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Everything In The Right Place: Audio Helps Revitalize A Venerable Philadelphia Theater

An inside look at the sound system renovations for a classic venue built for opera in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein.

The live music scene can be a fickle landscape, with touring acts changing their size and scope along with the tastes and whims of audiences. In Philadelphia, like many other urban markets, a niche has grown for mid-sized concert venues.

Catering to this demand, Live Nation’s Fillmore Philadelphia opened in 2015 with a 2,500-capacity main room. AEG/Bowery Presents’ Franklin Music Hall (formerly the Electric Factory) is another venue of similar size, as is the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Verizon Hall at the corner of South Broad and Spruce Streets. Travel north into the suburbs, and the Tower Theater in Upper Darby holds court with a capacity of 3,119.

Then there is The Met, a reclaimed historic hall opened last December on the edge of Philly’s Center City. With a capacity of 3,400 for fully seated events and 4,000 for general admission shows, the gilded, multi-tier theater splits the difference somewhere between not-too-mid-sized and not-too-big.

Built for opera in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein, the grandfather of Broadway’s Oscar Hammerstein II, the grandly refurbished room was reimagined by Live Nation in partnership with building owners Eric Blumenfeld and the Holy Ghost Headquarters Revival Center, which has called the structure home since 1997 and still manages to hold Sunday services there despite a growing number of bookings.

“Having an extra 800 seats to sell over many of the mid-sized settings is nothing to sneeze at,” Live Nation regional president Geoff Gordon has said for the record. “At $50 a ticket, that’s an additional $40,000.”

And indeed many acts want to play the venue, hailing from all genres. Spacious but surprisingly intimate, the theater has been enhanced by house PA and distributed audio provided by Clair Solutions. Guided by Clair senior system designer and physicist Jim Devenney, the build used a design penned by Dustin Goen out of the Maryland office of Boulder, CO-based K2 Audio.

A closer look at the Clair C12 line arrays per side accompanied by flown iS218 subwoofers.

Putting It Together

Onsite for the new system’s debut late last year for inaugural shows by Bob Dylan, John Legend, and Weezer, Devenney says “I can describe the house sound here in three letters: B-I-G. It’s articulate at the same time, and having the serious headroom we provided is great, as the dynamics can remain nonstop with nothing to ever get in their way. A lot of people who have come in here have wound up having to turn down their send so that they can run their consoles hard enough to be right where they want to sit. That’s a good thing, there’s never a fight with this system. You can hurt yourself if you want to, or not.”

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