At the end of January, Tellus360’s large Temple space was home to the Robert Burns Supper, a dinner celebrating the Bard of Scotland. Later that night, the space transformed into a dance floor for Retro Night with DJ Edge.
Just a few weeks later, the very same location was home to a wrestling ring, where wrestlers faced off to benefit Arch Street Center.
Since it flipped from furniture store to bar and event space, Tellus360 has prided itself on its versatility. But as the venue’s popularity grew, the limitations of the Temple space became more pressing.
In January, Tellus360 completed the bulk of a significant renovation to its Temple space. The project included moving the stage to the opposite end of the room, levelling the floor, adding a DJ booth and upgrading its sound system. The bulk of the construction was done during Tellus360’s annual 10-day break at the beginning of January. Small additions and tweaks are expected to be ongoing for the next several weeks.
“We want to be a world-class concert and event venue,” says Bill Speakman, event manager for Tellus360. “So, part of that means giving the best experience to bands and performers and to the audience, and to have a versatile room we can do a lot of things in.”
The Temple is the largest indoor event space inside Tellus360. The venue also has Tigh Mhary, the first-level room at the front, the second-floor lounges An Droichead and Tig Caleb, the rooftop spaces Green Roof and Apres Ski Bar, and An Sibin, its speakeasy-inspired space in the basement.
The Temple renovation project was spearheaded by Harry Witz, senior director of systems development for Clair Global. Witz was involved in Tellus360’s 2013 renovations. He has the unique perspective of both an industry professional and a Tellus360 performer: his rock band Duct Tape has played several times at the venue.
Joe Devoy, the Tellus360 founder and owner, was heavily involved in the project, too. Before opening Tellus360, Devoy owned a construction company for 25 years. Tellus360 declined to share details about the renovation project’s budget.
Moving the stage
Previously, attendees entered the Temple from the Tigh Mhary space through a relatively small walkway to the immediate left of the stage.
During crowded performances, spectators had a tendency to gather in that walkway, making it difficult for others to enter or exit the space.
Moving the stage to the far end from the entrance clears up that high-traffic area. The stage is the same structure, which toured with the Rolling Stones, Maroon 5 and Billy Joel in its past life with Tait, the live event company based in Lititz. Its height was elevated from 3 feet to 4 feet, improving sight lines.
“It feels way more intuitive and natural when you walk back there,” Devoy says.
Witz says the new layout was one of the options discussed when he initially worked with Tellus years ago, but the team opted for the most simple plan to get the concert space up and running faster.
Previously, the floor in the Temple was two levels — a lower level near the stage and a higher level by the bar. Now, the entire room is at the same level, increasing the possibilities for banquet seating and eliminating the railings and steps that divided the room.
“We don’t have those points that get blocked. … Now it’s just open and flowing so you don’t have those little log jam areas,” Speakman says.
That walkway is now sealed with two pairs of doors, separating the sound from Temple and Tigh Mhary.
There’s also an elevated DJ booth that sits 10 feet above the crowd. Having a separate area for a DJ will quicken the turnover rate on nights when a DJ goes on immediately after a band, Speakman and Witz say.
The bar now sits near the entrance. A large mural by York artist Andi Simpson features three female archers in shades of periwinkle with gold leaf detail. Simpson will paint a companion piece on the DJ booth, Speakman says —a bullseye, directly in the path of the archers’ arrows behind the bar.
The stage’s new location also allows for a proper backstage area for bands. Artists can walk directly from the green room onto the stage via stairs, giving more privacy to national acts.
Witz and his Clair co-workers made significant changes to the room’s sound system, too. Witz has 40 years of experience, having designed sound systems for multiple House of Blues locations. He also worked as a sound engineer for Cheap Trick, Prince and KISS.
Two D&B Audiotechnik Q1 line array systems hang above the stage, replacing the older systems that preceded it.
“The line array systems that are used nowadays are designed to give you pretty much even coverage, so it’s a similar volume right in front of the stage all the way to the very back,” Witz says.
The delay speakers — previously used on an AC/DC tour — will remain in the room as well. Those allow for flexibility in softening the sound near the bar to allow patrons to easily order drinks without shouting over the music.
The mixing console was upgraded from the DiGiCo D1 to the new DiGiCo SD9, Witz says, to accommodate the higher-end acts Tellus is planning to host in its future. The mixing console is stored in a trap door in the floor, allowing the space to be cleared when necessary. The console’s location can be flexible, too. Previously, its station was permanent. Now, Witz says, the console can be anywhere in a 10-foot radius of that trap door, providing even more flexibility.
“The new system compared to the old system just has much better coverage, and it sounds much better,” Witz says. “It’s much more musical.”
Lancaster musicians and Tellus360 regulars Corty Byron, Andy Mowatt and Leo DiSanto were the first to perform on the renovated stage with the new sound system. The group performed a Beatles tribute in January in honor of the anniversary of the band’s iconic 1969 rooftop performance, its final public concert. The show was held in the Temple because of frigid temperatures.
Byron also was the first musician to perform on the venue’s roof, and in Tigh Mhary.
“We have a weird history of firsts there,” Byron says.
He noticed the difference in the sound system immediately.
“I think the low end is a lot better since they flipped it. … Everyone in the crowd kept saying how good it sounded, and that’s always what you want to hear,” says Byron, who also works in sales for Clair Brothers. “It only half has to do with us.”
While Tellus360 is open for business, the renovations are still ongoing. In addition to the mural on the DJ booth, acoustical treatments will be added to the Temple space to further improve the sound.
“I haven’t done the final tuning on it yet until we get all those acoustical treatments up, and once we do that we’ll dial it in even further,” Witz says. “So. it should get even better than it is.”
Speakman says red curtains will be hung behind the stage in the Temple.
The renovations will continue elsewhere in the building, too. The stairway leading from the mezzanine to the second floor will be sealed to prevent sound bleeding from Tigh Mhary on nights when there are multiple performances.
The private booths on the second floor will be taken down, allowing for more flexibility, Speakman says.
There have been other changes at Tellus as well, including to its food service. The previous bar menu has been replaced by Joe P’s cheesesteak shop, a late-night food option run by Tellus360 bartender Joe Pennington.
“They are the best cheesesteaks you can get easily this side of the Schuylkill River,” Speakman says.
Speakman and Devoy say all of the changes are rooted in the desire for versatility, as Tellus360’s schedule continues to include more and more diverse events.
“We’ve been investing in music,” Devoy says. “We want to expand what we’re doing musically and also eventswise, and I think this room gives us an opportunity to do that.”
Byron is excited to witness the change.
“Tellus is such a living organism,” Byron says. “The whole building just constantly keeps evolving.”