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Stop the Incubus From Spawning Clones

Band’s Colorful Repertoire and Good Attitude Justifies Rabid Teenage Following

By Sandra M. Chung


Avalon Ballroom

September 18-19, 2001

A Tuesday night show at Avalon ballroom drew attention to some of the latest advances in biotechnology. Researchers pried deep into the genomes of the members of the funk rock group Incubus and isolated the genetic sequences that code for their musical style. The same scientists replicated these genes and spliced them into the chromosomes of a motivated but untalented bunch of garage musicians. Sadly, one oversight marred this remarkable scientific landmark. In their hast to transplant the codes for style, geneticists neglected to isolate the genes for musical talent.

Admittedly, none of this cloning spiel is true. But let this be a message to struggling artists: avoid at all costs opening for headliners whose sound is nearly identical (but vastly superior to) your own. Hoobastank had not the requisite talent or presence to stand up to the inevitable comparison to Incubus.

In a marked contrast to their loud, nervous, and exceedingly animated opening act, Incubus gave a groovy, laid-back performance reflective of their long experience and musical range. Referring to the September 11 attacks, lead singer/percussionist Brandon Boyd implored the audience to take a positive view of humanity and to avoid blaming innocents for the acts of a few individuals. Appropriately, the band followed his speech with “The Warmth,” with Boyd wailing, “Don't let the world bring you down / Not everyone here is that f---ed up and cold.”

The hour-plus set spanned all three albums: S.C.I.E.N.C.E., Fungus Amongus, and Make Yourself. The band either played without a set list, or they ignored it, mixing up styles, improvising wordless breakdowns, and granting the requests of screaming fans. They were at their best on “The Warmth” and an older song, “Deep Inside.” They were at their worst when they leaped on the modern metal bandwagon and churned out some generic, muddled guitar screams that made me wonder if I was listening to Korn or Staind.

On the same mediocre note, the band snuck a new but forgettable number, “Nice to Know You,” into the middle of the set. “Pardon Me” was a solid treatment of the popular tune, though the group gave a disappointingly flat performance of their latest hit, “Wish You Were Here.” Unfortunately, standout drummer Jose Pasillas was drowned out by the multiplied effects of the overamplification of other instruments and the relentless roar of the audience.

Halfway through the set, Incubus inserted a lovely respite from the usual jaw-vibrating bass. Guitarist/backup vocalist Michael Einziger, sporting a blonde Afro, lent his acoustic guitar skills to complement the voice of a long-haired Boyd on their two-man versions of “Mexico” and “Drive.”

Unfortunately the effect was lost on the mostly adolescent audience, which screamed and swayed with complete disregard for the quality of the music. High school kids squished themselves into a sweaty, pulsating mass, and cheered wildly for any and every change of lighting or gesture from a band member.

Boyd’s voice, in contrast to its mellow studio incarnation, was emphatic and possessed on stage. His turns on the bongo drums can only be appreciated in a live setting. DJ Chris Kilmore added a pleasing dimension to the band’s complex mix of influences, which include jazz, hip-hop, rap, and early ’90s metal (especially Rage Against the Machine, an old favorite of mine from junior high).

Despite the hyperactive crowd and forgettable opening act, Incubus prevailed. Even in their tenth year on the music scene, the band continues to spread hippie love.