Creating a Mirage in the Heart of The City

by Bryan Reesman
in Installations
Beams of light from the Martin MAC Axioms excite the crowd.
Beams of light from the Martin MAC Axioms excite the crowd.

Cityfox’s Pop-Up Party Mecca Concept in Brooklyn Draws Crowds

New York has an exciting new music hub. Located in an industrial building in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn that once housed both a steel plant and a waste management facility, the Brooklyn Mirage is using the site to create an outdoor, EDM friendly dance club complete with colorful lighting, dazzling video and palm trees imported fresh from Florida.

A 6,000-person capacity space, this 80,000-square foot, three-level venue is an outdoor and indoor maze of walkways, stairways, bars, VIP rooms and a main outdoor area that encompasses 20,000 square feet of scaffolding and cladding. And as project manager Russell Felton explains, there are also “living walls” that have ivy growing on them along with two-dozen palm trees, imported from Florida. “It’s a pretty crazy scenario,” he says. “It’s just surreal when you’re there.”

The brainchild of Swiss-born, Brooklyn-based dance music promotion company Cityfox and its founders Jürgen “Billy” Bildstein and Philipp Wiederkehr, the Brooklyn Mirage is designed to serve as an annual pop-up venue. It opened in June and will close for the year at the end of September.

It debuted back in 2015 and 2016 for select dates. The first year was a test in a smaller space, and last year was the first time Mirage was operating at its current location — 140 Stewart Avenue, with most of Williamsburg to the west and Bushwick to the south.

BML provided fixtures and weather protection covers.

‡‡         Regulatory Hurdles

As reported in The New York Times and Vice, the venue got off to a difficult start, getting shut down after only a month in the spring of 2016 after being cited for permitting issues and safety violations.

This year, those same issues definitely created big challenges for Backbone International and their production crew, which, on average, included 30 to 50 carpenters working seven days a week.

Rutger Jansen, managing director and partner of Backbone International, notes that, while the Mirage is a temporary structure, officials have been looking at it as permanent, adding to the lengthy list of permits and building codes had to be addressed. So when Backbone set about creating a new Mirage for 2017, they took all of those considerations very seriously.

“We had to do geodesic reports, [put in] new asphalt, steel plates to put your scaffolding on, stuff you wouldn’t really need to do for events,” says Jansen. “We had all kinds of different lighting for walkways.” They had to be careful about the use of combustible materials like wood, address the proper step height for the stairs and make sure there were proper exit signs (39 in total) and emergency lighting.

Again, these were all requirements that “you really wouldn’t think about if you’re doing an event,” Jansen notes. “It was a serious challenge. It wasn’t only New York State, it was also New York City that was an issue. Everybody needed to do OSHA courses before you could even work on site. It was a real construction site.”

DJs blast out tunes across the rooftop club.

Felton says he worked on the technical side and assembled an RFP combining the lights that Jansen’s company owned with what else they needed from vendors.

Felton has worked on many temporary installs and festivals, including a venue called Brooklyn Steel nearby to the Mirage, and he knew that, given this new club would be a construction site, that a short load-in time would be a tough deadline to make. What the crew ultimately thought would take 16 days encompassed a total of 30.

“My background is civil engineering,” says Jansen. “If you had a construction company do this, it wouldn’t work, because there are so many elements that are temporary in nature, and they only know how to solve things permanently, which would make it way more expensive because they have their way of working.” The Backbone crew knew how to assemble and rig a temporary live venue while working within the building parameters they were given.

As noted, the Brooklyn Mirage team had to comply with building codes and regulations for both the City and the State of New York. They installed 800 meters of WW LED tape for emergency lighting, particularly along walkways and stairwells, “all of which runs back to UPS backups in each dimmer beach because they have to stay on for an hour [after the events end] to allow people enough time to leave,” says Felton. “There are also 200 meters of RGBWW in some areas where the club owner wanted to have lighting but not have it be in people’s faces.”

Felton had to determine where in the walls “to put the power supplies and decoders, so I could get DMX,” he explains. “I was trying to coordinate that with the lighting team. Being that they’re auto switching, I was able to switch wherever there was a 110 or 208 outlet and decide whether it was going to get an L6-20 by whatever fixture was close.”

The main outdoor space with the stage has 20,000 feet square of scaffolding and cladding. “It doesn’t look like a scaff structure,” says Felton. “It’s totally enclosed, and all the lighting had to be mounted after all the cladding was done.”

Illuminated stairwells and exit signs were a priority.

‡‡         The Lighting

Felton notes that LED fixtures are predominant in the lighting setup. “Almost everything in the rig is LED — LED PARs, LED strips, some Elation, some Robe. I actually spec’d having hybrids. The client wanted the ability to have big wash looks as well as laser beam grid looks. A hybrid offered both, plus he was trying to keep the space from looking cluttered from too many fixtures.”

With the party happening out-of-doors, weather-ready fixtures were a priority, Felton adds. “I tried to get the waterproof Elation Proteus hybrids, but none were available, so I went with Martin [MAC] Axiom fixtures, which are great fixtures that fit our needs. The lighting vendor, BML Blackbird, was able to source some great rain protection for them. There hasn’t been any drama with those, and it’s been storming left and right here. They keep working.”

Along with the IP-20-rated MAC Axioms and Robe CycBars, fixtures were chosen with spring and summer conditions in mind, where the weather can range from wet to hot. Other IP-rated lights included the Elation 6 PARs from the 200 and 300 series. “Those all work like champs,” says Felton.

LED tape was run everywhere.

The venue is also equipped with Elation Color Choruses. “They’re kind of like the X-Bar 20. They’re not really IP rated. We built a custom plexi shell for those so they can still shoot up through the plexi. We’re trying to keep the water off them. They seem to be doing quite well.”

The genuine palm trees are uplit by Chauvet Well Fits. Felton says he can get 12 to 24 hours out of the batteries if they are using a single color at half output. “Even at full output, one color will last forever,” he adds. “They recharge very easily. They’re all running on W-DMX.”

Another feature that Felton makes note of are the Styrofoam panels located on the inside of the event structure. “They were all custom cut and installed to exact specifications by Brok Decor NA,” he explains. “Custom content was created for 16 projectors, and the entire inside of the structure is pixel mapped. The way that they have mixed the mapping and the lighting makes for a truly great club experience.”

Real palm trees were brought in from Miami.

‡‡         Looking Ahead, Indoors and Out

As envisioned, the venue, when finalized, will consist of two indoor rooms and the outdoor one that will operate under the Avant Gardner banner at 140 Stewart Avenue. Cityfox wants the ability to turn the entire structure that houses the Mirage into three event spaces within the structure. The two other rooms, which will be indoor, are to be called the Great Hall and Kings Hall.

“It is going to be crazy when it is all gets done,” declares Felton. “We are still in the planning stages on the indoor facilities. Of course it’s construction, so they went in to reinforce the floor and install new pilings. It’s really hard to get any other work started in there until they get the building on firm footing. When finished it’s going to have 120 mini-Robe Pointes in there, with clusters of four hanging down from the ceiling. The room is going to look like Game of Thrones inside, like you walked into some castle in Austria. It’s going to look great when it’s done.”

The plan, still in the works as this issue went to press, was to open up the entire event structure by the late summer or fall. “They want to offer a small venue, a big venue and an outside area for the whole space,” explains Felton. “It’s going to be crazy when it’s full up and running. There’s a subway close by, and parking isn’t that bad. That’s all coming within the year.”

Robe CycBar 15 fixtures illuminate the facade of the venue.

“Those three buildings have about the same capacity, so on colder days or with bad weather they can just run the venue,” says Jansen. “If you do parties outdoors, and for whatever reason you have to move indoors, you can.”

The Brooklyn Mirage and the Avant Gardner complex are ambitious undertakings that finally seem to be paying off, and Jansen and Backbone have certainly been happy to go along for the wild ride. DJs and EDM artists who have performed at the venue this year have included Âme, Adriatique, Martin Buttrich, Boris, Oscar G and Mano Le Tough through events put on by Cityfox and other organizations.

When asked what he ultimately wanted to achieve with this space, Jansen replies, “I get the pride of creating something that did not happen before, that we pulled it off in a super time crunch, and that’s a beautiful venue. The projections are really sick. It’s amazing. This is not like any other club. This is the vision of the client. They’re very creative. They have an architect on staff and will hold special parties as well. They have a vision, and that’s why it’s so special. It’s not about the money, it’s about doing something special.”

The rooftop sports custom styrofoam scenic panels.


  • 2       grandMA2 Full consoles; 2 NSPs
  • 39     Martin MAC Axiom Hybrids
  • 15     GLP Impression X4 Bar 20s
  • 12     Robe Spiider Performance fixtures
  • 121  Elation Sixpar 300’s
  • 151  Robe CycBar 15’s
  • 80     Elation Sixpar 200’s
  • 20     Chauvet Well Fits (wireless)
  • 3       ADJ Color Strand Kits
  • 1       LED Festoon package with a remote
  • 4       DF-50 hazers
  • 4       Haze Base heavy foggers
  • 4       22” flat screen monitors (DVI)
  • 4       Ethernet cables (10’)
  • 4       Ethernet cables (25’)
  • 1       Ethernet hub (8 way 1000 Base T)
  • 1       UPS power supply
  • 2       Littlites
  • 1       distro package (208V/110V)
  • 2       dimmer beaches (MPUs, Art-Net, MAnet devices)
  • 1       Data package (Optos, multi-snakes, FOH snakes)
  • 6       rain hats
  • 6       small domes
  • 4       carpet blower turbo fans
  • 7       10’ sections of 20.5 x 20.5” box truss
  • 3       5’ sections of 20.5 x 20.5” box truss
  • 2       20.5 x 20.5” truss corner blocks