When it came to finding a venue for his newly-acquired nightclub franchise in Pune, Govind Thakker left no stone unturned. Mr Thakker and his business partner, Ishan Bhale, looked at more than 60 premises for the latest Blue Frog venture, which would join established clubs in Mumbai and Delhi.
Mr Thakker, a property developer who’d keenly followed the progress of the Blue Frog brand since its inception, takes up the story. ‘The owners were friends of mine, and Ishan and I had been talking to them over the years, trying to do something in Pune,’ he says. ‘We started out talking about opening a Blue Frog café, but ultimately we felt that the only way forward for a brand like Blue Frog, which is very well known to people locally, was to create another beautiful big Blue Frog club. We wanted a 4,500 square foot venue, and we also realised that the people of Pune are vey much used to having indoor and outdoor spaces because the weather for seven months of the year is really good. So we tried to find somewhere like that, and we looked at around 60 different places.’
Eventually, the team found a large unit in a shopping mall on the outskirts of the city, with ample parking and an outdoor amphitheatre. The existing space was a versatile unit that could be repurposed to accommodate their plans, providing a great deal of potential. ‘It had everything we were looking for,’ says Mr Thakker. ‘It offered ample inside and outside space, lots of parking and great security, so people could come here and feel safe, and know that all their requirements are being taken care of from the moment they arrive.’
However this was just the first hurdle to overcome. After the lease was signed, the existing structure had to be torn back to a shell to create the team’s vision of the new club. ‘There were a lot of challenges,’ remembers Mr Thakker. ‘There was a huge column right in the centre of the room which we had to work around, and because a lot of glass was used for the original unit, we had to rip it all out. The whole space had to be redesigned acoustically. It was just an empty space in the mall, nothing had really been done with it because it was so huge.’
Mr Thakker’s formal training helped enormously at this stage. ‘I’m a civil engineer so I’m into construction, and I’ve built a range of places including some public spaces such as a vintage car museum in Pune,’ he explains. ‘Home theatres are also very much part of my repertoire so I understand acoustics and the quality of sound.’ This background was particularly useful when dealing with the project’s acoustic design company, Munro Acoustics. ‘We were able to work closely with Kapil Thirwani, who has great expertise, functioning as a link between his team and the architects and construction workers,’ continues Mr Thakker. ‘We were all able to work together to maximise the potential of this venue.’
The process was simplified by including Munro Acoustics in the project early on. ‘Kapil was very much involved from the concept stage, as we knew that getting an acoustician on board at the right time would be an integral part of the architecture,’ explains Mr Thakker. ‘We were able to listen to all his requirements and begin implementing them immediately.’ This included building foam acoustic material into the design of the seating pods around the dance-floor, constructing a specialised flooring made from five layers of different acoustic materials and positioning acoustic panels around the room. ‘Kapil especially recommended and worked on these panels, positioning each one to concentrate lots of energy onto the dance-floor, and relieve sound in certain areas where you don’t want high levels, such as where people are having dinner,’ he explains.
Mr Thirwani also worked to angle the glass panels in the room to minimise slap-back. All doors are fully soundproofed, and solid Burma teak has been used for the stage and seating pods. ‘It’s a very good choice, acoustically,’ says Mr Thakker. ‘We decided to go down this route and not use hollow panels or other methods of cutting corners.’
Once the acoustic design was underway, Mr Thakker and his team turned their attention to the matter of a sound system. ‘We narrowed it down to a choice of three brands, and decided to go with L-Acoustics,’ he says. ‘They are well represented in India, and I really wanted them because I’d heard the speakers in clubs and at music festivals in various places around the world. I was already familiar with many PA brands, but during this process I got to know the difference between the various speakers on the market.’
The main system consists of four 12XTi coaxial speakers above the stage, with four 8XTi compact coaxials around the room providing sound to the side seating areas, and two further 8XTis to the right of the stage. The VIP section is covered by two 8XTis, and the entire system is powered by two L-Acoustics LA4 and one LA8 amplified controllers. At front of house is a Yamaha LS9 32-channel digital console, with two Mac Pro computers running audio and lighting respectively. Outside, four Apart Audio 8-inch tops and two dual 10-inch subwoofers cover a large decked area with the same again for a patio section around the bar. The amphitheatre is currently running an older PA system which is due to be updated in the near future.
‘I’m very happy with the sound that our L-Acoustics system gives the club,’ reflects Mr Thakker. ‘After the installation we did a lot of fine tuning to get the right balance for our live acts, our DJ sets and the other events we put on here. Every time a set is played we get feedback from the artist, the drummer, the vocalist and other musicians, so we can see what we might need that would improve things. So far, I’m pleased to say it all seems most satisfactory. We’re happy with the entire sound system we’ve installed, and people have been giving us great feedback. We feel we are taking the Blue Frog brand forward with this installation.’
The layout of Blue Frog Pune, together with its outside space, has resulted in a highly flexible venue which lends itself to different formats for certain nights, or times of the evening. ‘When people come in at 7pm or 8pm, the atmosphere is very restaurant-like; there’s an opening band, the lights are dim and our guests can have dinner and chat in a relaxing environment,’ explains Mr Thakker. ‘Then at around 10pm, we pick things up as the main band goes on and volumes increase.’
Blue Frog Pune opened in style in late summer 2014 with a performance from blues and rock band Soulmate, from Shillong in the North East of the country, who have a reputation as one of India’s best live acts. Since then, the club has presented a mix of live bands, EDM and DJ sets, plus a cultural programme including dance, drama and theatre, and stand up comedy nights. Additionally, there are plans to develop the Amphibian Series of outdoor events which were held in the amphitheatre as pre-launch parties just before Blue Frog’s official opening.
Mr Thakker and Mr Bhale run the franchise on a day-to-day basis, liaising closely with Blue Frog’s owners. ‘This holds us together as a family,’ says Mr Thakker. ‘I keep them involved all the time regarding the acts we have booked, the food, the sound, the lighting, everything we do. It all works together with the whole Blue Frog ethos.’
Blue Frog’s venues in Mumbai and Delhi respectively raised the bar for live music in those cities. With the opening of a Pune branch, the pond just got bigger for Blue Frog.