Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages (but 21+), this is the moment you've all been waiting for.
The DNA Lounge will be reopening on Friday the 13th of July!
Last tuesday, at the last minute, we got our Special Inspections signed off. Barry then went down to the building inspector's office and camped out there until he arrived, and didn't leave until he had signed the paperwork, faxed it to the police, and verified that it had been received, just to make sure. Then on wednesday morning, Barry and our lawyer spent the morning on the phone, negotiating last-minute details of the exact wording of the stipulations attached to our permits.
At 1PM, we all went down to the far-too-familiar police hearing room, and reviewed a marked-up printout of the stipulations (covered with handwriting and crossed-out words.) I signed a piece of paper agreeing to the batch of stipulations that came from the noise abatement unit; and was to sign a blank piece of paper that they would then fill in with the actual stipulations, transcribed from the marked-up copy. Except that I didn't actually have to sign that one, because they had one on file from last year when we started this process!
So on monday morning, Barry went down to the City Tax Collector and paid the permit fees, and brought the permits home! I'm now the proud permittee of "Place of Entertainment," "Dance Hall Keeper - Extended Hours," and "Extended Hours Premises" permits!
And with that, we've chosen our opening date. This gives us time to hire and train our staff, finalize things with the promoters we've lined up for our initial batch of weekly events, and start booking events for the rest of the summer and beyond!
We'll have more details about what our schedule will look like as we nail things down in the coming weeks.
In other news, our dj coffin has been delivered. We've had all the gear for some time now (it's what we used for the noise test, for example) but we hadn't seen the box that the gear lives in until today. Here it is:
It's huge, and weighs about as much as a real coffin (body and all.) The reason we have a coffin, instead of just bolting the gear to the dj platform, is so that it's somewhat mobile. Depending on the event, we might want to have the dj be down on the stage instead of in the dj booth. As you see, it's got three turntables (Technics SL1200-M3Ds.) The shiny controller in the middle is the mixer ( Allen & Heath Xone:62), and above that are the controls for the two CD players (Denon DN-2100F.) The CD drawers open from the front of the coffin, at about thigh height.
It has a lot of audio connections going into and out of it, so to make it easy to move, all of the internal connections are soldered into one giant twist-lock connector, that is definitely one of the coolest plugs I've seen:
To the left of the coffin is the live sound engineer station, which will only be used when there's a band on stage. Our main mixing board isn't installed yet, but the equipment racks are. Here they are:
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We had a party on thursday night! Our first dry run, where we actually charged people for alcohol! It went perfectly: we had two bartenders and a full security staff, and we had the music from the djs in the main room piped into the lounge sound system as well. Since we got the permits on monday afternoon, I wanted to have the party monday night, but there was the small matter of the sound and lights not being fully hooked up yet.
The security staff even carded my mom, so now we know that nobody is gonna be able to intimidate their way past those guys.
If you are offended that I forgot to invite you, I'm very sorry: please feel free to berate me, and I'll put you on the list for next time. (Unless actually I hate you.)
My favorite quotes from the party:
"So you're officially a club owner now. Do you feel sleazy yet?"
"I came out of the stall in the women's bathroom and some woman was wiping off the sink counter top. I asked her what she was doing, and she said, `well it just looks so nice in here that I didn't want to mess it up...' "
Two different people came up to me and called the bathrooms "efficient." I don't really know what that means.
"Did you go outside and listen?" "No, what's it sound like?" "Nothing."
"This place looks like those clubs in the Hollywood movies, where you walk in and there are chicks making out."
"I asked a friend of mine if she wanted to be my date for the evening, and she replied, `yes, and my friend wants to be your other date.' I like your club already: that kind of stuff never happens when I dj at other clubs!"
(From the guy who designed the sound system) "Imagine that, the dj's got the mixer in the red. All djs think that if it's not red, they must be doing something wrong."
The webcam images from the party were a bit grainy; I'll need to play around with manual exposure settings on the camcorders to see what I can do to clean that up. It also became obvious pretty quickly that we need to keep auto-focus off, since the flashing lights really confused it.
I'm having a lot of trouble getting clean images out of the RealVideo stream. Ever since I started alternating between the interior and exterior camera (with the video switcher) the Real stream has just gone to hell: it seems to take like 20 seconds to reconstitute the image after the scene switches, even on a 1.1MB DSL connection!
I need a RealProducer guru! Do you know one?
The options I'm using can be found on my realproducer page, in the realprod-initd script and the realprod.conf file. Right now I'm telling it to target five different bit rates, and I've tried various other video-quality options with no obvious effect.
DNA Needs TVs!
We still need more TVs! If you've got a junker TV that you're not using, we can give it a good home. Any size is fine (though smaller is better, since we have fewer small ones.) All that we require is that it be able to display a color picture. It doesn't matter if it's a good picture, but you should be able to see something. (It turns out that a bunch of the purportedly-working TVs people have donated to us really only display static: which doesn't make them useless, but does limit how we use them quite a bit...)
So if you've got a TV you're not using, we'd love to have it! We're here pretty much every weekday from noon to 7pm or so...
We stacked up a bunch of TVs in the entry hallway, behind the metal fence in front of the electrical panels, and it looks great. It's very imposing.
I put a couple of kiosks out at the party for people to play with. They were just duct taped down to tables, since we don't have enclosures for them yet: we're waiting to get a quote back from our steel guys about the things we want built to hold them. If that turns out to be too pricey, then we'll just build something out of plywood ourselves and get something classier later. (We've gone through a number of friends-of-friends who are like, "sure, I can weld" then never follow through with a design or quote. So I think that if we want it to be steel, we have to use the pros...)
Anyway, they weren't in drunkard-proof enclosures, but they were booting over the ethernet out in the main room, and nobody managed to wedge them (that I saw.) I'll definitely need to have them start up with some quick little dialog about "here is how this differs from your Mac; here's how you reboot if everything has gone wrong."
I'm also pondering ways to make it harder for someone to install a keyboard snooper on them, to capture passwords; I'd like to tell people "reset the machine before typing in a password and it should be fine," but the problem with that is, it takes GNOME like two minutes to start, so nobody's going to wait around for that. I'm settling for a script that, once the screen saver activates, kills off any unknown processes. I can think of ways around that, but it raises the bar a bit.
In other nerd news, the recession has once again been good to me: some friends' internet startup tanked recently (and for them I'm sad), but I was able to buy a bunch of used UPSes from them for $25 each! If I've done the math right, these should be able to keep the club's computers running for two and a half hours, which might even last us through the "rolling blackouts" they keep threatening us with this summer.
The rest of the live sound system was installed yesterday. We had been pondering how we were going to deal with cabling on the live sound board: typically when a band comes in, the sound guy will need to re-patch things at the back of the board, to decide which channels the effects units go on and things like that. But in our setup, the back of the board is hanging out in space over the edge of the dj booth, 15' above the dance floor, so it's a little inconvenient to get to. We were trying to decide between having a patch bay in the rack, and having some kind of swivelling table beneath the board. But then the board arrived, and even though it's huge, it weights nothing, so it's really easy to rotate around. The sound guys strapped the various cables to the back of the board in such a way that the cables won't get stressed by all the motion: the only part that actually moves when the board is rotated is the main bundle, and that's pretty indestructible.
Here are pictures of the front-of-house live sound board, the stage monitors, and the rolling rack that holds the EQs for the monitors. On night where there's a live band but only one sound guy, we can do 4 monitor mixes from up on the dj platform; but for bigger shows, there will be a second board set up to the side of the stage. This rack holds 8 EQs for those monitors, and also has a bunch of locking, foam-lined drawers where our microphones live. The monitor mixing board sits on top of the rack.
To the right is a picture of our lighting controllers. These are up in the dj booth, to the right of the dj station. The majority of the lights (the moving-spotlight Studio Spots, Technobeams, and Trackspots, plus the stage par lights) are controlled by the Whole Hog 500 controller (the blue thing on the left.) The Dataflash strobes have their own controller (the thin thing at the bottom of the box on the right.) The top right controller is for the Emulators (the coherent-light fixtures that do laser-like effects.)
The Hog can control the strobes, but I'm told that lighting guys prefer having a separate controller for them. The Emulators get their own controller because they're really old lights, and don't speak the same protocol that modern intelligent lights speak. You can get a board for the Hog that lets it control them too, but it's actually cheaper to have a separate controller.
The monitor on the right is attached to the Hog: it's mainly used for programming the lights; when operating them, the LCD screen in the middle of the controller is enough.
I've realized that I have a lot of software to write in the next few weeks, in order to make the webcast actually work from the club. It has to switch back and forth between "sound from the club's sound system" while we're open, and "sound from an archive" when we're not. And I have to archive it. And have a way to serve up the archives. And while the MP3/Icecast stream is fine, the RealVideo stream still doesn't have an audio component (Real's software blows, and I haven't figured out how to work around various irritating problems I've been having with it.) And all of this has to be almost completely automated, because I'm not going to have time to run back to the office and flip switches and move cables around every time something changes during operating hours.
This is what we call "just-in-time software." It's kinda like doing your term paper the night before it's due, but with higher stakes.
In better news, though, we got a quote back from our steel guys for building the kiosk enclosures, and it's very reasonable, so that means that they'll actually get done out of steel instead of wood, and done well!
Today the painters are back, putting another layer of clear-coat on all the steel. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: the rust on the railings and columns came out looking really good: it turns out that the clear-coat brings out a lot of detail that you couldn't see otherwise. That plus Angela's idea of doing strategic applications of rust remover to the more visible parts made it look really nice. I was very worried for a while: I was afraid that after all that effort, it was going to come out looking solid orange, and we could have just painted it if that was what we wanted. But now it looks pretty much how I wanted it to look from the beginning. Of course, it will usually be dark in the club, so most people will be totally oblivious to it anyway.
But I will know.
Please try out the links on the new Archives page, and let me know if you experience any problems!
We had our "guard card" training last week. All of our security staff will be licensed security guards. This is something the cops want us to do, but it's not an unreasonable requirement, since it's really easy to get that license: basically all it takes is that you pass a test, and not be a felon. We had an instructor come down to the club and give the class and test to our staff. Barry and I got ourselves licensed too, just in case we need to fill in some day. We're also going to get everyone first aid training, etc., but we haven't done that yet.
The class was pretty informative, since mainly it was about the laws relating to Citizens' Arrest, which I didn't know much about. Security guards (and rent-a-cops of all varieties) aren't police, so they only have the same authority as private citizens; but private citizens have the right to arrest people for misdemeanors and felonies. Then you turn them over to the cops who are basically required to do the paperwork for you. If it goes to court, then the private citizen is considered the arresting officer. Kinda neat.
Security guards in a club situation have a little more authority than random other people in the club simply because they are employees: since they're acting as agents of the business/property owner, they inherit the rights associated with that (you have the right to kick people out of your own house, for example.)
I always find thinking about the security aspects of this business creepy and depressing, since it's all about the ugly side of things: situations that only occur when someone is being an irresponsible jerk. Of course, that's an awful lot of people.
So this was the second time in a bit over a year that I've been fingerprinted. The first time was when I got the liquor license, and now because I'm a licensed security guard. Note to self: wear gloves when doing crimes.
At some point during the guard training, some shitworm tagged our door. How's that for ironic? The only people in the club were a dozen security guards, and that's when Mr. "Shamrock Express" chose to autograph our building. He did it about a foot off the ground, too, so I guess he really is a munchkin of some kind. Sadly, the webcam didn't capture it, I guess munchkins work fast.
I decided where the various video cameras inside the club are going to go, now we just need to run cable to the positions, and figure out a way to mount the camcorders. I'm really not looking forward to this part: some of those locations are pretty inaccessible, and crimping connectors onto video cables is one of my least favorite things.
We had our first live band on saturday! SWARM. They rocked.
It was another guest-list-only affair, with most of the invitees being friends of the band. The door guys say a number of people tried to bribe their way in. Ha!
Sound check was on thursday, and that was just an amazing experience: it was the first time our new live system had been used by anyone. After having spent more than a year in here looking at plumbing and piles of dirt and sheets of drywall, to actually see real live ROCK AND ROLL happening on my stage was just a beautiful thing.
It sounded great, too. There were a few glitches that had to be worked out, since we hadn't actually tried this before, but it didn't take too long. One cool thing was that as they were doing sound check, the sound guy said, "it sure would be nice if we had a separate EQ for the subwoofers." And Greg went and made one: he hooked up his laptop to soundweb, dragged some lines around, and created an extra equalizer in the appropriate spot in the system. Then he made this accessible on SoundWeb's remote control display up in the dj booth: basically he added a "subwoofer EQ" dialog box to the UI that controls our sound system in just a few minutes. If we weren't doing all this digitally, that would have meant going and buying a physical equalizer, screwing it into the rack, and moving cables around.
The lights were amazing: I'd been thinking of the moving-fixture lights as basically being for the dance floor light show, but most of them can reach the stage as well, and the light guys used them to very dramatic effect.
We webcast the video portion of the evening, but not the audio, because I'm still missing some important pieces to tie my computers and the sound system together, and I didn't have time to figure all that out before the party.
We had a full staff on saturday, and went to 3AM (with djs after the band.) All three bars were operating. Pretty much the only thing we haven't tested at this point is the beer taps: we haven't yet hooked up kegs to the lines, since we don't want to crack a keg that then might sit there for a few weeks: beer goes bad. There were a few minor plumbing disasters (the balcony bar is leaking onto the main bar, one of the toilets stopped working, and we don't seem to have hot water at all.) And we've realized that we should have doubled again the number of electrical outlets. We did that already: we put in what we thought was twice as many outlets as we'd need. But we should have kept going. The biggest hassle that happened is that the cash register company set up our registers wrong, so the totals on the tapes are nonsense: this means someone's going to have to go through all the tapes and add them up again by hand. Fun, fun.
Every single surface in the building is now sticky. It's a real club now!
We've finally announced our initial schedule of events! Go check it out on the Calendar pages. To the right is our very first newspaper ad, which will run next week.
We actually have a bit more scheduled than that, but there are still some details of various line-ups to be ironed out, so we're waiting on that to publish them.
It's kind of amazing to me how few of these djs have web pages (that I could find, anyway.) I mean, in these self-promotional days when every ten-year-old from Iceland to Australia has their own web page, most of these people are completely absent from the web, except in fleeting references in descriptions of events-gone-by. Madness!
And on top of that -- I think I'm going to have to institute a policy to not even link to people whose sites don't work at all without Flash, or that contain the words "best viewed with Internet Explorer 5," just out of general principle.
Here's me pissing off my business partners before I've even met most of them. Don't mind me, pulling my hair out because of the squandered potential of the web is a hobby of mine.