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Green Day Comes Home

Local Heroes Bring Their ‘Revolution Radio’ Tour to Oakland

This year, the Oakland Athletics’ commercial campaign emphasizes that the team is “Rooted in Oakland.” It resonates because, in a city that usually takes a backseat to tonier San Francisco and has its share of urban problems, Oaklanders take extra pride in The Town’s notable assets: diverse population, lakeside parks, historic movie palaces, Green Collar Baseball, Raider Nation, Dub Nation… and Green Day.

So when the world’s most successful punk band played their hometown this summer—one night at the A’s Rickey Henderson Field—Oakland pride was on full display, from the Green Day A’s jerseys in the crowd to the message from the stage. “We’re home!” frontman Billie Joe Armstrong declared, and throughout a night of hits and extreme audience participation, he stressed the importance of East Bay pride and unity. You heard it here: Inclusion is the new punk. It takes energy on a Springsteen-in-the-’80s level to deliver Green Day’s message and engage a stadium crowd for more than two hours, particularly when most of the audience—those who did not score “pit” tickets—were separated from the band by the entire baseball infield. With the stage situated in center field, it was GA in front of the stage, everybody else in the stands, and a lot of protected turf in between.

Billie Joe Armstrong invites the crowd to trade vocal lines.

To meet this challenge, bandmembers Armstrong, drummer Tré Cool and bassist Mike Dirnt expanded their stage sound with help from guitarists Jason White and Jeff Matika, and saxophone player Jason Freese. Green Day’s other not-so-secret weapon is interaction with their audience: There’s frequent call-and-response, and several times during a show, Armstrong will invite an audience member onto the stage to sing a verse or play a guitar riff. The band’s setlist remains fairly consistent from night to night, but their shows are still full of surprises, and Green Day’s technical team needs to be ready.

Front-of-house engineer Kevin Lemoine has been touring with the band since 2000, so he knows the drill. He’s been with them so long, in fact, he’s burned through at least one console. “I have a new Trident 88 now, a modern analog console,” Lemoine says. “The last console we owned was a 32 channel Midas. It was a good board, but we just wore it out. So I went to AES some new things. The Trident looked and felt solid and high-quality. So I got VER [sound company, Nashville] to supply one on this run.

“As far as the workflow, it’s about as straightforward as it gets,” Lem- oine continues. “It’s a really basic analog console that just happens to have phenomenal EQ and it sounds great. And even though I do have a couple of computer screens—I have one with my Lake EQ/analyzer and one with a Waves package on it—it lets me pay more attention to the performance than to the gear.”

VER also provides the tour’s d&b audiotechnik J Series P.A. “On this tour we’re doing amphitheatres, arenas and stadiums, so the P.A. has to be something we can set up in all those situations and cover everybody,” Lemoine says. “I think this d&b system is the nicest, most hi-fi rig we’ve come across: absolute clarity, nice volume without hurting anyone—just a really sweet rig.”

For the Oakland stadium date, the crew put up three main hangs per side of 24 J8 loudspeakers, as well as side hangs of 20 J and J12 speakers, flown sub arrays consisting of eight JSubs each, as well as four J12s and two J8s for additional fills, and a complement of 28 JSubs and 14 Jinfras as ground subs. The entire system is supported by d&b’s ArrayProcessing and D80 amplifiers. Lemoine uses a honed collection of outboard gear and plug-ins at FOH: “I like API preamps on all drums and vocals,” he says. “I’ve got my Waves package on Billie—C6 and Vitamin [sonic enhancer], and the Man- ny Marroquin Triple D on his vocal. I like the Lexicon PCM92 reverb, Chandler compression on the backing vocals and Billie’s acoustic guitar, and I like the way SSL gates and compressors sound on drums.”

Onstage, Lemoine captures Armstrong’s lead vocal with a DPA 4018v. “It’s a capsule that screws right into a Shure wireless system,” he explains. “I do have a Lake EQ inserted on there, as well, for troubleshooting with the long ramp that comes out in front of the stage—it helps out with that.” Backing vocals are taken via Telefunken M80s, and drums are miked up mainly with DPA mics, plus AKG 414s as overheads and another M80 on snare. Still more M80 mics are used on guitar amps.

FOH engineer Levin Lemoine (left)
and monitor engineer Tim Engwall

“The two main guitar players, Billie and Jason White, have identical Marshall rigs with two amps [each],” Lemoine explains. “One gets a Neumann TLM103 and the Telefunken M80, and the other gets another Neumann TLM103 and an old RCA BK5 ribbon mic from the ’60s. Those go into BAE 1032 preamps—they’re basically Neve 1073 clones. Having one of those on each mic makes it easy for the mics to sound individually accurate. The 103 sounds like a 103. The ribbon mic sounds like an old ribbon mic.”

As for bassist Mike Dirnt, “He designed his own Fender amplifier with the Fender guys,” Lemoine says. “It’s got a tube preamp section and a tube amp section, and it’s just got an XLR out; I put it through a [Tech 21] Sans- Amp. I also have a Beyer M88 microphone on one of his cabinets.

“Mike’s bass tone has evolved through the years, and the bass is a very important part of this band’s sound. The earlier records sound different from the later records, too, and they’re playing songs from their very early records till Revolution Radio, so I wouldn’t just throw the bass up and keep it the same all night. It has to evolve through the songs.”

Lemoine’s goal, on any Green Day tour, is to bring the albums to life for the fans, and the audience’s response is essential to a great show. It’s give and take.

“The guys want their monitor mix to sound very polished and like the record, and live at the same time,” says Tim Engwall, who mixes for the band’s Shure PSM1000 in-ears on an Avid S6L. “In order to achieve that, I have a few analog pieces of gear: I run all my drum channels through Mi- das XL42 preamps to get that analog drum sound before it hits my digital console, for example.

“But then in terms of Billie’s mix, he feeds off of the crowd, so we put up anywhere from six to 12 crowd mics in front of the stage, depending on if it’s a stadium show or a smaller amphitheater. He’ll point his vocal mic at the crowd, but obviously that doesn’t pick up very much. That’s more of a prompt, if you will. But those crowd mics really pump him up, and that’s a big part of the show.”