Marquee — The Star Sydney
80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont NSW
‘There will be stories’; that’s what we’re told by The Star’s advertising agency. And you only need to hang out after midnight in the barely controlled bedlam of the Marquee’s unisex bathrooms to concur. It’s exciting, sexy and just a little bit ‘dangerous’.
In fact, the Marquee loos say a lot about the Marquee itself. Operated by people who know — the Marquee chain of clubs, managed by Tao, has an unparalleled name worldwide; the look, feel and sound takes everything we know that people love and hate about nightclub; distills it; and then nails it.
Just to dwell on those toilets again… what do operators know about how they’re used? They’re just as social as they are functional. So why not lavish a little more love and attention on the design and AV of the loos? Or in the case of the Marquee, why not give the bathroom some of the best, most panoramic views in the whole Star complex. Then design the space to maximise fun, chance encounters (without sacrificing privacy and safety), a ‘twitter wall’ to share your thoughts, a mini bar for an impromptu drink, and give the area enough AV clout to allow for its own DJ (“Hey where are you playing tonight?” “I’m on at the Marquee toilets” “Woah, right. Cool.”). It’s more like a club within a club than somewhere to spend the proverbial penny.
JOIN THE CLUB
The Star transformation has famously channelled a chunk of Vegas glitz and personality, and any big Vegas casino needs a top-draw nightclub. For one, it ensures a constant trickle of publicity from the society pages; scoring an ‘add’ to the guestlist is a great reward for hotel/casino regulars; and, if operated correctly, can actually make some dough.
Big name DJs don’t come cheap, though. In some cases you won’t get any change out of $100k for a night. And in a venue with a 1200-capacity license that’s plenty to recoup. But obviously ticket sales are only part of the story. Star has been having great success with its table reservation arrangement. These tables aren’t tucked away in a VIP section, they’re in the thick of the action but you are afforded some protection from thoroughfares. After you (and your posse) have parted with a downpayment (say, $2000) you have the services of your own waitress who will ensure your glasses remain charged with your favourite tipples. Liquor legislation dictates you don’t have access to the bottle, its kept in the table’s own bottle cabinet. It’s a sophisticated offering. You’ve even got your own area of bulkhead to jump on if the urge to dance become irresistible.
VEGAS WITH A TWIST
A big chunk of the Marquee appeal is down to the design. It’s got a brash sex appeal that fits Sin City so well. There are certainly rooms and areas to discover and delight but ultimately, like some Amsterdam strumpet, the qualities are on show for all to see. ICrave (out of Manhatten), drew up the concept plans. From there, Australian firm Squillace Nicholas Architects made it their own, pulling together a crack design team led by Vince Squillace, Patrick Nicholas and Mabel Chow.
“The concept design in the main room was inspired by Tron – futuristic and high tech. What with the LED rings and the bathroom furniture, it’s quite futuristic in many ways,” said Mabel Chow during a tour of the site. “Vince Squillace and Patrick Nicholas travelled to Vegas and New York so we could liaise with ICrave, see all the clubs that Tao had operating, and bring home some of their ideas.”
The trick was to make it work in Sydney.
“Vegas and New York nightclubs are designed to accommodate table service. In bringing that concept to Australia, which is quite rare, we had to be mindful of the way in which the bars had to be designed to service this concept as well as accommodating the queuing that is traditional in Australian venues but not so traditional in Vegas and New York,” explains Vince Squillace.
Marquee is designed to feel like you can party like its your last night on earth and then want to come back for more.
TALE OF TWO NIGHTCLUBS
Right from the entrance you are given the choice of turning right to jump straight into the mayhem of the main room or turn left to the off-the-wall charms of the Boombox. At the fork in the road lurks a forbidden grotto, where a resident mermaid relaxes, or if management so decides, a dwarf will be hired to ‘whip’ her!
The main room screams ‘discotheque’. A vast LED wall around the DJ booth beckons you past an island bar, through the reserved tables and onto the dancefloor. While the lighting is something else altogether: “The club’s ceiling is a mix of high-tech theatrical lighting, Barrisol rings and exposed services,” explained Patrick Nicholas. “A ‘Doppler Effect’ set of elliptical rings radiate from the DJ Booth and intersect a concentric set of rings radiating form the bar, the overlapping curves intersect with an intense geometry, reflecting and driving the energy in the room.”
The second room, the Boombox, is more obviously themed. “It’s like a trashed mansion,” remarked Mabel. “It’s almost like a gang of punks has broken into a New York mansion and gone crazy. You have the graffiti and the bike chain chandelier over the bar, contrasting the wood panelling and the parquetry floor.”
There’s lots to love about the Marquee interior design. Like any great design you can get endlessly lost in the detail and those touches that only happen when the truly creative lavish attention on a project with sufficient budget a focus. Mirrored skateboards act as wall lights while myriad other found objects and custom designs imbue Marquee with something unique.
“Real credit has to go to Isis Construction’s building work,” noted Vince Squillace. “They met every deadline and were proactive in the way they resolved any and every issue… despite the inevitable last-minute changes by the client.”
Ah, the sound. The Marquee sound is truly monstrous. Technical Audio Group was given the go-ahead by Tao to supply a rig based on the Martin Audio MLA. This is a system normally reserved for concert touring and the main room was to have 12 MLA boxes, matched with four MLX powered sub bass units and 18 VHF bullet arrays to ensure superb high-frequency clarity.
As mentioned, MLA is more accustomed to high-end touring, and crowds of tens of thousands. At the Marquee, MLA is barely idling, delivering nightly levels of 120dB on the dancefloor. And if you’re an SPL junky and think you’ve heard loud, TAG’s Anthony Russo has installed the world’s loudest ‘appliance’ to summon dance goers, a ‘Nathan Air Chime’ locomotive air horn, as used on US locomotives, 142dB at 1 metre! Yee-hah!
Elsewhere in the club the dance systems are comprised of Martin Audio W8LM line array, WSX subs all with VHF bullets with lower-level bar areas catered for with 76 elements of Martin Audio Omniline mini line array and subs. A high-end Martin ceiling speaker system punters in the unisex loos partying.
QSC Audio QSys Core 1000 delivers 80 discrete channels to over 40 QSC Audio PL series amplifiers in over 120U of rack spacing and patching.
Hearing the Main Room’s Martin Audio rig in full flight is well worth the price of admission alone. As with all great sound, you won’t hear satisfied punters, as they stumble home at 6am, singing the praises of the phase coherency of the low/mids from the go-go podium; nor will the forums be alight with chatter about how the lack of system distortion means you can talk with friends mid-set without having to repair to the smokers’ courtyard. The truth is, you only really hear about bad sound — the horror stories. But good sound makes patrons happy — they dance more, socialise more, spend more. The imact of truly great sound is harder to quantify. But it ramps up punter satisfaction from happy/content to excited/elated, which in a superclub is what you’re paying for — to be transported to an alternate reality, where normal rules don’t apply, and you feel ‘out of this world’. In my opinion, Technical Audio Group’s design, along with AVS’s installation and Acoustic Directions’ commissioning has achieved this.
The Marquee razzamatazz is hard to ignore. It’s the only superclub in town when nightclubs have largely had their market share usurped by funky bars. But Marquee demonstrates just what a nightclub is capable of and why it takes people places a bar or pub simply cannot hope to go — a total immersion of sights and sounds. Thanks to The Star’s deep pockets, the Marquee has been done properly and with its ability to provide visiting stars with the full 5-star treatment, celebrity DJs (who normally only arrive for the big festivals) are helping to draw sell-out crowds.
Inevitably the novelty will wear off. But Marquee has the fundamentals right and these ensure it will remain a high-quality, well-managed, well-maintained venue for all those who love their heels high, their cologne strong, their dance music loud and their weekends turned up to 11, to keep enjoying the best nightclub in Australia.