For the first 122 years of its existence, the distinct looking building on 11th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia, aka the “City of Brotherly Love” was never an entertainment venue. However, the new owners decided to convert the former farmers’ market turned Reading Railroad luggage handling station into Union Transfer – a red-hot music hall devoted primarily to emerging and cult-hero indie rock acts. Less than two years after opening in 2011, the site was featured in Rolling Stone’s “Top 20 Venues in America” and hailed by the BBC as “one of the hottest venues on the US East Coast.”
A key part of Union Transfer’s appeal (aside from its knack for booking passionately followed artists like Purity Ring, Beach House, and St. Vincent) is an evocative décor that features sky-high ceilings, stunning chandeliers, stained glass throughout the building and other adornments that are seldom found in an urban industrial music club. Playing off the unique venue’s interior brilliantly, while supporting the onstage performances; a Lenny Sasso-designed lighting rig featuring Rogue and COLORado fixtures from CHAUVET Professional.
Lenny was called in earlier this year to revamp Union Transfer’s lighting system. Although the club was new, the venue’s owners opted to replace the rig with the CHUAVET Professional fixtures.
Lenny Basso took time to comment on the installation: “We had an LED system in place, but we wanted to replace it with something that could perform at a higher level. We also kind of determined that the Chauvets would be more reliable. The rig at Union Transfer is dead hung, so it’s a challenge to go up and clean the dust and junk out of the lights or worry about replacing lamps. We had a limited number of circuits to work with, so staying with LED fixtures was the obvious choice.”
Although practical considerations like maintenance and power draw were involved in the decision to go with the new fixtures, Lenny’s choice was driven more by performance features. His goal was to do more than light the stage efficiently. He also wanted a rig that would engage the audience at the 1200-capacity hall and play off its aesthetic qualities with vivid colors, crisp gobos and even light fields.
Lenny continued with the following: “We’re a rock venue through and through, but we also have a bit of an artsy side. I wanted lighting that would enhance this image. This is a big reason why I went with Rogues and COLORados. I love the colours that I’m able to get out of them. I’m also really big on things being clean and symmetrical.”
Lenny built the new Union Transfer rig around eight Rogue R2 Washes, 16 COLORado 2-Quad Zoom Tours and two STRIKE 882 white LED strobe fixtures, as well as a collection of eight beams, six spots and two blinders. He flew the R2 washes along the upstage truss, which made sense because of the amount of space the venue provides and the number of fixtures that was budgeted to arrange the Rogues.
The 16 COLORado fixtures in Lenny’s rig are spread throughout the stage. The main idea with the Quad Zoom Tours was to have them be Lenny’s team’s front and side wash with the rig. Hanging six of the COLORados on the downstage truss filled the entire front line and two downstage side left and right to fill in the sides of the front wash. Then Lenny’s team hung four across the mid-stage truss to cover the drums and upstage left and right positions. The remaining two ended upstage side left and right to fill in any gaps in the upstage positions. With the zoom feature on this fixture, Lenny was able to zoom out and fill the entire stage with no dead spots.
Using the Rogue and COLORado fixtures in his rig, Lenny was also able to cover the stage in a rich array of colours, which created great visual that fits with the whole image of Union Transfer.
For added pop, the rig has two upstage STRIKE 882 strobes. This allows the rigging team to fill the entire stage and blast strobe looks through the band with the STRIKEs. Lenny stated he also uses the macros in them to give a little extra flair for when utilising the audience with strobe.
The combination of colour and pop creates a memorable lightshow, one that Lenny Sasso believes fits perfectly with the essence of Union Transfer; a place that set out to be special from the day it opened in 2011.