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The Factory, St. Louis, MO

Kevin M. Mitchell • InstallationsOctober 2021 • October 11, 2021

The Factory in St. Louis features an all-L-Acoustics P.A. system with a large K2i rig. Photos by Kevin M. Mitchell

New $23M Venue Welcomes Live Audiences

A new multi-purpose event space/concert hall has risen in St. Louis — the area’s first from-scratch venue build in decades. Having run several similar-sized facilities across the country, COO Brian Carp says he was able “reverse engineer” and take a shot at correcting all the disadvantageous and oddities of all the other clubs he’s worked in. It is indeed multi-purposed: “What we’ve been able to do is create a club atmosphere on the floor, a performing arts feel in the balcony, and an amphitheater vibe from the stage,” Carp says.

The 52,000-square-foot space is designed to be flexible. With chairs placed on the open dance floor and a general-admission standing area behind FOH, there’s a total capacity of 3,400, yet the venue can be reconfigured for a more intimate feel for a comedy show or even a wedding. Two large, impeccably decorated lobbies adorned with St. Louis music-related art (Tina Turner, Jeff Tweedy, Miles Davis) are soundproofed, allowing for conversations even when packed.

The large balcony area offers comfortable seating with excellent sightlines

The System

Project integrator St. Louis-based Logic Systems installed an impressive L-Acoustics system. There are 12 K2s line arrays plus two KARA IIs per side. Filling out the room and the stage in this all-L-Acoustics rig are ARCs, MTDs, A10is, X15-HiQs, SB28s and two SB18M drum sub monitors. The amps, processing, and networking are all L-Acoustics as well. Mic-wise, it’s a Shure mic package including the AD4D Axient 2-channel wireless system. Driving it is an Avid Profile at FOH and an Avid D-Show for the monitor engineer. “We are a long-time L-Acoustics house,” says Logic’s Chip Self. “For a facility where quality and rider acceptability are paramount, L-Acoustics was an easy decision. There are several loudspeaker systems that I love — and enjoy mixing on and deploying — but for unquestioned rider acceptability, L-Acoustics is second to none. The system covers exceptionally well and sounds fantastic, with ample horsepower to suit any show.”

The line arrays and the lighting rigs are on motorized trollies by Harrington. “I really think the trolley system was a great solution,” Self says. “I believe it could find acceptance across our industry for a variety of applications. We used trolley motors on the P.A. as well as the US and MS [upstage and mid-stage] trusses. The trolleys let us move the main speaker arrays and on-stage lighting trusses to alternate locations, and then completely out of the way of the touring act’s system if needed — all at the touch of a button. The savings in labor and storage space will pay for the trolley motors in a couple years, easily.” The control for that is from Applied Electronics.

“We wanted the best of the best for this venue, so we started having conversations with production managers and event pros, listening to learn who to work with to create a world-class lighting and sound system,” says Carp, on the decision to work with Logic Systems. The budget was a significant $23 million. But the production company selling the shiniest new toys wasn’t enough. “We wanted someone who could not only install the best systems but maintain them.” A company “just” a five-hour drive away was considered, but to ensure firefighter-level attention if a problem arose just before or during a show, an equally great local company would be the better choice. Carp has also forged a strong relationship with local promoters Contemporary Productions, and they recommended Self and Logic Systems. Carp’s experience with other clubs also taught him that a little preventive maintenance goes a long way, and that’s best done locally.

“One of the most impressive things about the entire Factory experience has been their overall commitment to getting it right,” Self says. “Particularly on a new construction project, where details and changes along the way can easily become overwhelming. The ownership did an exceptional job keeping their eye on the ball in terms of what’s really important to the quality and functionality of the space for live performances. There were countless opportunities where they could have cut corners, but they stayed the course to ensure that everything went correctly.”

Brian Carp, COO of The Factory

Homecoming

As for Carp, this new gig is a homecoming with an unexpected twist. He grew up in St. Louis and studied international relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A move to Denver was followed by a gig as GM of the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO. Four years later, that venue would become part of Z2 Entertainment, and Carp became COO, managing both the Fox and the Boulder Theater. From there, he went west, working for Live Nation, first at the House of Blues in Anaheim, CA, and then the House of Blues in Dallas. “Then we had our second son, and we just didn’t want to be so far from grandparents, so we went home.” The return to St. Louis surely meant getting out of the industry and into another line of work, right?

Apparently, the industry was not done with him. Casual conversations Carp had with property developer Michael Staenberg of The Staenberg Group went from just spitballin’ to a business plan about building a new music venue from a blank slate. A deal with Contemporary Productions, naming them the official booking partners, cemented the deal. “Three years later, here we are,” Carp says, motioning to the perfectly embellished lobby.

Logic Systems owner Chip Self makes a final adjustment to the L-Acoustics ARC speaker used as stage right in-fill.

The Factory is actually located west of downtown St. Louis in the well-heeled suburb of Chesterfield MO. Carp makes the case that his place won’t be competing with other under-5,000 seat options in the downtown area. “We want to offer bands another opportunity to play for people in St. Louis. A lot of bands were skipping this market, as the other places were booked,” adding there are plenty of bands, comedy shows, and other events to go around,” as well as 14 hotels within five miles of the new venue.

St. Louis-based Gateway Studios & Production Services pre-wired the entire building as it was being built for cameras and video. It’s even set up for a video truck to easily plug in from a dock and start filming. Carp also mentioned the new Gateway complex being built nearby — a concert touring rehearsal facility expected to track big acts on their way out on tour. “We’re hoping that acts practicing there get the itch to drive the short distance over here and do a show.”

In addition to audio and visuals, every aspect of the audience experience has gotten attention. The side seats in the balcony are angled, so those seated there won’t have to crank their heads so much to see the stage. Four bars are built into the wall into little coves, designed so you can’t stand at those bars and see the band, forcing one to get your drink and get out of the way so the next person can belly up. There are also four nice dressing rooms for the artists, but also a comfortable crew room with shower and a washer/dryer. “No one thinks about the crew,” says Carp, “but here they won’t have to hang out outside or in their buses.” Four loading docks ease load-in/outs and an extensive selection of Robe and Chauvet lighting completes the package.

“We hope it’s easy to operate for everyone, including vendors that come in,” Carp says. “We’re extremely fortunate to put together a venue with all the bells and whistles to create the best experience possible for the fans, the bands and the crews.”

One of The Factory’s two lobbies.

Installation Profile: The Factory

CREW

  • Designer/Project Lead: Chip Self
  • Project Manager: Kris Trgovich
  • Installation Manager: DJ Kent
  • Installers: Jeremy Hilliard, Lucas Sellers
  • Lighting: Ryan Lilly, Erin Wolf
  • Audio Techs: Eric Holshouser, Ben Schulte, Mark Burris
  • Rigging Techs: Brian Martin, Nigel Deluca, Toby Beck

FOH GEAR

  • FOH Console: Avid Profile
  • Main P.A./side: (12) L-Acoustics K2, (2) KARA II
  • Outfill: L-Acoustics ARCS
  • Subs: (12) L-Acoustics KS28
  • Front Fill: (6) L-Acoustics MTD-108
  • Delays: (4) L-Acoustics A10i wide
  • Amplifiers: (3) LA-12x, (14) LA-8, (4) LA-4x
  • Processing: L-Acoustics P1
  • Networking: L-Acoustics LS10

MON GEAR

  • MON Console: AVID D-Show
  • Monitors: (12) L-Acoustics X15-HiQ
  • Side Fill Monitors/side: (2) L-Acoustics SB28, (2) ARCS
  • Drum Sub Monitors: (2) L-Acoustics SB18M
  • Mics: Shure hardwired, Shure Axient wireless

 

 

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