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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Amish Town That's The Center Of The Touring Universe

Clair Bros logo image
Many of you know that I grew in a small town in Eastern Pennsylvania called Minersville, but what you don't know that it's about 40 minutes down the road from what has become the center of the concert touring universe. That town of only 9,400 is called Lititz and it's become a total company town in the same way that Hollywood is built around movies.

Lititz is the home of Clair Brothers, the largest sound company in the world, and Tait Towers, a leading company in the staging and lighting part of the business.

Clair Brothers was started very modestly by Gene and Roy Clair in 1968 with a pair of Altec A-7s behind the Four Seasons (for $90 a gig). They quickly realized that they needed a better way to move the gear around after touring with the likes of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, and began to manufacturer their own speaker systems, with Rod Stewart getting the first system custom painted in white. This gear has become the centerpiece of the company as time has gone on and as the company grew into permanent installation work as well.

Tait Towers was started by Michael Tait, who handled the lighting for Yes at the time, and moved to the Amish country town in 1978 because of the relatively low costs and fairly close proximity to Philadelphia and New York. Both companies now employ over 750 people in the Lititz area alone.

What's even more interesting is that fact that Clair and Tait are now coming together to build a new state-of-the-art rehearsal/pre-production center known as Rock Lititz Studios that's designed for major concert acts to get their show together before going out on tour. As it is know, most acts have to privately rent out a large venue or aircraft hanger, where the costs, location or accommodations aren't the most convenient or cost-effective. The Rock Lititz "entertainment campus" is truly a first in the industry.

The first client booked for the Rock Lititz was to be U2, but they have since cancelled since the band is still working on their album and have postponed their tour, but there seems to be no problem filling the time slot as acts are lining up to use it as it nears completion.

There's a great article about Clair Bros, Tait Towers and Lititz over on the Wall Street Journal that goes into much more detail.

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