What Legends Are Made Of:
Gand Concert Sound Re-Creates Buddy Guy’s Original Club in New Venue
Source: Systems Contractor News
“ With directional speakers perched overhead, the sound system impressed with hearty midrange and dynamic clarity. Volume levels drowned out random conversation but never became oppressive. Akin to clear sightlines, amplification remained consistently excellent from all angles. Plus, the speakers weren’t even being pushed.” -Bob Gendron, Chicago Tribune
Ever since he began recording for local label Chess Records five decades ago, Buddy Guy’s contributions to Chicago’s music scene have been legion. Yet the iconic guitarist’s greatest gift to the city might be his newest creation: A brand-new Legends Club that, after years of planning, celebrated its official grand opening party last month. Located less than a block away from Guy’s former namesake venue, the massive space stakes an immediate claim on being the best blues spot in town. The site is not new to being a performance venue.
In 1903, well before the current structure was built, the site was home to the International Theater, which featured a round open space of more than 100 foot in diameter. The current building was constructed in 1923 and is approximately 16,000 square feet. The new club’s increased capacity on the main floor accommodates 500.
Burns+Beyerl Architects was responsible for architecture and design of the new Legends space. “Mr. Guy had only a few, but very critical requirements for the new club. First and foremost, the main stage had to be on the first floor with a corner entry, and he didn’t want it to look overly polished,” states Edward Twohey AIA. ‘A blues club is kind of old and funky’ Guy repeated in the early meetings, even threatening to burn a grill full of hickory logs for a week to get the place properly smoked up.
To accomplish the project goals, and meet the building code for a venue of this size, required some aggressive structural modifications. An old elevator, stair area, as well as two massive brick walls were removed from the center of the building. This area was restructured with two large steel frames that allow the center of building to be column free. “Despite the old funky feel, the stage and sound system is truly state of the art, says Twohey. Gand Sound Installations of Glenview, IL specified the latest digital technology, both audio and video, to capture, light, amplify, and broadcast the best blues performances to fans of Legends. Both the new LED stage lights and digital power amplifiers use a fraction of the energy required of the old-school equipment, and give off a fraction of the heat. Patrons can also enjoy the live performances, or sporting events on any of 14 new flat screen televisions throughout the club.
Longtime Legends patrons will recognize aspects carried over from the original venue, but improvements are obvious in the club’s new digs, resulting in enhanced sightlines, sound, spaciousness, and entertainment opportunities. Bob Gendron of the Chicago Tribune reported, “ With directional speakers perched overhead, the sound system impressed with hearty midrange and dynamic clarity. Volume levels drowned out random conversation but never became oppressive. Akin to clear sightlines, amplification remained consistently excellent from all angles. Plus, the speakers weren’t even being pushed.”
The new sound system includes fourteen NEXO PS series R2 speaker cabinets. “We started the project over two years ago spec’d with the original PS cabinets.” states Gary Gand, President of Gand Sound Installations. “However, since that time, NEXO made many improvements to the PS Series that allowed us to tackle several problems with the stage location; such as lack of ceiling height and therefore a low stage which did not provide the typical space for subwoofers underneath.”
Gand Sound Installations provided a Yamaha PM5D console with a 48 channel Yamaha digital snake over Cat 5 cable. Max Maxson, Guy’s touring FOH engineer, specified the console. “I want to be able to come in off the road and load my settings in from my latest mix,” Maxson said. “We felt that the PM5D would be the choice of most name acts that Buddy invites to the club such as his good friends Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, Johnny Lang, Jimmy Vaughn, John Mayer, Derek Trucks as well as for future national traveling shows.” said Gand. The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton have surprised Chicago audiences with ‘secret’ shows over the first 20 years of the club’s operation.
The PA system is powered by five NEXO 4×4 amps with built-in NEXO NX242 processors. Five NEXO PS15 R2s are mounted on the ceiling around the stage in bi-amp mode. “Two RS15 subs were installed in the ceiling pointing down, and with steering, we can make great low end everywhere, and keep it off the stage,” says Gand. Eight NEXO PS10 R2s are used for stage monitors and one PS15 R2 is used for the drummer set up. “We installed a NEXO Alpha S2 in the wall offstage for added thump. This hits the bands as they come out of the dressing room hallway stairs, to the stage. We wanted to give them a charge as they are walking on to play,” Gand quipped. GSI also installed an extensive foreground music system with dbx zone controller, QSC amps, and Tannoy ceiling speakers on both floors.
Gand noted that one of the gremlins of the old club was a terrible buzz that came in through the power off the pole. “It was so bad that no amount of filtering or outboard portable power conditioners could subdue it in the stage amps. One of my personal goals was to clean up the rizz that was always present at the old club. Nobody could eliminate it so I took it as a personal challenge to make the new Legends as quiet as the best recording studios.” To achieve this, Gand employed the use of balanced power, which he puts into recording studios as standard practice. This requires a special transformer that takes 208 and drops it down to two hot legs of 60 volts, with no neutral. Working with the electrical contractor, an Equitech 10 kVA balancing transformer was installed at the main panel for all audio and band power and coupled to two Lowell sequencing breaker panels off stage at the amp rack location.
The new Legends also features a Magnovox DVR, two BenQ video projectors, two Daylite video projection screens, a Sony HD camera on stage, 14 Sony flat screens running Hi Def over Cat 5 cable using Altona convertors, 24 Elation ProPar 56 LED lights with controller, two Lowell sequencing panels, as well as a Yamaha portable PA for the banquet room, assorted mics, stands, and sub snakes; all installed by GSI.
And who better to christen the place than Buddy Guy himself, who joined headliner Carl Weathersby for a surprise medley on opening night, followed by a live broadcast over Chicago’s WXRT radio Blues Breakers program (mixed by the Metro Mobile remote truck). Guy’s annual two-week residency starts in January 2011 featuring special guests that can only be imagined at this time. Whatever the caliber, the club’s sound system will be able to do them justice.