After a long, slow rise into Spring, it's finally Summer in NYC, and Carroll Music and Boulevard Pro are flying through it at the semi-breakneck pace we'd planned and hoped to be.
While our more broken-in studios have been absolutely slammed with rehearsals and events of all shapes and sizes, we're preparing for a flurry of activity in our three new studios-in-progress, on 55th St. We're brightening up the new lounge area, and getting ready to put some gleaming sprung-hardwood floors down in studios 5,6 and 7. We can't wait to show you!
A few quick looks at the process of turning Carroll's backline warehouse space at our 55th S. location into the biggest rehearsal studio complex in NYC: You get a peek, here, at various stages and layers of the flooring process in studio 5, some of the many floor plans and legends involved, a couple views in and out of what was our timpani and piano room, as we prepare it to become the new East Lounge... and a quick peek into our horn and prop room, before we gutted it, to begin turning it into Studio 7.
Our backline department has been very happily busy too, with our usual runs with all sorts of different bands (Gogol Bordello, Okkervil River, Steve Hackett and another fully-staffed gig with Huey Lewis and the News, just to name a few), and it seems like even more action on and off broadway than we're used to:
We've wrapped up our run with Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn, and just recently the full rehearsals/run and cast recordings of Sunday in the Park with George. In a huge endeavor for our percussion department, we raided our Asian and Classical inventories, to send a giant rig to Miss Saigon, for what we hope will be a very long engagement at Broadway Theater. We've had quick engagements of (the) New Yorkers, Golden Apple, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and many more, and hosted Sitzprobes and rehearsals for Sunset Boulevard, starring Glenn Close, and Hello Dolly, with its Tony Award winner, Bette Middler, again, among many others. In another extensive build in our studios, we built a full backline setup, from keys to monitors, and created a 2-person percussion setup we could squeeze into Classic Stage Company's drum balcony for Pacific Overtures, starring George Takei, which just wrapped its run at the end of June.
Ray Marchica and Chihiro Shibayama's very heavily Carroll-supplied percussion room (including our giant Taiko drum, many tuned gongs, mallet percussion and so much more), at Miss Saigon on Broadway
George Takei takes in the Pacific Overtures Sitzprobe, in Studio 4.
The Sunset Blvd Sitzprobe fills Studio 4 with talent and amazing music.
Aerial views of the drum and percussion rigs we helped Gregory Landes and Yuri Yamashita-Morales build in our studios, for their full run of Pacific Overtures, at Classic Stage Company
Our rehearsal studios, as we've mentioned a number of times, are expanding -- and it can't happen soon enough! This spring we've already had Lenny Kravitz prepping for his much talked about Prince tribute at the HBO Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, at Barclays Center -- with his band and a 30-piece choir! We were happy to welcome back Regina Spektor and her group as they prepped for her spring tour. And longtime Boulevard Pro customers Little Steven and the (ridiculously stacked) Disciples of Soul took over studio 3 for a few days, before a quick run of shows that culminated at Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, with a show that ended up featuring a guest appearance by one Bruce Springsteen.
In one instance, while we were hosting Gogol Bordello in Studio 4, our other studios were a family affair, with Elvis Costello and Diana Krall occupying rooms across the hall from each other -- Oh, and then there was the day we hosted Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Lil' Kim, Faith Evans, Ma$e, and a full film crew documenting the Bad Boy Entertainment feature/documentary and performance at Tribeca Film Festival -- and that was all in the space of a week, at the end of April.
Lenny talks the HBO Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance at Barclay Center over with his band and 30-person choir, during rehearsals in Studio 3
Charley Drayton's drum kit, and the full Carroll/Blvd Backline take a break, during rehearsals with Little Steven Van Zandt and the Disciples of Soul, in Studio 3.
Sean 'Diddy' Combs, Faith Evans and Lil Kim" take a break from rehearsals in Studio 4 for a few pics.
For most people it's less enjoyable when The Boss makes a surprise visit.
Broadway is as well represented as ever, as we've hosted rehearsals for War Paint, Kid Victory, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ain't Too Proud, and a number of other shows. As always, we have a selection of orchestras, a giant array of visiting high school bands, choirs and orchestras passing through our doors -- and this spring, the Game of Thrones (live) Orchestra even stopped by for a couple exceedingly epic days. Around all of this, we've hosted just about every other event you could come up with: Clinics, Interviews, Percussionists practicing for big auditions, QSC Training Sessions, Showcases, Dance Auditions -- we'll accommodate almost anything you can imagine. And we've literally had to turn a ton of clients away from rooms that don't actually exist yet -- but that's a problem about which we'll scarcely complain.
Our Vintage Gretsch Round Badge kit sits ready for soundcheck at Carnegie Hall.
In the world of backline gigs, we're all over the city (and the rest of the US) at all times, with everybody from Maceo Parker to Dionne Warwick, Pat Benetar, Santino Fontana, The Wailers, India Irie, Jamie Lidell & the Royal Pharaohs, Heather Headley, and so many more. One of our favorites this spring was undoubtedly City Winery's "Music of Aretha Franklin" show both at the Winery and at Carnegie Hall... where over the course of a few hours, Antibalas provided the foundation for Melissa Etheridge, Living Colour, Taj and Deva Mahal, Todd Rundgren, Cee-Lo Green, G. Love, Kenny Loggins and just a ridiculously long list of legendary performers, as they brought two very different houses down on consecutive nights, all on Carroll backline and wireless gear (including the Antibalas afterparty set), with one very tired, but very definitely grinning Carroll backline tech on site the whole time, to make sure it all went smoothly.
One of the benefits of our merger with Boulevard Production is how greatly it expands our abilities to provide national tour support. In March, longtime Blvd Pro clients Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes loaded their bus and trailer with our backline gear (a super-easy task, at our new Lyndhurst Warehouse!), monitors, and our tech, Vernon, for their full run. We've also had a sizable order out on a national tour with Michael Bolton, and we were extra-excited to ship 4 full bands/stages worth of gear to the enormous International Jazz Day show in Havana, Cuba. The show was hosted by Will Smith, and involved Antonio Sánchez, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Esperanza Spalding and way too many international jazz stars to even list -- you can actually watch the full, pro-shot show, here: https://youtu.be/hP65qDalPEs
Boulevard Pro Owner Anthony Cioffi oversees loading of the backline and monitor rig for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, from our Lyndhurst Warehouse -- a few days later our tech Vernon snapped the pic of the same bus, at its slightly warmer Point B in Florida. :)
Antonio Sanchez plays our Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute kit at the International Jazz Day Concert in Havana, Cuba
Our cuba gear, packed and ready to ship out, and later onstage in Havana, with an A-list of jazz greats
GIG OF THE MONTH:
This is a feature we'll be talking about in the 'Blog' section of our shiny new webpage, moving forward -- but another of the best facets of the merger we keep yammering about (sorry -- we're excited! ;)) is our ability to branch into all sorts of non-musical arenas, and create entire events from the ground up. We've been everywhere from the NY Giants official NFL Draft watch party at the Meadowlands to Suez North America's week-long national sales meeting in Washington D.C., to creating a full L-Acoustics line array rig (center, left and right channels, behind a big screen) to Dolby's exacting standards, for the Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theater. That rig was used for showings of the Bad Boy Entertainment documentary "Can't Stop, Won't Stop," a live conversation between Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen and more. To top it off, we made sure the Bad Boy performance, involving P. Diddy, Faith Evans, Lil Kim and Ma$e went off without a hitch, after two days of rehearsals in Studio 4.
But if there's one gig we're most proud of, in the last few months, it may be the Marist University Silver Needle Fashion Show. Marist, whose fashion department has been making more and more of a name for themselves as a top-shelf institution, contacted us and gave us an empty convention hall at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, and a clean slate with which to create a "New York runway-show caliber" venue, where their fashion department could properly strut their stuff. Their shows went off without a hitch, but the process was almost as exciting as the product -- Our team had the pleasure of getting to interface with the Marist students, from the graphics and intro videos on our big screens to all the clothing designs themselves, and really everything in between. With their input and our own skills, the Boulevard team designed every aspect of the event: the gloss-black runways, the lighting design, the entire audio/visual package, camera crew, and even a fully-produced worldwide simulcast. We like using the word "turnkey" to describe our capabilities, but this was an exceptionally demanding and fun one to put together, and a really fulfilling job to watch coming to fruition.
Check out the show in motion (mp4):
We haven't been in acquisition mode as much as usual, for the past few months, with all the moving and renovation. But we did stumble into this pristine birch Tama Starclassic kit, among a few other cool pieces. this one's a punchy little guy, in 18, 10, 12, 14, and is gonna make a perfect set for our smaller studios in New York. As a bonus, it brought with it a great set of equally flawless 1980s K Zildjians. On the Blvd side, we've added this lovely Hino 16' truck, to fill a middle spot in our fleet, and continue to increase our ability to be everywhere at once -- the biggest 'gear' news, right now, is our new fleet of Yamaha TF3 Mixing boards at Carroll Studios.
The TF3 boards are going to vastly improve both the efficiency and quality of mixes in our rehearsal studios, and are already in use in our bigger rooms, now. Aside from offering a convenient, crystal clear mix with digital accuracy and minimal effort, these babies now offer our clients the ability to bring in a USB stick, and save a profile of each mix they like, even if it's different for each of our rooms, or each of their setups. Now, the next time they come in to rehearse, they can instantly return the room to "dialed-in," at the touch of a button, and get on with rehearsing, right away.
It's a really exciting time for us, in both divisions of East Coast Entertainment Group, and as excited as we are, here in the first few months of the process, we know we haven't even hit our stride yet. :)