Albert Grossman – manager of Bob Dylan, The Band, Janis Joplin, Odetta, and Peter, Paul, & Mary, among many others – founded the Bearsville creative complex in the 1970s in Woodstock, NY. Sadly, he passed away while the Bearsville Theater was still under construction, but his widow, Sally Grossman, saw it through to completion in 1989. The John Storyk-designed theater remains part of a complex that included restaurants, residences, the Utopia production studio, and a recording studio.
Artists such as The Rolling Stones, Isley Brothers, Ozzy Osbourne, REM, Peter Tosh, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, and many others recorded at the studio. Todd Rundgren produced MTV’s earliest music videos in the Utopia studio. In addition to most of the acts listed above, The Pretenders, Blondie, Bob Weir, Paul Butterfield, and countless others have graced the stage of the Bearsville Theater. It’s a historic place, and now with a new sound reinforcement system headed by Danley Sound Labs components, it will reopen with an improved sonic signature.
“Albert Grossman originally intended the Bearsville Theater to be a showcase venue for his artists to present to the industry,” notes Robert Frazza, veteran live sound engineer (Todd Rundgren, Adrian Belew, ABBA, and 30-plus year Woodstock resident and Bearsville Theater engineer). “The property was an old farm, and the theater is built into the barn. Albert brought in John Storyk to make sure the acoustics were outstanding, and even with a terrible reinforcement system, it’s a great-sounding room. With the new Danley system, it’s blowing everyone away.”
The sonic upgrade found its way into the Bearsville Theater via Stan Denis and his Albany-based production company, Denis Entertainment Group. Frazza had used Denis’s portable Danley SM80 and TH118XL rig for Woodstock-area shows to mix Orleans, Tony Levin’s Stick Men, and Phil Keaggy. “My Danley rig is famous for showing up, getting deployed in minutes, and then inspiring the skeptical question, ‘will it be enough?’” Denis says with a laugh. “They always ask because the Danley SM80s look so small compared to the inefficient conventional boxes that they’re used to. Then I fire it up and they’re like, ‘what the heck?’ Not only is it plenty loud enough, it sounds way better than what they’re used to.”
Frazza knew different tops would be needed to meet the needs, so Denis worked with Skip Welch of Danley to arrange a demo of the SH46 full-range loudspeaker together with TH118XL subwoofers in the theater, and the resulting sound design utilizes a stereo pair of SH46s cover the 400-capacity room, supported by four TH118XL subwoofers.
All loudspeakers are driven by a four-channel Danley DNA 20k4 Pro amplifier – one channel each for each SH46, two central TH118XLs together on channel three, and two flanking TH118XLs together on channel four. Denis used Danley’s onboard DSP and presets as starting points during commissioning.
Frazza likes to run full-range boxes as if there were no subs, so Denis set their high-pass filters to match the 75 Hz response of the loudspeakers themselves. Frazza mixes in the subs as needed. To round things out in the room, a pair of Danley GO2 8CX full-range loudspeakers provide front fill when needed from movable positions at the front lip of the stage. The system also has a new Midas M32 console, chosen for its familiarity among mix engineers are already familiar with it.
Meanwhile, two additional stereo pairs of Danley GO2 8CX cover the bar, where patrons get a view of the stage through angled glass windows. They are slightly time delayed in order to synch with the low end coming from the TH118XL subs about 50 feet away.
“The [new system] commissioning was another one of my joyous ‘Danley moments’,” Denis concludes “It exceeded everyone’s, already high, expectations, and everyone is thrilled with the results. Like it was in its heyday, the Bearsville Theater will be the place that everybody wants to play between New York City and Syracuse or Buffalo. It will be the kind of place you have to play, just so you can say that you played there.”