BUDDY GUY’S ORIGINAL CLUB IS RECREATED IN A NEW VENUE
Buddy Guy (left) joined headliner Carl Weathersby for a surprise medley on opening night of the new Legends Club.
CHICAGO, IL—Ever since he began recording for local label Chess Records five decades ago, Buddy Guy’s contribution to Chicago’s music scene has made an enormous impact. 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 in late summer.
Burns+Beyerl Architects was responsible for architecture and design of the new Legends space. The club’s increased capacity on the main floor alone accommodates 500. “Mr. Guy had only a few, but very critical, requirements for the new club,” said Edward Twohey, AIA. “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.”
“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.
Accomplishing the project goals and to meet the building code for a venue of this size required some aggressive structural modifications. An old elevator, stair area, and two massive brick walls were removed from the center of the building and 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,” Twohey said. Gand Sound Installations (GSI) of Glenview, IL specified the latest in digital technology, both audio and video, to capture, light, amplify, and broadcast the blues performances. Both the new LED stage lights and digital power amplifiers use a fraction of the energy required by 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 flatscreen televisions throughout the club. Many aspects have been 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.
GSI installed a Yamaha PM5D console with a 48-channel Yamaha digital snake over Cat-5 cable.
The new sound system includes 14 NEXO PS series R2 speaker cabinets. “We started the project over two years ago specified with the original PS cabinets,” stated Gary Gand, president of GSI. “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.”
Five NEXO PS15 R2s are mounted on the ceiling around the stage in bi-amp mode and five NEXO 4x4 amps with built-in NEXO NX242 processors power the PA. “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,” Gand said. 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 a dbx zone controller, QSC amps, and Tannoy ceiling speakers on both floors.
Max Maxson, Guy’s touring front of house engineer, specified a Yamaha PM5D console that GSI installed with a 48-channel Yamaha digital snake over Cat-5 cable. “I want to be able to come in off the road and load the settings in from my latest mix,” Maxson said. Gand concurred that the PM5D would be the choice of most name acts that Guy invites to the club, as well as for future national traveling shows.
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,” he said. “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, requiring a special transformer that takes 208 and drops it down to two hot legs of 60 volts with no neutral. Working with the club’s electrical contractor, an Equi=Tech 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.
GSI also installed a Magnavox DVR, two BenQ video projectors, two Da-Lite video projection screens, a Sony HD camera on stage, 14 Sony flatscreens running HD over Cat-5 cable using Altona convertors, 24 Elation ProPar 56 LED lights with controller, as well as a Yamaha portable PA for the banquet room, assorted mics, stands, and sub snakes.