A San Francisco landmark, and arguably the most celebrated venue in rock history, The Fillmore promises to carry its iconic status into the future thanks to a complete audio upgrade anchored by a new Meyer Sound reinforcement system. Built around the flagship PANTHER™ large-format linear line array loudspeaker, the new system was supplied and installed by UltraSound, LLC another company with deep roots in the rich history of San Francisco’s post-1960s music scene.
Operated by Live Nation since 2007, The Fillmore treasures its legendary past while remaining focused on presenting today’s established and emerging artists in an optimum environment supported by world-class technical facilities.
“Our prior Meyer Sound system maintained our reputation for more than fifteen years,” notes Matt Lawsky, on The Fillmore staff since 1999 and principal production manager since 2011. “But it was clearly time to move forward. We had first looked at a LEOPARD® solution, but the timing worked out perfectly because, just when Live Nation gave us the green light, PANTHER had come out. UltraSound recommended it, and the cost was a wash because with PANTHER we need only seven boxes per side whereas LEOPARD would require 10 or more. So, we went with the very latest Meyer Sound technology.”
When The Fillmore reopened in 1994, after a five-year closure due to earthquake damage, UltraSound installed a Meyer Sound MSL-3 system in the room. UltraSound returned in subsequent years to install MICA line arrays with M3D Subs, culminating in this year’s PANTHER system.
“It has been an honor to have provided all The Fillmore audio systems for nearly three decades,” says UltraSound CEO Derek Featherstone. “And all have been from Meyer Sound.”
For Lawsky, maintaining the strong ties with Meyer Sound was a no-brainer. “Very few venues have the luxury of being in the neighborhood of a world-class audio manufacturer,” he notes. “In fact, I could stop by the Meyer Sound factory on my way home. It would be madness not to take advantage of that.”
With a capacity just shy of 1,200, The Fillmore is categorized as a club by default as shows are general admission for an open floor with limited seating. As such, The Fillmore now becomes the first club in the world to offer a PANTHER system.
“PANTHER is amazingly versatile in any environment because of its light weight and compact size,” says Derek Featherstone. “I hope young engineers will experience PANTHER in the club environment here and then, when their bands grow to major touring acts, choose to carry it with their production.”
In addition to the seven-each PANTHER arrays, the new system also includes two ULTRA-X40™ compact loudspeakers as front corner infills plus a third ULTRA‑X40 for overhead center fill. Interim bass power is supplied by six 1100‑LFC™ low-frequency control elements, pending replacement by the newly introduced 2100-LFC™ elements later this year. Artist foldback is courtesy of ten MJF-210™ high-power stage monitors.
Contributing to the system renewal alongside Featherstone was UltraSound Operations Manager Josh Osmond, with Jason Mills serving as the on-site manager.
Michael Bailey, Live Nation Senior Vice President, has been a fixture at The Fillmore since 1987, working first for the owners at the time, soon afterward for Bill Graham Productions, and eventually for Live Nation. “When the 2100s are in, we will have the ultimate club showcase for Meyer Sound PA technology,” says Bailey. “Bands, and engineers from other clubs, can come here, listen to the system, and be inspired to upgrade the sound at similar venues around the country — or the world.”
After nearly a quarter century at The Fillmore, Matt Lawsky is well aware of the unique nature of the venue, and how its legacy affects production. “This is a relatively small room with a very high-intensity usage,” he notes. “Off-the-shelf solutions don’t work here. We have bespoke demands, and I’m grateful for the way that Meyer Sound, UltraSound, and our crew from IATSE Local 16 have worked hard to tailor this solution to our needs.”
The Fillmore’s status as a rock mecca is inescapable, but Matt Lawsky is focused on delivering an amazing experience at every show. “This is not the ‘Fillmore Museum.’ This is here, this is now. We are a working rock’n’roll dive that just happens to be exceptionally famous.”
For Meyer Sound founders John and Helen Meyer, the latest upgrade to the venue continues a long tradition of supporting the arts in the Bay Area. “We came to shows here in the sixties, so this is special,” Helen Meyer recalled at the system’s inauguration ceremonies. “We want to thank everybody from The Fillmore, Live Nation, and UltraSound for making this happen. We are Bay Area natives, and this is the kind of thing we love to do. It’s in our DNA. We hope everybody will enjoy the result.”
Over its six-decade history as a rock venue, The Fillmore has hosted not only nearly every legendary act in that genre but also luminaries of blues, jazz, soul, and rap. Today, the venue continues this tradition with a calendar of bookings spanning not only rock music and all its sub-genres but also Latin, reggae, hip-hop, R&B, and pop.
Photo: Jay Blakesberg