LOS ANGELES, CA—The team behind New York’s Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom opened a new music venue in downtown Los Angeles in September. The 275-capacity Moroccan Lounge features installed audio and lighting production packages that belie its small size, including a Soundcraft Vi2000 digital console at front-of-house driving a d&b audiotechnik Y Series main speaker system, and a grandMA2 lighting desk and comprehensive stage lighting.
“There’s no sub-300-capacity venue that I can think of that has our audio and lighting specifications,” says Will Pfeffer, the venue’s production manager. “If you’re Grizzly Bear, who can sell out three nights in a row at the Wiltern,” referring to the 1,850-capacity L.A theater, “but you want to start off the tour with an intimate show for the biggest fans, and production doesn’t want to skimp on the quality of the venue, then this is the venue.”
The Moroccan Lounge, founded by brothers Michael and Brian Swier and their partner Joe Baxley, is the team’s second L.A. venue; the Swiers opened the midsize Teragram Ballroom (featured in PSN, June, 2015) two years ago. Both venues reflect Michael Swier’s belief that top-quality production technology, acoustics and staging are essential to the experience for the artist and audience alike.
The team saw a quality gap between the city’s 300-capacity clubs and 600-plus-capacity venues like the Teragram, reports Pfeffer, who has relocated from the Bay Area, where he was a staff FOH engineer at Terrapin Crossroads, the venue owned by the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh. “We want to provide a stepping stone for those bands who are not yet able to fill Teragram Ballroom.”
Jeff DelBello, of New Jersey-based design, installation and sales company dB Sound Design, has provided services at all the Swiers’ venues; here, he installed d&b Y10P two-way passive loudspeakers for the mains, and three Y-Subs in an array below the stage.
“In some of these smaller clubs, there are sightline issues, so they wanted to get the speakers up as high as they could,” says DelBello. But the ceiling above the audience area to the right of the stage, in front of the FOH position, is slightly lower, so he installed a Y8, which offers more focused directivity, for fill.
DelBello had allowed a week to set up and tune the system, but there was a setback: “When we got there, the general contractor had cut all the wire out for the house system and we had to re-run everything, in five days. The people from d&b came out and did the system tuning with Will and Sam Coy, a local sound engineer who works at the Teragram.”
The Mercury Lounge has a Soundcraft Vi1000 at FOH. “People like it, it’s simple to use and it sounds great, so they decided to go with it again,” says DelBello. “Tom Der [national sales manager, Soundcraft USA] gave us a great deal and we were able to get the Vi2000 at the Moroccan Lounge.” Because of the desk’s on-board processing, there was no need for outboard gear, he says.
“I would say it’s the most user-friendly board out there,” adds Pfeffer. “It doesn’t skimp on preamps and quality or the Lexicon effects.” Monitors are typically run from the Vi2000, he says, but there is space at stage left if a tour is carrying a console.
Onstage, Pfeffer continues, “We’ve got a lot of Sennheisers, including a couple of MD431s, my favorite for vocals, and Sennheiser 6 and 9 series for vocals, drums and guitars. We got a whole Telefunken drum mic kit, and the gamut of Shure mics—Betas, 58s, B7s, SM81s, an SM7. And we got the newest K+M heavy-duty mic stands. We run Radial JDI direct boxes.”
There are six wall-mounted Soundtube speakers in the bar, which are fed from the Vi2000 on show nights and can be controlled by the bartender.
In addition to Grizzly Bear, Julian Casablancas + the Voidz and Grouplove also played during the club’s opening period. “Those underplays created a lot of buzz about the place,” Pfeffer reports. “We had a lot of interest before we opened, but now it’s gone to a different level.”