(Note: This story appears in the July 2021 issue of ED Magazine)

Doubling as the Tradeshow mainstage and the ED’s Awards Show stage, sound and lighting systems integrator AVLI — joined by Chauvet Lighting and Luna Reps — created an immersive experience for convention guests and entertainers alike.

Whether you witnessed it during the Tradeshow or marveled at it during the ED’s Awards Show, there certainly was a “wow factor” to the lights and sounds emanating from the “Mainstage” at this year’s EXPO in Miami. The gentlemen most responsible for that “wow” were Michael Callahan and his crew at AVLInnovations, with big-time assists from Bob Laino of Chauvet Lighting and Matt Suarez of Luna Reps. These skilled audio and lighting technicians created a dynamic stage in the Grand Ballroom that showcased an immersive sensory experience for all convention attendees.

ED Publications spoke with Callahan and Laino about the balancing act they employed to ensure that Awards Show attendees and mainstage entertainers were equally enthralled at this year’s EXPO.

ED: Our EXPO attendees were surely wowed by what they saw on the Tradeshow Mainstage. Can you tell us a bit about your company, how you got involved in our industry, and what work you’ve done for some of South Florida’s most successful clubs including Tootsie’s and Scarlett’s?

CALLAHAN: Audio Video Lighting Innovations (AVLI) was formed in 2007 by James Reed and myself. We started this company while constructing Crazy Horse in Miami for GSE (Galardi South Enterprises). I was technical director and DJ for GSE. From that point forward we have worked steadily in this industry, providing service at clubs like the old Gold Rush, Pink Pony, Dean’s Gold and others. In 2011-2012, we took over maintenance and service for Scarlett’s and were in charge of maintaining their system and keeping it up to date. Over the past 10 years, we have changed the light show three or four times. In 2017-2018, we revamped the audio system at Tootsie’s and installed a huge LED screen, taking them to the next level. We are in the process of upgrading their lighting system and will be starting to upgrade Scarlett’s (in mid-June).

ED: Michael, can you talk about your industry experience and how it led you to AVLI? What made you so interested in sound and lighting, and how did you become so adept at programming lighting for clubs?

Callahan (L) discussing AVLI’s EXPO set-up

CALLAHAN: As a teenager playing in bands I was always fascinated by sound and lighting. I owned my own system and would constantly work as a sound engineer for local
and regional bands that would come through. I got my start working as a DJ in 1998 at Club Vogue in Colombia, Missouri. I was 18 years old at the time. I would DJ four, five nights a week and maintain and upgrade the club during the day. I moved to Memphis in 2000 working as a DJ for King of Clubs, and as a sound engineer at Legend’s on Beale Street. I could only take the Elvis impersonators for long, though, so in 2001 I moved to Miami. I got to Miami not knowing anyone, just trying to find a job. I got an audition with GSE, I programmed their lights and they hired me. The funny thing is they forgot to audition me as a DJ — I had to go back so they could hear what I sounded like!

I have always had a knack for lighting, just growing up wanting to be in the production side of things. I was always willing to lend a hand to other bands. No one wanted to sit behind the sound board or the lighting console and work. After working for years as an adult club DJ, knowing what they do every night and seeing how much attention they
have to put into a lot of different aspects of the job — running rotation, playing music, keeping the crowd engaged, figuring out who didn’t show up to stage — I try to make lighting systems simple for them to control. I make it so they’re able to control multiple systems by pressing one button. It’s simple for them, but it looks complex and dramatic for the customer. The goal is to showcase the beautiful entertainers and draw attention to them. Sound and lighting are the catalyst for creating the heartbeat, the energy of the club. If the sound isn’t right, if the lights are repetitive and dull, then it makes it harder for the entertainers to engage the audience.

ED: What were the companies and products that EXPO attendees saw at the mainstage? What products do you think had the biggest “wow factor”?

The “Bubble Haze” on display!

CALLAHAN: I think the Chauvet Hurricane Bubble Haze was the talk of the EXPO. The Freedom center piece is another small accent to bottle presentation that people were really interested in.

LAINO: The wow factor lights we had up on stage represented by Chauvet DJ were the Intim Scan 360s, the Intim Hybrid 140 SRs, the Intim Beam 140 SRs, the Intim Spot 475Zs and the Intim Spot 260s. I felt the Freedom Flex H4 IPs were great and showed very well as truss warmers throughout the show. Even though those are battery operated, we kept them on all day and night and the batteries kept going!

“After working for years as an adult club DJ, knowing what they do every night and seeing how much attention they have to put into a lot of different aspects of the job … I try to make lighting systems simple for them to control. I make it so they’re able to control multiple systems by pressing one button. It’s simple for them, but it looks complex and dramatic for the customer.” — Michael Callahan, AVLI

ED: Bob, what can you tell us about the Chauvet Hurricane Bubble Haze that was so well received?

LAINO: It just takes the party to a whole new level! It’s a haze machine, it’s also a bubble machine and the best part is, it combines both to create haze-filled bubbles. What we all need these days is to let loose, smile and have fun. The Hurricane Bubble Haze does just that! And now, with the addition of the HBUBBLEHAZE X2 Q6, you can have red, green, blue and even the gentlemen’s club’s best friend, UV- colored haze or bubbles — or haze-filled bubbles!

ED: What are the latest trends in audio/video/lighting systems for gentlemen’s clubs vs other venues? What’s popular right now?

CALLAHAN: I think that AVL systems in gentlemen’s clubs have become much more in the style of traditional clubs. It’s not just lights pointed at a stage anymore. It is a show and making the audience part of the show. Systems designed to reach every inch of the room, LED video walls, ceiling features, furniture accents, and having a sound system that can back it up.

LAINO: Speaking for lighting, the latest trends we are seeing are more battery-operated lights with built-in wireless capabilities. This gives installers the ability to save time with set up and control all lights from their smart phone and or tablet for the venues. It also provides great flexibility and convenience with moving fixtures around the club, when needed.

I’m also seeing a need for Hex-colored lights which have the ability to color mix (if necessary) with red, green, blue, amber, white and UV LEDs. This is a major bonus for the gentlemen’s clubs as it’s an affordable, reliable and easy way to construct video walls, just like the Vivid video wall from Chauvet DJ. Small is big for the gentlemen’s clubs, and the Intimidator Beam Q60 is just that and has been wildly popular since we introduced it to market a few months back.

Scanners are extremely popular again as well, and Chauvet DJ’s high-powered Intimidator Scan 360 is a great fixture for the gentlemen’s clubs as its split beams, large- area coverage and motorized focus makes it the perfect scanner for gentlemen’s clubs, especially when throwing in some fog or haze as the aerials this fixture produces are amazing! I would say an inexpensive, high-powered Wash Light such as the Wash FX HEX is a must-have.

ED: If a club owner said, “I want something at my club that looks like what I saw on the EXPO mainstage,” what are their first steps when they contact you? Who should they reach out to, and can you work with different budgets?

CALLAHAN: Yes, we are grateful for the opportunity to work with other clubs. They could contact us by telephone or email and have a set of drawings or photos of the building. Let us have a conversation on what they are interested in doing and we will design a system for their budget.

ED: Can you detail the collaborative effort between AVLInnovations, Chauvet and Luna Reps, and how that cohesion resulted in the final Mainstage attendees saw?

CALLAHAN: Matt and Oscar from Luna reps and Bob from Chauvet were great with getting fixtures together for the show. They gave us a list of what they wanted to showcase and AVLI designed and programmed the light plot for the stage. The Martin Audio WPC system was brought by us to make sure everyone heard and felt the music.

ED: Bob, what, specifically, did Chauvet bring to the tradeshow mainstage?

LAINO: Chauvet Lighting brought the opportunity to show club owners how they can update their clubs to that next level of lighting while receiving value, innovation and, of course, performance at the industry’s most affordable pricing. As all we do is lighting, our goal is not only to be the best at what we do, but to be the best after the sale and I am there to support and help those club owners and clubs with any issues that may happen. I may not always have the answer, but I will always do everything in my power, 24/7 to get one! That’s my own personal guarantee.

For more information, visit avlinnovations.com, chauvetlighting.com or lunareps.com.

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