Honky Tonkin' On The Strip

Las Vegas, NV | September, 2010 - Mickey Gilley's legacy as an icon of country music was already secure when he opened his original namesake bar and honky tonk in Pasadena, Texas in 1971. With its mechanical broncos and classy roadhouse vibe, the club was further immortalized as the centerpiece of the 1980 hit movie Urban Cowboy, setting the benchmark for hip country music bars from coast to coast.

In the 1990s the Gilley's phenomenon branched out to Las Vegas, where the club's line dancing "Dirty Girls" were a fixture at the legendary New Frontier on The Strip. Gilley's Las Vegas remained a popular destination right up until the Frontier's demise in 2007.

Now Gilley's Saloon has been reborn just up the street at Treasure Island. The new Gilley's is a combination nightclub, restaurant and sidewalk café, replete with outdoor seating that looks out onto the Strip for optimal people watching. There's a DJ booth and dance floor, a full concert stage, and of course, bikini bull riding and the famed Gilley Girls.

Offering live entertainment several nights per week, the 600-capacity club's stage is outfitted with a full concert sound system, designed and installed by Las Vegas-based Kelley Technologies under chief designer and engineer Kevin Ruud. As Kelley's Paul Turner explains, the club's owners had a pretty good idea of what kind of sound they were looking for. "They wanted a line array system, and they wanted something that was punchy, powerful and musical," says Turner.

A system shoot-out was arranged between several different brands of line arrays, and the winning system is centered around left and right flown arrays of four Renkus-Heinz PN102LAR self-powered, RHAON-equipped line array loudspeakers per side. Deep low end power is pumped up by a pair of DR18-2 dual 18-inch self-powered subwoofers mounted underneath the stage.

The space itself presented some minor acoustical challenges, though nothing particularly insurmountable. "It used to be a steak house, and it's a large, live, open space," says Turner. "We've got most of the speakers pointing downward, and between that and some well designed DSP, it actually sounds really good, even with no additional acoustical treatment."

But no project is without its unique challenges, and as Turner explains, this one was uniquely Vegas. "The building was built in 1991, which by Las Vegas standards is almost ancient history," he says. What they found in the ceiling was twenty years' worth of conduit and duct work from the venue's numerous previous incarnations.

"The space we had apportioned for the stage system was in an area that was one of the hubs for wiring conduit from all over the building, and we needed to clear enough space to accommodate the height of the line arrays." As they discovered, many of the changes and improvements made over the years had been documented poorly or not at all. "We had quite a job in establishing with the general contractors what to remove and what to reroute. Once that was accomplished, we were able to run new conduit for our installation."

In addition to the stage's line array system, a separate house system is also installed to handle the club's daytime background music and evening live DJ performances. "When they selected Renkus-Heinz for the stage system, we suggested that they go with Renkus-Heinz for the house PA as well," says Turner.

The distributed system is comprised of 30 Renkus-Heinz CFX121 loudspeakers, a two-way system utilizing Renkus-Heinz's 2-inch HF Complex Conic horn. "The horn makes a huge difference in coverage pattern," says Turner. "When you transition between different speaker zones it's really seamless."

The CFX121 cabinets are installed throughout the main room, and outside on the sidewalk patio area and DJ booth. Crown CTs-series amps power the house system, with BSS London units providing system drive and processing. "Each pair of cabinets is fully independent except for two pairs outside by the DJ," Turner explains.

Eight BPS12-1 band pass subwoofers add thump to the system, strategically placed throughout the room and on the patio, concealed underneath custom designed cabinets. "The house system really rocks in the hands of a good DJ," he adds. "They pack the dance floor."

While the house and stage systems are capable of being bridged for special events, Turner says the two systems are generally designed to be run separately. "The DJ booth has no access to the stage PA," he says. "On opening night we ran both systems together, but under normal circumstances the house system will be turned off if the stage system is running."

Like many projects in Las Vegas, much of the work had to be completed during the wee hours due to sound and crowd considerations. "The stage at Gilley's is located right next to the control booth and dressing rooms for the Sirens of TI show," says Turner, "so any major work had to be scheduled around their shows." In fact, the pre-dawn hours before the new club's opening event found Renkus-Heinz's David Rahn and Jim Mobley ensconced in the space utilizing SysTune software to fine tune the different systems.

A few weeks after Gilley's grand opening, Turner reports the club's owners are thrilled with the new system. "They're crazy about the line arrays," he says. "It's a really great sounding room, and the sound coming off the stage is terrific. The vocals sound like they're right in your lap."