Matthew Kasha (l) and The Bowery Presents owner Michael Swier.
Manhattan’s Webster Hall has soaked up more than its share of music, from Prohibition-era balls to the 1950s, when RCA used the venue to record Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, to the 1980s when, as the Ritz, the space was “really known for being a fantastic rock ‘n’ roll joint. Everyone used to play there,” New York native and sound designer/engineer Matthew Kasha said. Going by its original name once more, since 1990, Webster Hall has almost exclusively hosted wild and colorful club nights. This year, local promoter The Bowery Presents, which also owns Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom, has brought in a live sound reinforcement system and is promoting some of the city’s best live music acts there, augmenting the venue’s existing dance club nights.
The Bowery Presents once again chose Kasha, who had also designed and installed the sound systems for their other venues. Kasha, who has been a recording engineer for 25 years working with artists such as Cameo, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Walsh, says, “Webster Hall had done very little live music. They had no live system of their own. It was predominately a DJ dance club situation.”
The Bowery Presents team, comprising owner/promoter Michael Swier and Kasha, was forced to deal less with preservation issues than to find a system that would fit into the club’s existing aesthetics. Kasha remarks, “It’s a very good-looking club, so there wasn’t a lot of acoustic treatment that we would be able to do. We had to make sure that the footprint of the speaker system that we put in did not dominate their stage proscenium and that the club could do all its other functions.
“I knew that I wanted to go with L-Acoustics. I had demoed a whole bunch of stuff and their components sounded great in the room. It was a matter of configuring a system from among their product line that would fit into the allotted space.” The venue’s twin dV-DOSC/dV-SUB line source arrays were set up on a motorized rig, both on the left and right sides of the Grand Ballroom stage. Each array comprises one dv/SUB with 12 dv/DOSC cabinets flown below and three additional dV-SUBs hung inches above the deck, giving the appearance of being ground-stacked but having the advantage of not transferring low-frequency vibrations to the stage. The system can be pulled back between shows. Kasha notes that this extended line array situation “sounds just fantastic and does get out of the way really nicely.” Six sb218 cabinets, each with two 18-inch subwoofers, sit under the stage, providing subs to round out this four-way system. All speakers are powered by L-Acoustics/Lab.Gruppen LA Series amps.
Says Kasha, “I’ve tried to make all our FOH positions at all our clubs the way a recording engineer walking into a live place would want them to be. That includes studio-quality outboard gear and Bantam patchbays for ultimate flexibility.” While improvements are being made to the space, including the installation of a permanent FOH position, flexibility at Webster Hall means using a temporary but useful rolling control room with outboard gear (including Summit TLA 100 comps, Lexicon and Eventide effects, and Drawmer 201 gates) and a Midas Heritage 3000 all attached, allowing engineers to get into a perfect mix position for their shows and allowing the club to roll the unit away to make room for the next night’s events.
Recent acts have included Modest Mouse, Sonic Youth, Bright Eyes, Moby, Queens of the Stone Age, The Shins, Billy Corgan and John Mayer. For more information and a schedule of upcoming shows, please go to www.bowerypresents.com.