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Club Nokia Rounds Out L.A. Live


Club Nokia features a JBL VerTec system.

Downtown L.A. was hopping this past November 9, 2008, as the 2,300-capacity Club Nokia — the latest jewel in the crown of AEG’s $2.5 billion L.A. Live sports and entertainment complex — celebrated its grand opening with a sold-out show by Beck and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis. Simultaneously, 20,000 hoops fans packed the Staples Center across the street as the Lakers walloped the Houston Rockets, while a capacity crowd of 7,100 gathered inside the Nokia Theatre for a concert by The Who.

“If you grew up here, you probably wouldn’t recognize it, but there you go,” said Beck during his set, obviously overwhelmed by the transformation of this formerly drab section of downtown into a glittering wonderland that is now one of L.A.’s prime attractions.

The tri-level, dramatically lighted, 59,000-square-foot Club Nokia is topped off by a steeply pitched balcony that seats 900 and hangs dramatically over the tiered main floor, putting those in the lower balcony practically on top of the 40×30-foot stage.

While the open bar in the posh V.I.P. lounge got the mostly invited crowd lubed up for a night of music, the explosive sounds blasting out of the beautifully calibrated system would’ve been more than enough to sweep a crowd of stone-cold teetotalers off its feet. It was designed by IPR Services of Hacienda Heights, Calif., which has done a similarly state-of-the-art job on the systems for AEG’s Staples Center, Nokia Theatre and the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

“The architectural constraints of this very close space presented a unique challenge,” explains IPR principal Bob Patrick. “We had an upper balcony and a floor that had to be covered, and needed to provide a united source for both. So we put up a line array for both the upper and lower balconies, separating the two arrays with a series of subwoofers in the center.”

Patrick and his team chose JBL VerTec for the speakers, with 20 4888 powered boxes, eight 4882s, 6128s for the under-stage subwoofers, 6212s for the fills and six VRX 932LAs for the under-balcony delays.

“We tuned the system the day before the opening,” says Patrick, “and we had Paul Bauman from JBL come down to assist us. We gave special attention to the lower frequencies and the crossovers between the subs and the boxes.”

Beck’s five-piece band, which blazed out an overdriven fusion of arena-rock guitar riffing and hip-hop grooves, was the ideal act for putting the Club Nokia system through its paces — the sound coming off the stage was both dynamic and powerful. The rig crisply handled the extremes of volume and distortion while retaining utter clarity throughout the frequency range.

Says Patrick, “Part of the approach we used in developing these systems for AEG’s venues was to have the ability to present artists like Beck that need to be overpowering, and there’s a lot of energy created with those boxes. Beck’s band did an excellent job of road-testing the system, I must say. I’m really excited about the venue.”

The club, booked by AEG Live’s Goldenvoice, is expected to host 150 concerts, performances, comedy shows and other special events in its first year of operation. Acts who have played or will play at Club Nokia include Taking Back Sunday, Usher, The Pretenders, B.B. King, Stone Temple Pilots and Madeleine Peyroux.

Bud Scoppa is Mix‘s L.A. editor.