For decades, the hippest and most happening spot on the Sunset Strip has been a small, boat-shaped bar and performance space upstairs from the Rainbow Bar & Grill, aptly named Over the Rainbow. When I was a kid growing up in Hollywood, the Rainbow was the place for rock stars and music fans to rub elbows over some of the best pizza in town. Over the Rainbow was where the really cool crowd hung out.
I was thrilled when the Rainbow recently became an official HARMAN Professional Solutions brand ambassador and a HARMAN Connected PA replaced Over the Rainbow’s antiquated sound system.
Mario Maglieri, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 93, opened the Rainbow in 1972 with a group of high-profile music industry friends. It was named for Judy Garland, who was best known for singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Garland was the wife of the building’s previous owner, stage and film director Vincente Minnelli. Since then, the Rainbow has been legendary. It is venerated in dozens of books about rock ‘n’ roll with stories about everyone from John Lennon, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin to X, Guns N’ Roses, Alice Cooper and Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister frequenting the downstairs dining room and more secluded alcoves of Over the Rainbow.
Through the years, the Over the Rainbow sound system—which was piecemeal in its best of days—became plagued by buzzes and a cumbersome set up process. On different nights, the club books bands, features DJs and hosts private events, and the PA was difficult to modify for its various purposes. The space needed a modern, adaptable sound system. Mario’s grandson, Mikeal Maglieri, Jr., who now owns the Rainbow as well as the famed Whisky a Go Go just down the street, agreed that HARMAN Connected PA was the ideal choice for the room.
“Connected PA makes a world of difference,” said Mikeal. “The new PRX800 speakers with built-in amps are much more powerful than what we had before. The system is far more efficient and cleaner sounding.”
“To prepare for the new system, we cleared out the whole room. There was a lot of secondary gear, like amps and crossovers and faders, hooked up in the DJ room. We got rid of every bit of it and started from scratch. Now, there’s the one Soundcraft interface that all the inputs and outputs go through. That’s the only thing we have running in the DJ room, and everything down to the speakers and sound processing is controlled on an iPad. It’s amazing!” said Mikeal.
The Rainbow’s Connected PA-compatible JBL PRX800 system consists of two pairs of JBL PRX 812P speakers and two JBL PRX 818 XLF subwoofers. The mains are on swivel mounts in the dance floor area where bands play. They can be turned toward the dance floor on DJ nights and outward when a band performs. The second pair of PRX812Ps serve as satellite speakers in the bar area, a few steps above the dance floor.
For shows, the Rainbow also deploys AKG P5i microphones. The loudspeakers and mics are patched into a Soundcraft Ui24R digital mixer and set up using a central app. The app automatically identifies and configures connected equipment and provides setup wizards for easy configuration from a variety of devices.
“We were excited to install our new Connected PA in the Rainbow,” said JT Taylor, Sr. Application Engineer, Recording and Retail for HARMAN Professional Solutions. “The place has a tremendous history, and it’s great to see some of our legacy brands share the Rainbow’s next chapter.”
“We worked hand-in-hand with the club’s management and AV staff to make sure we clearly understood their goals,” said JT. “They had a completely outdated 30-year-old hodgepodge system that buzzed because of inherent technical issues. They were using passive speakers with a complicated amplifier network in the small DJ booth. Our powered system makes things a lot simpler for them.”
DJ Will is one of four DJs who works at the Rainbow and serves as the venue’s primary AV person. Although he has worked at the club for eight years, he has been going to the Rainbow for almost three decades and knows every detail of the space. “My involvement as a DJ has also been something of a custodial role. I make sure everything is up and running with the mics when we have bands playing,” he said. “When it’s just the DJs spinning music, the sound is relatively easy to control, because everything is pre-mixed and mastered. But in a live setting, we need to switch gears and become more like engineers than DJs. Just the same, a complete system update was long overdue.”
“It’s important for performers and patrons to be comfortable and enjoy themselves in the different areas,” DJ Will said. “With the subwoofers on the dance floor and satellite speakers in the bar, I can keep thevolume at appropriate levels for every circumstance. With our low ceilings, the key is to not go crazy with high levels of decibels. You want the bartender to hear drink orders and make sure guests can carry on a conversation without needing to yell at one another. Meanwhile, on the dance floor, people can feel the full impact of the subs. The automatic feedback suppression on the Ui24R is a cool feature that helps when we have bands playing. The new system is awesome and gives me a lot more control.”
“As a DJ, there’s another benefit of Ui24R,” DJ Will continued. “Our booth isn’t big enough for standard turntables, so we use laptops. If one ever crashes or freezes up, we have the option to use the Soundcraft’s multichannel USB audio interface as a backup with a memory stick. It becomes an emergency sound source, if need be.”
“It’s great to have this partnership with HARMAN,” said DJ Will. “JT Taylor and Damien Curry [HARMAN Professional Solutions Sr. Product Specialist] did an amazing job of installing the new system and getting us up to speed on using it.”
“Everyone who works in Over the Rainbow is really happy,” said Mikeal. The bands that perform are enjoying the new gear, and I’ve had nothing but compliments from the DJs. Connected PA’s functionality and durability make an immense difference.”
Many thanks to Mikeal Maglieri Jr., DJ Will and JT Taylor for their insights into the new sound system at Over the Rainbow. Do you mix, DJ or provide AV services in an older venue that has been updated? Share your experience with modernization in the comments.