ETC and Energy Systems Design cook up refined lighting for Justin Timberlake’s new Nashville hotspot

Date Posted: 2/9/2022

The Twelve Thirty Club in Nashville is full of headliners. A modern take on the supper club, the “dapper-as-hell” restaurant was developed by James Beard Award nominee Sam Fox alongside pop superstar Justin Timberlake, with architectural and entertainment lighting control designed by Energy Systems Design.  The project was only possible because of ETC’s control systems and infrastructure.

“This was a fantastic opportunity to create beautiful lighting in a storied location – Broadway in Nashville, right across from the former home of the Grand Ol’ Opry,” says David Empey, Technology and Design Department Head for Energy Systems Design. ESD is a full service, mechanical, plumbing, electrical and technology design firm with locations in Scottsdale, Arizona and Austin, Texas. “We designed the lighting, lighting controls, and network for the entire venue. As the designs for the building were developing, I knew I needed the flexibility of ETC systems so we could handle whatever architectural or entertainment needs came up.   I also knew I could rely on ETC Bradfield Stage Lighting and Extreme Electric to provide the commitment and technical know-how to implement the design correctly.

A lot did come up for this ambitious venue. The entire club has many different spaces. The first floor is used as an energetic and “elevated honky tonk a step above the rest of Broadway,” with dining and music every night.  The mezzanine level is an intimate cocktail lounge primarily for members and the second floor is a majestic 400-seat “Supper Club” where a suit and tie wouldn’t be out of place. The restaurant and lounge feature antique chandelier light fixtures, opulent booths, a row of windows overlooking Bridgestone Arena, an outdoor terrace with views of The Ryman – and of course a stage ready for acts of any stature, from Justin Timberlake to Kelly Clarkson, to Lady Gaga, or the next big act coming out of Nashville.

“There’s a movement in Nashville towards a more upscale feeling, not limiting themselves to the loud and raucous, while still embracing the energy and vitality of Nashville’s storied musical scene,” says Empey. “Working with design team, what they were looking for was a traditional honky-tonk, but radically elevated.”

Lighting-wise, that meant they wanted to evoke an extremely warm and refined look. The light is tuned to 2200K, more amber than white since “Sam Fox likes very low and very warm lighting,” explains Empey. “The design draws the eye to chandeliers and individual fixtures, so it feels like they are the main sources of illumination even though they aren’t. They can’t be. Chandeliers at the low intensity the client wanted couldn’t provide enough light. By paying attention to distribution and making sure the light was really warm – the exact same color temperature is used throughout the restaurant – the light can come from everywhere, even as your eyes are drawn to the chandeliers.”

The lighting control is a mixture of DMX and 0-10V dimming throughout the Club, with ETC’s Unison Paradigm system controlling everything throughout all spaces. “The entire building is all linked back to a single control panel – but also easily available via an app.”

Bringing sexy back

The crown jewel of the Twelve Thirty Club is the second floor Supper Club, a space that needed to provide a luxurious, world-class venue for performers. Crescent-shaped, tufted-leather booths with copper inlays line the walls, red velvet chairs surround wooden dining tables topped with antique fixtures, and deep club chairs provide an intimate seat near the stage.

It was Energy Systems Design’s job to make sure the stage lighting lived up to this level of opulence.

“The team wanted it to simultaneously be elegant – but not show theatrical fixtures. To feel like a stage – but not having anything that looked like a stage standing out,” describes Empey. “So, we built an old school supper club, like an early Frank Sinatra might have played in. Then we hid our stage fixtures – ColorSource Spots – in an architectural cove. We chose ColorSource because they are a rich, full-range fixtures that allowed us to get that warm color we were aiming for.”

The ColorSource fixtures are capable of other colors as well, but the design team was apprehensive about color changing fixtures because of their traditional aesthetic.

 “There was a very serious conversation about how to do color changing in a way that was elegant yet that could enrich the performance.” ETC’s ColorSource fixtures were able to create a rich, natural look, without the artificial, electronic feel of other LED luminaires. Eventually the colors won them over.

Color changing also comes from pixel tape in the cove, and RGBA downlights in the ceiling throughout the space. “I sat with Sam Fox, and we picked exactly what color amber he wanted,” says Empey. “So, when you need a dance floor, you can pull tables out of the way and have a whole dance floor as well.”

What they’re working with

The switch between restaurant lighting and entertainment lighting is handled by Paradigm, which also handles all the architectural lighting controls.

In this instance, the entertainment lighting is completely segregated. The entertainment console takes priority over ACN and owns stage lights during a show. Everything else is controlled by Paradigm in the background.

“Everything else” is a combination of ETC Sensor3 power control racks, Echo Relay Panels, and Foundry Panels, all on an ETC network, with a variety of Response Mk2 DMX Gateways and 0‑10V Gateways scattered throughout the space. In this project, everything dims, including the kitchen. “Sam Fox is a fan of public kitchens, and he wants the kitchen to be warm and match the rest of the restaurant.”

As a benefit to the operations team, Paradigm triggers all the dimming events throughout the day. “Lighting for all spaces is controlled via Paradigm Touchscreens and apps. Different spaces have separate menu screens. Managers have the Paradigm Remote app on their phones, and if they need to adjust levels in a scene, they can do that there.”

With so much to attend to, and such high standards to maintain, the managers and staff appreciate just how easy the Paradigm system is to run. During the training in May, just as the first-floor honky-tonk opened, David approached the general manager to train him on the lighting system just before closing. “It was a long day, he was exhausted, and he asked me to keep the training under 30 minutes. I said: ‘If I do it in five can I get a Twelve Thirty Club hat?’” Taking the GM’s phone, he installed the Paradigm app and associated it with the network. “Then I handed it to him and said ‘Push the Dinner button.’ He hit Dinner, the Dinner light setting came on, and we were done. Took about three minutes, and I got my hat.”

The Paradigm system was so solid that even as they worked through a phased opening, with installers continually getting into the electronics of the system to add more components and more capabilities, the staff and patrons almost never saw an interruption in functionality. “ETC has never stopped saying that all this control and integration was possible, that everything could work together seamlessly. And they definitely came through.”

Energy Systems Design worked closely with Fox’s internal visionary team and ETC to deviate from the ‘status quo’ and create a truly unique and user-friendly experience.