“The main focus of the venue is to showcase national touring artists that might otherwise drive right past Rochester,” says Dave Drago, talent buyer and one of 4 co-owners of Essex. Drago was tapped by SCN Hospitality, an impressive Rochester based restaurant group, to oversee the design of the venue's systems on every level of the concert experience. “SCN’s hospitality really shines throughout Rochester. Our vision with Essex was to add a viable concert venue to that portfolio, offering people a beautiful space to enjoy good music and great service.” Drago has been in the audio and music business for over 20 years.
Drago started out as a studio owner and engineer, weaving a career across North America, gaining experience as an artist and tour manager, producer, songwriter, musical director, touring musician, and most applicably, general manager for the heralded Concerts at Point of The Bluff seasonal concert series in the Finger Lakes. “I have been on just about every side of most transactions in the music business,” recalls Drago. “I want to make sure all stakeholder needs are met when audio systems are being designed and implemented.”
When construction began in August 2023, it was at a frenzied pace, bringing crews of 20 contractors at a time for demolition, followed by new construction, staging, and sound. When the search for the Essex house system began, Drago already knew his go-to brand for the venue. “I knew RCF products had a great reputation, and RCF was the only system we wanted at our music hall.”
Working with RCF house Audio Images from Batavia New York, Drago learned they had a turnkey solution in the shop. “When I spoke with Joe Barnes, he suggested the HDL 30-A’s [2x4] over three SUB 9006 subwoofers—all were available and ready for installation,” recalls Drago. “We couldn’t move fast enough to get the system, as fast as everything was moving, I felt we had hit our stride.”
“When Dave contacted us and explained they wanted to create a premier venue in Rochester, RCF was the only choice,” recalls Joe Barnes, VP of Operation at Audio Images. “With the HDL 30-A’s, SUB 9006’s with HDL 6-A for front fills, the system fit perfectly in that room. After RCF came in and helped tune the system, I believe there is no room in Rochester that sounds better. Additionally, Essex added NX 915-SMA monitors and have received much praise for their clarity and punch in other systems we deploy. RCF delivers a complete solution,” concludes Barnes.
The owners of Essex are (pictured L to R) Mack Hartman, Dave Drago, Josh Miles, and Zach Mikida. The 4 co-owners work diligently as a unit to produce every level of the concert experience with quality and hospitality front of mind. The venue's aesthetic leans into its industrial past and features two bars, a custom-built stage, accommodating green rooms, and a world class RCF sound system.