It’s been more than 10 years since British pop-punk boy band Busted played a show together. Now, Busted has officially reunited, and veteran front-of-house engineer Eds John is harnessing the power of Avid Everywhere for the tour, utilizing the award-winning VENUE | S6L live sound console to bring these special shows to life.
First, a bit of history: In 2005, Charlie Simpson quit the chart-topping trio after reportedly growing tired of pop songs and taking a career reroute into heavy metal, forming the band Fightstar. This year, Simpson rejoined former members Matt Willis and James Bourne to play a string of arena shows across the United Kingdom and Ireland on their uniquely named “Pigs Can Fly” tour. Fans went crazy for tickets, and the two-hour spectacular pulls out all the stops.
Meanwhile, Eds has spent the last 23 years on the road doing what he does best, shaping memorable moments for hundreds of thousands of fans with his passion for live music. An avid user of Avid live sound systems for most of his career, he’s toured the globe with acts including Orbital, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and, more recently, pop acts like The Vamps, Lianne La Havas and supergroup McBusted—made up of two members of the recently reformed group, who paired up with the pop-punk band McFly.
Avid VENUE | S6L has been breaking records since its release in 2015, with industry recognition coming from a host of award wins. Eds kept a close eye on the success of the latest addition to the Avid live sound family and was keen to take the new console out on the road.
After providing powerful Avid VENUE systems for the McBusted shows in 2014, hire firm Wigwam supplied the new S6L console for the highly-anticipated Busted arena tour. Eds says: “For me, the deciding factors were down to the new added benefits in VENUE | S6L, like increased channel count and processing power, along with my knowledge of working on an Avid VENUE system. S6L was so easy to jump straight onto, and after just three or four hours of training, I was ready to go!”
Seeing how far VENUE has come since he started as an FOH engineer, Eds discusses how the increased amount of inputs are making a huge difference to his daily workflow. “In the past, we may have come unstuck with a limited channel count of around 96 mic inputs and linings,” he says. “As crazy as it sounds, arena tours frequently run well over that. Now, on the S6L with its 164 mic inputs, I finally feel like I have room to breathe. There’s plenty of space to fit in the support bands without having to move anything; they just fit in at the end of the patch, instead of repatching and adding in new lines like before.”
Eds is also seeing a notable rise in the processing power on the S6L. “We’ve only got the one engine in there, but I’ve noticed that I can have an entire mountain of plug-ins open without it affecting the processor,” he says. “Also, I’m only using one card, and it’s not even full! On a full-scale arena tour like this, I used to be filling up three cards no problem at all, so that’s also a massive benefit.”
There’s a unique element to the Busted “Pigs Can Fly” tour, giving some of the band’s die-hard fans a totally one-off experience. Playing on the name the band have given the tour, “The Pigsty” is an exclusive, three-story standing area situated behind the stage and in full view of the rest of the arena. From here, 200 die-hard punters pay to rock out and participate in the show with confetti, masks and lights.
“This was the first time that the S6L was a valid option for us to take out on the road and to really put it through its paces. On this tour, we have this massive extra consideration in terms of sound, as these 200 fans are experiencing the show from behind the band. The backstage area is over three stories tall, so we’ve had to hang a PA up in there and even lay it on the floor through the structure to ensure the entire space is covered.”
Eds explains, “There are moments during the build-up to a show where we need to talk to the audience in the ‘Pigsty’ and prep them in advance for things that the band need them to do at points during the gig. As we want to maintain the suspense and not let the rest of the arena in on these surprises, I feed different matrix mixes to the structure so that myself and the band can talk to them separately. That’s been an added benefit in making these shows even more spectacular, and the S6L makes it so easy to route everything back there without any fuss.”
Eds adds that some of the other benefits of taking the latest Avid VENUE console on the tour include new features such as the matrixing system. “It’s amazing—the 24×24 matrix is laid out more logically, and makes it really easy to pick off AUX subgroups and matrices throughout the show.”
“I’m also seeing the benefit of having 24 VCA’s (Voltage Controlled Amplifiers) to play with; it make things a lot easier. The show has secondary B stages, so everything is nicely spread on VCA. When running that many inputs, I’d normally need lots of small discrete groups of inputs, but the S6L allows me to mix the whole show on VCA without having to go back to individual channels.”
—Eds John, FOH engineer for the Busted “Pigs Can Fly” tour
Looking at how VENUE | S6L is changing the way Eds John continues to make a name for himself in the live sound market, he explains: “It’s all about making myself futureproof. With the S6L, I can’t see myself ever running out of anything, like the extra AUX outputs that weren’t on previous systems. For me, even though this desk is still fairly early on in its life, I need something to stick with for the future, and it’s definitely delivering.”
Eds also makes a valid point when considering that most modern systems aren’t always available at every show: “With Avid systems, I have the security of knowing that when I’m moving around on tour, I can put my USB into the console with a different I/O, and it will still spring into action and patch automatically.”