Photo above: The Bowery Presents’ newest venue, Racket NYC, opened its doors earlier this year with L-Acoustics A15i loudspeakers in place as its main PA hangs (credit for all photos: Ryan Muir, The Bowery Presents)
The music club business is a never-ending battle, and New York City has always been on the front line. From the Copacabana and Cotton Club to CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, New York set the tone for the business nationally and globally. The Bowery Presents, which has built a club empire comprising iconic venues throughout the northeast, took its name from perhaps the toughest street in New York history. Its club brands in the city include venerable Webster Hall, Brooklyn Steel—named one of the ten best live music venues in America by Rolling Stone—and Terminal 5 in the trendy Hell’s Kitchen area.
What all these venues have in common is exceptionally high-fidelity sound, thanks to a variety of L-Acoustics loudspeakers in use at each site. Now, a bit of sonic DNA from each of these spaces has been injected into the newest member of The Bowery Presents “club,” Racket NYC, which opened on January 7th in the Chelsea space once occupied by Highline Ballroom. There, a combination of new gear and repurposed L-Acoustics kit from those other four venues came together to let the 650-capacity Racket continue one of The Bowery Presents’ core missions: keeping small clubs open and economically viable so that new artists have a place to develop and build fan bases.
“The economics of small clubs can be pretty uncertain,” says Scott Raved, Director of Operations at The Bowery Presents. “It’s important for us to grow bands, and we value the smaller venues and their natural intimacy as necessary to accomplish that. We want to give every artist and every venue the best sound possible, so we’ve chosen L-Acoustics for our clubs. Pulling some L-Acoustics elements from various venues allowed us to create a cost-effective sound system for Racket NYC that very much continues The Bowery Presents’ tradition of presenting great sound in every space.”
The Bowery Presents Assistant Sound Designer Alex Kehr worked with the company’s Head Sound Engineer, Lorne Grabe, L-Acoustics’ East Coast Application Engineer, Chris “Sully” Sullivan, and Mark Friedman, Managing Partner of See Factor, The Bowery Presents’ longtime integration partner. They created the perfect fit using some new L-Acoustics products in addition to existing and available components from within The Bowery Presents ecosystem, going as far as its Roadrunner club in Boston to get the right elements.
“The audio design at Racket was based around already existing equipment within the other The Bowery Presents venues that either needed repair or were not being utilized, so this was only a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Kehr explains. “Lorne and I, as the designers of Webster Hall, Brooklyn Steel, Terminal 5, and Roadrunner, knew we had enough of a system within those four venues to create something far better than the former Highline Ballroom has ever had. This allowed us to keep it all within the L-Acoustics family, giving us the same sonic signature you hear at every other venue.”
Installed in December, Racket’s main PA comprises four A15i flown per side, complemented by four legacy 12XT, two 8XT, and two ARCS WiFo hung as various fills and balcony delays, plus three compact 5XT providing fill at house-right. Four SB28 ground subs are spread out under the lip of the stage, while eight 115XT HiQ wedges on the deck, driven by five LA4X amplified controllers, provide monitoring. A combination of one LA12X, one LA2Xi, and four LA4X drive the house system, which is processed via a P1 Milan AVB audio processor sourced through See Factor. “Racket becomes the first The Bowery Presents venue in NYC to feature the P1 and to use AVB, which makes a massive difference in audio quality and fidelity,” says Kehr. “It’s also the only Bowery venue in the city utilizing L-Acoustics 5XT as under-balcony fills.”
Raved notes that even though some of the L-Acoustics components were of various vintages, they all integrated seamlessly together and were able to address any specific issue in the new venue. “For instance, I especially love the three five-inch [5XT] boxes we installed to cover a blind spot we discovered at the house-right platform,” he says. He also credits L-Acoustics customer service as particularly helpful on this project and others. “We get better customer service from L-Acoustics than any other manufacturer,” he states. “And Sully was right there with Mark from See Factor to tune the system as soon as it was put in. Those working relationships are the most important of all.”
Outfitting Racket NYC’s sound was far from typical, but it underscores The Bowery Presents’ dedication to assuring the best sound at all its venues, particularly the smallest, where the economics can be the most precarious. “As usual, we did it our way,” Raved laughs. “It’s difficult to budget for rooms this small in this environment and in this city, but we weren’t going to compromise on sound quality in any of our venues, including Racket, which sounds every bit as good as any of them.”
The Bowery Presents is the East Coast regional partner of AEG Live and owns and operates multiple venues in New York City and around the Northeastern United States. For info on Racket NYC and The Bowery Presents, visit www.racketnyc.com and www.bowerypresents.com. See Factor can be found online at www.seefactor.com.