HT Interview: Bringing The Old Together With The New – Jon Dindas Talks Technology at The Capitol Theatre
In honor of the Capitol Theatre’s grand re-opening this evening in Port Chester, New York, we’re running a feature we originally published on August 23, 2012.
Yesterday we posted the first part of our chat with Jon Dindas, a live music industry veteran who currently works as the Production Manager for the soon-to-be-reopened Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. One of the goals for the theater that Dindas mentioned yesterday was, “Bringing The Old To The New.” A large part of that is based on the lighting, video and audio technology that has been brought into the venue. Most of the second part of our chat focuses on the specifics of what music lovers can expect when the venue re-opens on September 4th.
[Never-Before-Seen Photo of Projections At The Cap]
Hidden Track: Can you tell us about the new technology that will be part of The Cap?
Jon Dindas: That is where this story ramps up. [Venue owner] Peter [Shapiro] and I have done a lot of things together, from The National Mall to The Great Apple Festival to the Wetlands where we first met and this has been his vision. When we sat down two years ago and talked about it, he said “We’re going to have the newest sound system, we’re going to have a crazy arena-sized light rig, we’re going to have projectors and it’s going to a 360 video show like a planetarium.” And I said, “Sure Pete!” because that’s my job: Pete comes up with the vision and I implement it.
“When you usually go to a concert, there’s 90 minutes between doors and the show and you usually spend that time having a drink and talking to your friends, but basically just waiting. Well, what we’re looking to do is to engage people for that 90 minutes and slowly but surely build the experience. We aim to build a heightened sense of anticipation and build the energy so that at 8:30 when showtime comes, the crowd is freaked out and energized and ready to go and the band is going to feel that.” – Jon Dindas
I’ll tell you that…it’s not that I didn’t take Pete seriously because I always take Peter seriously when he’s talking vision, because that’s how he is – but everything he said was true. I’m walking the room right now and I’m looking at a lighting rig that was designed by Chris Ragan from BML, who started out with moe., then went to The Strokes and does half of the festivals we attend, and it is a rig that you’d see at Madison Square Garden or Nassau Coliseum or at the Vibes or at All Good or any other 20,000 person event. The difference here is that the first row of our loge, is 47 feet from the lighting rig. That doesn’t happen anywhere else.
When that big rig is up at the Garden, the only people up at that elevation are at the other end of the arena – 200 yards away. This rig is, unlike an arena, this is a 47 foot proscenium opening, 27 feet high. So it’s a 47 x 27 foot box, that is filled 65% with lights. And when they hit you when you are in the front row of the loge, it takes your breath away. The first time I sat up there when we unpacked the rig, the first time when the Mac 3s hit me in the face, it literally knocked me back a little bit, and I’ve seen a couple of setups.
[Arena-Sized Light Show at The Cap]
The audio system, which is now just out of the boxes, lying on the floor and on the stage so we can hang it tomorrow is provided by D&B Audiotechnik. Which, while everyone has personal tastes, if they are not the hottest, most well-respected audio company in the world, they are amongst the top two or three. The rig that we have is called the V-Series. It’s the first V-Series installed ANYWHERE in North America. Right now I think there are four of them out there on the road. They’re on a side hang with Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Madonna uses it, and maybe one other. Nobody has ever put them up in a theater.
I mean, there is no doubt that this room is one of the best sounding theaters in the country. If you look at the Times article, Bob Weir is quoted as saying he loved the sound of the room. There’s a famous picture we put up on the stage door from Jerry (Garcia) from 1971 saying, “There are only two rooms in the country that are worth a damn: The Fillmore East and The Capitol Theater. Those two rooms sound the best, everywhere else you’re just playing a room.” So that was the way it sounded in the ‘70s and the ‘90s with inferior PAs for the time. I have lots of friends on lots of tours, lots of front of house engineers, and when I tell them we’re putting that rig in this room, you see their eyes light up.
Then you turn the page to the fact that we are putting in 10 Christie Roadster 16s, which are 16K HD projectors – eight in the projection booth and one on either side behind the organ wells. We will be projecting images on the entire walls of the house from house left to house right, in the dome, meeting above the proscenium. So it really is a little bit like a planetarium, though most university planetariums don’t have this many projectors. It’s going to allow us to do a lot.
If we are doing this right, from the moment you walk in opening week, you are going to be greeted with an experience that you just don’t see in a theater or rock n’ roll room: the theatrical reveals, the projections on everything that you’re not expecting. Marc Brickman of Pink Floyd and The Wall fame doing LED light art and time-lapsed video into the dome of a 1926 room. There’s gonna be stuff for walk-in that we’re gonna do just for fun, just to mess with people, honestly to have fun with them and have them join us.
[More Projections at The Cap]
When you usually go to a concert, there’s 90 minutes between doors and the show and you usually spend that time having a drink and talking to your friends, but basically just waiting. Well, what we’re looking to do is to engage people for that 90 minutes and slowly but surely build the experience. We aim to build a heightened sense of anticipation and build the energy so that at 8:30 when showtime comes, the crowd is freaked out and energized and ready to go and the band is going to feel that. And if the band comes out and feels the crowd going to the next level, then they will take their performance to the next level, and that’s when the magic happens. We all know great concerts: when the crowd and the band meet at the same place, that’s when, to use Peter’s term,” it goes to the next level.”
We are then going to offer a suite of alternatives or possibilities to traveling productions as far as how they can integrate our video capabilities with their show. Some people aren’t going to use it, some shows won’t work, if you have a very mellow acoustic show, you may or may not want content on the walls or other things. Maybe there will be just background images, maybe there won’t be anything, we don’t know. But the bands I’ve talked to, some are very curious as to what we can do, and some are like, “Wait a second, you have that? We can do this!”
A couple of the bands that were on the initial announcement, we had management walk through the room, I kind of walked them through what we’re doing, and they said, “Oh man, give us a couple months, we’ll give you some ideas, we’re gonna do something special.” Look, you go out on tour for 30 nights, if we make this night is a little different, a little better, a little more exciting than the other 30, that gives us a competitive advantage both in terms of our business and in terms of making a dent in the music scene. And that’s all we want. We are equally committed to changing the user experience and the customer experience to something they are not used to. And on the artist side, I want production managers and tour managers to come to our load door, look in, walk around the room, and turn to me and say, “Wow you guys have thought of everything.” As a former tour manager, it’s your whole job to make the artist relaxed and into a good place so they can make their fans happy. And if we can help a touring crews do that, and the artists eventually do that, then I think we are ahead of the game.
HT: Incredible! And has all this stuff affected capacity? Is it going to be the same as it was when it closed?
JD: As of right now, the capacity will be the same, it will be 1,800. I’ll leave it there but it’s 1,800 for standing room shows, and about 1,400 for all seated shows. As of right now it looks like we’re about 75% GA/floor/seated balcony and 25% all seated. We’ll see where we go from there.
[Image Provided by Joe Madonna]
HT: And finally, in terms of food and drinks, what kind of offerings will there be?
JD: Tom, our General Manager, is a trained wine expert/sommelier, so we will have an extensive wine selection and a wide choice of beers. There are some plans that are in the works for different options as far as food but I’m not going to go into those just yet.
SB: Fair enough. Well it all sounds extremely exciting, I’m so psyched to get up there and to check it out. I really appreciate your time and all the work that you put in.