever been to a club I’ve designed, you would feel comfortable in 30 minutes as an operator with my setup,” he says. “There’s only a certain number of things a light does, so what I like to do for the operator is set it up so all the basics are in the console, broken up, for example into palette groups—stack of blues, red, etc—and then also broken down per section—spots, beams, washes, LED strips, spheres—so that the operator doesn’t really have to change pages or hunt and peck. It’s all right there on all these handles. It’s basically made to busk live—instant access, very quick, and super organized. In fact, I didn’t even operate lights the first night. The operator picked it right up.”
The lighting and video systems were installed and customized by Andrew Gumper, who was involved in the build of the original Marquee nine years ago. Gumper and his team at AG Light and Sound worked from Lieberman’s drawings and fabricated all the structural steel and aluminum for the pods, including cutting and custom molding the panels, welding, and assembling all the elements in the shop, so that it rolled into the club in one piece, including the lighting fixtures attached to the screens.
“Basically because of the time constraints of the project—they wanted to do it all in four months, actually six weeks from when the roof got ripped off to when the doors opened—we knew it was going to be down to the wire, so we did everything prefab,” says Gumper. “We worked overnights, so that we had time onsite not having to interrupt the contractors, since there are only a certain number of lifts available, for example, and finished in maybe three overnights, once onsite.”
While Lieberman does his own sketches, Gumper created a second set of drawings for engineering purposes. “Steve does sketches, in this case in AutoCAD, but they are sort of a dimensional fantasy,” jokes Gumper. “He says ‘I want to hang lights here and there,’ but we produce our own drawing for the actual build. Steve always thinks it seems impossible, but I actually always instantly see a way to build it. Sometimes I have to wrap my head around it, but we always get there—turning the concept drawing into reality that looks almost exactly like the concept.”
The most intricate custom piece, says Gumper, is probably the centerpiece, because his team wanted to build it as large as possible. “It ended up being 15'x15', and we only have one set of splits in it,” says Gumper. “It had to be designed to split in half to get in through the door. But most of the frames were made pretty much the same way—all 4" aluminum tube that we milled out and drilled out holes for the Color Kinetics units and strobes, welded all into shapes for either the pods, or the centerpiece, or the video walls, and then we attached all the video panels to a substructure attached to that.”
A Funktion One sound system, installed by Dan Agne, rounds out the technology features at Marquee, which reopened in mid-January with DJ Vice performing.