Live Sound

All Access: Violent Femmes

An American cult band since the 1980s, the Violent Femmes are reasserting their claim to coolness with the recent release of Permanent Record: The Very 3/01/2006 7:00 AM Eastern

Front-of-house engineer Brian Miller

An American cult band since the 1980s, the Violent Femmes are reasserting their claim to coolness with the recent release of Permanent Record: The Very Best Of. In support of this 25th-anniversary album, the band is traveling across the U.S., playing to sold-out mid-sized venues. Mix caught up with the band and engineers — some of whom play onstage in addition to their engineering duties — in early February at San Francisco's historic Fillmore club.

Jeff Hamilton, backline tech, backing musician (guitar, mandolin, trumpet, bass, harmonica) and monitor engineer

As the tour is not carrying production, front-of-house engineer Brian Miller specs his board to have a minimum of 15 inputs; at the Fillmore show, they swelled to 30 inputs, due to the addition of drop-in guests. “This unpredictability can create a great deal of confusion, which is actually a lot of fun,” Miller relates. “In fact, sometimes I will not know of the lineup until 30 minutes before the band goes onstage.”

Brian Ritchie, bassist/multiinstrumentalist/vocalist uses a 6K 800RB amp that is bi-amped so that monitor engineer Jeff Hamilton has more control over the low end.

As for working with this band of seasoned pros, Miller says, “It certainly makes my job much easier. They generally do not soundcheck, as they know the show will differ greatly from soundcheck; therefore, they put their trust in the crew.”

“I am really pleased with the Sennheiser MD431-2 on Gordon Gano's lead vocal,” says FOH engineer Brian Miller. “Gordon has a tendency to start singing quietly at the beginning of the set. I have all the gain I need without risk of feedback. It also does not lose any warmth if Gordon's slightly off the mic. I use beyerdynamic's TGX 80s for [drummer Victor De Lorenzo] and [bassist Brian Ritchie]. These mics also have exceptional warmth and tremendous gain before feedback.”

Victor De Lorenzo, drummer/vocalist

Jeff Hamilton is a jack of all trades: In addition to performing monitoring duties, he's also a backline tech and backing musician for the band. “My priority is the band and their instruments,” he says. “Playing and singing with the band is an extra perk. I have put down my guitar/mandolin or whatever mid-song to deal with problems Brian or Gordon may be having, or to escort off a raving fan who gets onstage! I am literally watching the guys not only for music cues, but also for any problems that may arise.

“I enjoy working with the band,” Hamilton continues. “Our production manager, Joe Bzura, is one of the best in the biz. The new kid, John Sparrow [drum tech/cajon player], is coming into his own nicely. All this makes for an excellent crew, and getting to perform with a band of this stature is an honor and fun.”

Gordon Gano, vocalist/guitarist

“Since I only have two drums to work with,” FOH engineer Brian Miller says, “I'm very particular with my snare mic setup. I use a Shure 98, coupled with a Sennheiser e604 on the top. This works particularly well when Victor is playing with brushes: By boosting the 98, you can actually hear the dynamics of the brush on the snare drum. The 604 comes into play more when Victor is playing with sticks, delivering great punch from the snare drum. Using both together gives a surprisingly full sound from one drum. I also use a Sennheiser e604 on the bottom snare and a Shure 98 on floor tom.”