ETC and Energy Systems Design Concoct Exquisite Lighting for Justin Timberlake’s New Nashville Hotspot
United States – The Twelve Thirty Club in Nashville is full of headliners. A modern take on the supper club, the ‘dapper as hell’ restaurant was developed by James Beard Award nominee Sam Fox alongside pop superstar Justin Timberlake, with architectural lighting and entertainment control designed by Energy Systems Design. The project was only possible thanks to ETC’s control systems and infrastructure.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to create beautiful lighting in a place steeped in history: Broadway in Nashville, right across from the former home of the Grand Ol’ Opry,” says David Empey, head of technology and design for ‘Energy Systems Design. ESD is a full-service design, mechanical, plumbing, electrical and technology company with locations in Scottsdale, Arizona and Austin, TX. “We designed the lighting, lighting controls and network for the entire site. As the designs for the building developed, I knew I needed the flexibility of ETC systems so that we could handle any architectural or entertainment needs that arose. I also knew that I could count on ETC, Bradfield Stage and Extreme Electric to provide the commitment and technical know-how necessary to implement the design correctly.
A lot has been done for this ambitious place. The whole club has many different spaces. The first floor is used as an “energetic, elevated honky-tonk a cut above the rest of Broadway”, with food and music nightly. The mezzanine is an intimate lounge bar primarily for members and the second floor is a majestic 400-seat “Supper Club” where a suit and tie wouldn’t be out of place. The restaurant and lounge feature antique chandeliers, opulent booths, a row of windows overlooking the Bridgestone Arena, an outdoor terrace with views of The Ryman and, of course, a stage set for acts everything from Justin Timberlake to Kelly Clarkson to Lady Gaga to the next big band coming out of Nashville.
“There’s a movement in Nashville toward a more upscale feeling, going beyond the loud and gruff, while embracing the energy and vibrancy of Nashville’s legendary music scene,” says Empey. “Working with the design team, what they were looking for was a traditional, but radically elevated honky-tonk.”
On the lighting side, this meant that they wanted to evoke an extremely warm and refined look. The light is set to 2200K, more amber than white since: “Sam Fox likes very low and very warm lighting, explains Empey. “The design draws attention to the individual chandeliers and light fixtures, so it feels like they are the main sources of light, even though they aren’t. They can’t be. Chandeliers at the low intensity the customer wanted could not provide enough light. By paying attention to distribution and ensuring the light is really warm – the same color temperature is used throughout the restaurant – light can come from anywhere, even when your eyes are drawn to the chandeliers.
Lighting control is a mix of DMX and 0-10V dimming throughout the club, with ETC’s Unison Paradigm system controlling everything in all spaces. “The whole building is connected to a single control panel – but also easily accessible via an app.”
The jewel in the crown of the Twelve Thirty Club is the second-floor Supper Club, a space that was meant to provide a luxurious, world-class venue for performers. Crescent-shaped tufted leather booths with copper inlay line the walls, red velvet chairs surround wooden dining tables topped with antique fixtures, and deep club chairs provide intimate seating near the stage.
It was Energy Systems Design’s job to ensure that the stage lighting was up to this level of opulence.
“The team wanted it to be both stylish but not show off theatrical montages. To feel like a stage but not have anything that looks like a stage that stands out,” Empey describes. “So we built a club old-fashioned restoration, as one of the first Frank Sinatra might have played. Then we hid our stage lights (ColorSource Spots) in an architectural cove. We chose ColorSource because they are fixtures rich and complete that allowed us to obtain this warm color that we were looking for.
ColorSource fixtures are also capable of other colors, but the design team was concerned about color-changing fixtures due to their traditional aesthetic.
“There was a very serious conversation about how to change color in a way that was elegant but could enrich performance.” ETC’s ColorSource fixtures were able to create a rich, natural look, without the artificial, electronic feel of other LED fixtures. Eventually, the colors won them over.
The color change also comes from the pixel strip in the cove and the RGBA downlights on the ceiling throughout the space. “I sat down with Sam Fox and we picked exactly the amber color he wanted,” says Empey. “So when you need a dance floor, you can remove the tables and have a whole dance floor as well.”
The transition between restaurant lighting and entertainment lighting is managed by Paradigm, which also manages all architectural lighting controls.
In this case, the entertainment lighting is completely separate. The entertainment console takes precedence over ACN and owns the stage lights during a show. Everything else is controlled by Paradigm in the background.
“Everything Else” is a combination of ETC Sensor3 Power Control Racks, Echo Relay Panels and Foundry Panels, all on an ETC network, with a variety of DMX Response Mk2 Gateways and 0-10V Gateways scattered around in all space. In this project, everything is darkened, including the kitchen. “Sam Fox is a fan of public kitchens, and he wants the kitchen to be warm and to match the rest of the restaurant.”
For the benefit of the operations team, Paradigm triggers all dimming events throughout the day. “Lighting in all spaces is controlled via Paradigm touchscreens and apps. Different spaces have separate menu screens. Managers have the Paradigm Remote app on their phones, and if they need to adjust the levels in a scene, they can do it there.
With so much to do and such high standards to maintain, managers and staff appreciate how easy the Paradigm system is to use. During training in May, just as the first floor honky-tonk opened, David approached the general manager to train him on the lighting system just before closing. “It was a long day, he was exhausted and he asked me to limit training to less than 30 minutes. I said, ‘If I do it in five, can I get a Twelve Thirty Club hat? ?”, Picking up the CEO’s phone, he installed the Paradigm app and associated it with the network. “Then I handed it to him and said ‘Hit the dinner button.’ He pressed dinner, the dinner light came on and we were done. It took about three minutes and I had my hat.
The Paradigm system was so solid that even though they worked on a gradual opening, with installers continually going into system electronics to add more components and more capabilities, staff and customers almost never saw a interruption of functionality. “ETC has always said that all this control and integration is possible, that everything can work together seamlessly. And they definitely succeeded.
Energy Systems Design worked closely with Fox and ETC’s in-house visionary team to deviate from the status quo and create a truly unique and user-friendly experience.
photos: Seth Parker and Jason Bihler