Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, named after the singer’s 2003 hit, “I Love This Bar,” specializes in classic American fare, from food and drink to country music. The chain put a strong emphasis on great sound when specifying sound systems for the clubs, seizing on the rider-friendly MIDAS PRO2 as its console of choice.
Handling the AV systems for the chain is LiveSpace, a Michigan-based design/build and live events company. “The first PRO2 we installed was in the Dallas location,” said LiveSpace president Josh Maichele. “It was the third PRO2 shipped in the U.S. The price point of the console for the amount of versatility, usability, and sound quality we get out of it has been a big home run for us.”
With the success of the chain’s early locations, LiveSpace was brought on board to create a cohesive, professional presentation as Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill entered its current phase of rapid expansion. “We’re a relationship-based company; we work hard to understand the needs of our clients so that we can tailor a solution specifically for them,” said Maichele. “The important factors for the Toby Keith’s chain revolved around great sound, rider friendliness, versatility and ease of operation. Believe me, we looked at everything on the market, but when the PRO2 was announced, the only real question was delivery date. For how it sounds and what it can do, at that price point, it’s not even close.”
The various Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill locations range in capacity from 800 seats up to 3,000 at major locations like Dallas, TX and Rosemont, IL. Live performances range from local favorites to national touring acts like Ronnie Dunn, Montgomery Gentry and Gretchen Wilson.
With new locations opening in over a dozen cities in the coming year, another critical factor for LiveSpace is training the house engineer at each location prior to opening. “Each location has a house engineer on staff, which is really important when working with visiting engineers who aren’t familiar with the console,” said Maichele. “We’ve developed a workflow for them that makes things pretty user-friendly, with all the routing they should need, plus clearly labeled channel names and a color coded system so that any engineer can easily understand what he’s running and quickly adjust things like gain and EQ.”
Maichele explained, “The biggest problem in working with an unfamiliar console, especially a digital desk, is a fear of getting lost, especially when something starts to ring or feed back. What we’re really teaching is muscle memory, so they have the confidence of knowing they’re only one or two moves away from getting where they need to go. That’s why the POPulation Groups are easily my favorite part of the console. If I’ve built my POP Groups correctly, I can hit those and with one trigger and instantly know where I am.”
To help develop confidence and understanding, LiveSpace trains the house engineer by walking them through the console set up step by step. “As we do that, we save those points as scenes so they can see the progression of how we build a show. Those scenes act as a great tool for success. The house engineer can go back through the scenes to see how we did things, and in what order. Another important aspect of training we provide is that we explain the patching, which is very powerful in the MIDAS system. One thing we love is the ability to hover over an input and see the signal coming in and where it’s routed to from there. That’s very instructive, and a great aspect of the user interface design.”
The last thing that happens before the LiveSpace team turns over the controls is a technical training night, complete with a live band.
“We take them from sound check right through the show, reiterating the workflow and why it’s that way," said Maichele. "We start with a minimum of effects and dynamics, basically to drive home how good this console can sound. Then we build from there. It’s been a very successful approach for us.”
“Trying to ensure great sound quality while avoiding technical issues across a national chain is a challenge,” said Maichele. “Our whole approach to AV systems is to simplify life for everyone who engages with our work, and the PRO2 definitely fits that profile of sophisticated technology that’s easy to teach and easy to use. It’s everything we wanted in a console, from the rider friendliness right down to the price point. The PRO2 has definitely become the standard in consoles that we rely on for Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill.”