Middlesex Sound & Light (MSL) recently completed the latest in a long line of technical fit-outs for London-based restaurant and nightclub operator the Columbo Group, with the opening of the latest Blues Kitchen in Brixton.
The 650-capacity venue is the third Blues Kitchen to be opened by the group, following Camden and Shoreditch, but the spec has been upgraded to take into account the higher calibre of bands that it expects to host. Brixton is also the first of the venues to feature live music on two floors.
MSL project director Darren Olivier recommended Harman's Soundcraft Si Impact consoles for front-of-house duty on both the ground and first floors. He confirmed that the spec had been carefully discussed and agreed with Columbo Group creative director, Liam Hart, and the resident sound engineer.
“The new Si Impacts were specified to create uniformity on each floor and streamline operation by the house engineers. It also reduces the requirement for outboard kit which takes up valuable space,” confirmed Olivier. “At previous sites we have always specified Soundcraft GB24 analogue desks – and while these have always been great, we felt the time was right to go digital.”
While reduced ground floor requirement necessitated the provision of a Soundcraft Mini Stagebox 16, up on the first floor a larger 32-input version of the Stagebox was installed to provide greater connectivity. “This reflects the larger channel requirement in the main room,” says Olivier.
With a high demand on I/O count, MSL has set up a 24 x 24-channel routing matrix in the DSP – comprised of two fixed format (12-in/8-out) BSS Soundweb BLU-100 and two BLU-BOB 8-channel expansion units – to allow any source to be distributed to any zone in the venue.
In addition, a Soundweb BLU-10 remote has been installed at the FOH mix position on the first floor and two further BLU-10 touch panel remotes are at ground floor level (one at the mix position and one at the bar). All zonal volume levels can be independently controlled via the BLU-10s.
The Columbo Group has wide experience in providing sound systems for both bands and DJs alike. According to Olivier, the sound system at Blues Kitchen Brixton needed to serve both purposes – switching between the presets on the Soundweb London DSP.
“As we host multiple bands and DJs on any given night, the operation needs to run seamlessly, and a simple switch between the system presets enables, for instance, our resident soul band’s sound engineer to plug his show file into the Soundcraft desk without the need for a soundcheck,” said Hart.
Soundweb programming and system design was carried out by MSL senior project manager Toby Jones, as he has at all the Columbo sites MSL has worked at in the past. Presets on the BLU-10 at ground floor level are time-of-day dependent. “This enables the user to push a time slot on the screen and the volume will automatically change to the predetermined level,” he explained. This is implemented by using timed gains, with the levels fading over 10 seconds, while the BLU-10 upstairs again has source fades, EQ trim and sub level adjustments. Toby Jones has also implemented a mute group for the stairs between the floors.
In fact all sound sources are designed to fade in and out, allowing for a gradual, seamless change rather than a 'snap', with a specially created source fade macro allowing for a three-second fade between sources.
The loudspeaker system combines line array and differential dispersion technologies to provide even coverage. Upstairs, a pair of flown W8VDQ are complemented by four WS218X, twin 18in subs, recessed under the stage for its seven-nights-a-week operation. Two-thirds of the way back are a second pair of delayed W8VDQ, strategically aimed to provide infills and maintain even pattern control.
What steered Darrel Olivier in the direction of Martin Audio’s hybrid speaker? “I conducted a system demo at a site in Brighton – and was massively impressed with it,” he explained. “It sounded perfect for live music but also produced a great dance sound for the DJ sessions. The W8VDQs don’t have a huge footprint, which was vital as the aesthetics are important to the brand.”
On the smaller stage downstairs, the sound is delivered via Martin Audio’s new CDD installation series, using Coaxial Differential Dispersion technology. Olivier has specified eight CDD8 (8in) speakers and three CSX112 (1 x 12in) direct radiating subs. Further CDD5s can be found in the toilets – and the whole system is driven by Powersoft amplification.
In addition to retaining some of the existing equipment from the previous set-up, MSL has also invested heavily in soundproofing in Brixton to ensure there is no sound escape into the neighbouring houses. The integrator also made a generous provision of plug-in points, enabling iPods to be used at will, as well as providing all the stage production lighting.
According to Liam Hart you can't build a business on the live music programme alone, so as with the previous two venues, Brixton’s Blues Kitchen will offer Texan BBQ, and a huge selection of bourbon.
“We want to be known as more than a big gig space; we want [the clientele] to fall in love with the space and come back regardless of who's playing. We want them to have a love affair with the venue.”