Tour Profile: Good Charlotte

Jan 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Gregory A. DeTogne

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Part of a new breed of tuneful pop punksters on today's music scene, spikey-haired, tattooed and pierced Good Charlotte manages to address the prime topic of the genre — alienation felt by outsiders — but with a somewhat sunny and positive approach that sends 10- to 14-year-old girls into paroxysms of hysteria. Rather than being intense and enraged, their catalog of songs explores relationships, lifts spirits and displays empathy — this is clearly punk of a new stripe. Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless tour has been making its way around the country for a few months now, courtesy of Cleveland-based Eighth Day Sound. Mix caught up with the band at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom.

Good Charlotte crew chief and monitor engineer Vince Buller rides herd over a straight-up rock 'n' roll rig with the versatility to rapidly switch gears from a 2,000-seat theater one night to a hockey rink with ample space for 10,000 shrieking females the next. Buller, a native of Birmingham, England, is probably best known for a 10-year stint he pulled with the Black Crowes; more recently, he went out with Björk and Tracy Chapman. He signed on to be ringleader for a hard-working Good Charlotte crew that includes house engineer Gary Ferenchak, front-of-house tech Doug Fowler and system tech Marty Tarle.

Each night, Good Charlotte's show begins in total darkness. As the lights come up and the crowd begins to make out the silhouettes of the band as they take the stage, pandemonium ensues. “You could goose it up for them,” Buller says of his monitor levels at that moment, “but there's really little you can do to overcome the noise of the crowd. They're used to it by now anyway, and sort of go into autopilot mode until the audience calms down. Once that happens, it's clear sailing, mate.”

Just as in the house, Buller's world onstage is based around d&b loudspeakers, amplification and processing. Presiding over a Yamaha PM4000 used to orchestrate the activities of 22 inputs, he maintains four mixes using two wedges each across the front of the stage, a pair of sidefills flown above the fray to help reduce chances for feedback, a wedge in front of the drum riser pointing at the rear of the frontline (appropriately dubbed the “butt mix”) and “Texas headphones” (two enclosures on each of the immediate sides of the drum kit) for the drummer.

“Once the band hits the stage, they are moving all over the place at warp speed for the show's full 90 minutes,” Buller relates. “That's why I have full mixes everywhere. With the amount of activity going on, trying to create individual zones for different players would be a useless proposition.”

Monitor world's outboard gear is, according to Buller, simply the “regular stuff”: BSS graphics, compressors and Drawmer gates. “There's nothing high-tech,” he humbly admits. “After all, this is all about rock 'n' roll: getting it together and then making it as loud as you can get it, while still keeping things clear and intelligible.”

In the house, the d&b P.A. comprises two-box full-range enclosures and subs. “We fly most of the time, but occasionally, we stack because of the widely varying venues we turn up in,” FOH tech Fowler explains. “The nice thing about this rig is that we can basically build it however we want to.”

A three-way splitter onstage splits once for Buller's PM4K, again for FOH engineer Ferenchak's Midas XL4 and a third time to accommodate a Digidesign/Focusrite control surface employed to govern events within a Pro Tools setup that is used to capture each evening's performance. With no intended purpose at the moment outside of the purely archival, the recorded Pro Tools tracks are an amalgam of 16 channels taken from the snake through the Focusrite control surface and eight others taken as direct outs from the XL4.

Outside of his Pro Tools environment, Ferenchak confides that there “aren't a lot of bells and whistles out front.” With most of his compression done in subgroups — he basically subs all of the instruments and compresses them lightly on the guitars and fairly heavily on drums and bass — he does two subgroups in mono of kick and snare, another pair of the rest of the drum kit in stereo, squashes it, cranks the outputs and then brings it up in the mix.

“After all that, it can't help being anything but huge,” he says matter-of-factly. “The toms will kind of explode, but it's not out of sync with the rest of what's going on. Others who mix this kind of stuff are more into the older front-loaded systems, because they can make them louder or at least have them be perceived as louder. But for me, this isn't about being loud, it's about balance and clarity.”

Portraits of the band and crew, by Mix photographer Steve Jennings

Rocking out onstage:


Pictured from left: FOH engineer Gary Ferenchak, monitor engineer Vince Buller, Eighth Day Sound system tech Marty Tarle and FOH tech Doug Fowler

Want more? Click here for extended tour information from front of house engineer Gary Ferenchak and monitor engineer Vince Buller.

 


Gregory A. DeTogne is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area.






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