Danley Sound Labs Loudspeakers and Subwoofers Reanimate Bearsville Theater

Photo: Dion Ogust

Albert Grossman – music industry guru and 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, New York. Sadly, Albert died while the Bearsville Theater was still under construction, and his widow, Sally Grossman, saw it through to completion in 1989. The John Storyk-designed theatre remains part of a complex that included restaurants, residences, the Utopia production studio, and a recording studio. 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 production studio. In addition to most of the acts listed above, The Pretenders, Blondie, Bob Weir, Paul Butterfield, and countless others graced the stage of the Bearsville Theater. It’s a tremendously historic place, and, now with an impactful point-source Danley Sound Labs system in place, it will reopen sounding far better than it ever has before.

“Woodstock obviously holds a special place in music history, starting with the ‘Sound-Outs’ of the 1960’s that inspired the much larger Woodstock Festival,” explained Lizzie Vann, new owner of the Bearsville Theater. “It’s an amazing place, just two hours from New York City, and Albert really created the renown of today’s Woodstock’ by building the Bearsville complex here. We’re excited to revive it and build the Bearsville Theater into the musical heartbeat of the region again.” The complete renovation is currently on pace for an April 2020 open.

“Albert Grossman originally intended the Bearsville Theater to be a showcase venue for his artists to present to the industry,” said Robert Frazza, veteran live sound engineer (Todd Rundgren, Adrian Belew, ABBA, and thirty-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 Danley system found its way into the Bearsville Theater via Stan Denis and his Albany-based production company, Denis Entertainment Group. Frazza had used Stan’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?’” joked Denis. “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.”

That said, Frazza knew different tops would be needed at the Bearsville Theater, so Stan worked with Skip Welch, eastern regional sales manager with Danley, to arrange a demo of the Danley SH46 full-range loudspeaker together with TH118XL subwoofers in the theater itself. “Danley boxes are uniquely musical,” Stan said. “It’s a hard thing to put into words. There’s plenty of high end and plenty of mids, but they’re not harsh at all. Vocals sound like they’re singing in your ear! The SPLs are unbelievable, but what’s even more impressive is the dynamic headroom and evenness across the frequency range. As a live sound engineer, you’re not constrained to work around problems… mixing on a Danley system is a lot more like mixing in the studio.” Importantly, Frazza was convinced.

Vann was happy that Frazza was happy, but she was also pleased with the price tag. “Not only do Danley rigs sound amazing up against anything else in the world, they’re outrageously good for their price,” Stan said. “Danley offers so much value! Anything that’s even remotely in league with Danley is twice as expensive or more. Danley has allowed me to be extremely competitive. If a potential client gives me a shot, the job is ours to have. In short, if they’re using their ears and they care about money, then there’s no better solution than Danley.”

A stereo pair of Danley SH46s cover the 400-capacity room, supported by four Danley TH118XL subwoofers. A single, four-channel Danley DNA 20k4 Pro 20,000-watt amplifier powers the entire system: one channel each for each SH46, two central TH118XLs together on channel three, and two flanking TH118XLs together on channel four. Stan used Danley’s onboard DSP and presets as starting points during commissioning. Importantly, Frazza likes to run his full-range boxes as if there were no subwoofers in the system, so Denis set the SH46s’ high-pass filters to match the 75Hz response of the speakers themselves. Frazza mixes in the subs as needed. Figuring that any acts that are very particular about the choice of console will likely travel with their own, Staninstalled a workhorse Midas M32 since most engineers are already familiar with it. To round things out, a pair of Danley GO2 8CX full-range loudspeakers provide front fill when needed from movable positions at the front lip of the stage. Two additional stereo pairs of Danley GO2 8CX cover the bar, where patrons get an amazing view of the stage through angled glass windows. They are slightly delayed so as to synch perfectly with the low end coming from the TH118XL subwoofers fifty feet away.

John had been back to the Bearsville Theater only two weeks before the Danley system commissioning. “The commissioning was another one of my joyous ‘Danley moments,’” Stan said. “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!” Vann added, “Everyone in the area is excited about the Bearsville Theater reopening, and they want to get involved. We’re talking with people about getting a great series of concerts on the go, about music education opportunities, artist residencies, even using our center here for recording and pre-tour rehearsals.”