In Nov. 2015, Good Charlotte reunited. It makes sense that pop-punk nostalgia is in full swing; nearly a decade after its renaissance, the guys and gals who grew up with the stuff are hungry for some semblance of their childhood. It’s a genre entirely associated with the stuff. You grow up emo and you grow out of it. It gives the groups who found real success in it expiration dates, it unfairly degrades them to nothing more than a phase. Good Charlotte, in their own way, has always been about breaking boundaries. They’re the first of their class to be half-boy band and half-rock and roll revivalists, and at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour Thursday night (Nov. 19), this became crystal clear.
The night opened by a young, hunky, punk-y group by the name Waterparks from Houston, Texas. Their charm isn’t too unlike 5 Seconds of Summer two years ago — a certain boyish tenderness that’s endearing in its insecurity. They’re managed by Benji and Joel Madden, the faces of Good Charlotte, and it’s very clear why. This is a group in their infancy, with killer hooks and killer attitudes. They could go far, and it appears they might be on their way. By the time they hit the stage, no one was outside smoking or loitering with a certain cool guy disposition. Eyes were glued to their manic, panic-ed being.
When their set began, the room was filled with the sound of vintage Southern California pop-punk. It was anxiety inducing, with GC right around the corner. It wasn’t just the diehard Charlotte-heads, either. In attendance were My Chemical Romance’s Mikey Way, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jessie J, Bad Suns, and Andrew Watt. The fancy faces watching, GC launched directly into “The Anthem,” which felt weirdly truer than it has ever felt. “Another loser anthem / Sing if you’re with me,” Joel Madden cried with a weathered rasp, the kind of a man well into adulthood. Unlike other bands feeding into the emo revival circuit, Good Charlotte doesn’t feel worn. They don’t feel dated. If anything, they feel experienced. There’s nothing adolescent about wanting to be a part of something bigger, and GC have managed to keep that desire fresh.
Before launching into “Boys and Girls” somewhere near the top half of the set, Joel introduced the song with “This is our hometown show.” It was the only moment that bordered on disingenuous. The boys hail from suburban Maryland, the kind of gray sky place that inspires endless hope or fruitless ambition. These gents are on the better side of history, making it in Los Angeles, the place where aging pop-punkers go to revel in their success. For Good Charlotte, it’s not about looking back, but looking forward. In whatever weird way, the world needed their return, a reminder that the stuff you loved growing up isn’t without importance.
John Feldmann, longtime producer of the band and frontman of ska punk icons Goldfinger, joined Good Charlotte on stage for their reunion single, “Makeshift Love.” He crowdsurfed and he picked up Joel mid-bridge. Feldmann once told me how he met the GC twins, one night when his band was playing a show at D.C.’s famed 9:30 Club. Benji crowdsurfed his way to the stage, stole the microphone from Feldy’s grasp and screamed, “Good Charlotte!” After the gig he approached John, knowing his annoyance full well and said, “I have a band, we’re called Good Charlotte.” They’ve since become best friends, and it’s easy to see why. That certain unapologetic, bratty young spirit is somehow admirable; when you’re not fearful of consequence, you can take over the world. It’s something a lot of us lose in adulthood, but it’s something Good Charlotte seems to maintain, even now.
Somewhere near the end of their set, the group closed with “Little Things.” It’s funny to consider these guys — once completely obsessed with money and hot chicks — have grown into comfortable, rational, successful adults. They didn’t go the radical, alien-chasing route of Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge or continue their tradition like All Time Low. They called it quits when it felt right; they reunited when it felt right. It’ll prove them well in the coming months, if they so choose to consider it. At the end of the day, it’s just fun. Sometimes that’s all it takes.