One of today’s most unique and genuine bands
Wednesday, September 19, 2001. Boston, MA:
I was 20 years-old, two weeks into my junior year of college and a mess. The imaginable horror of 9/11 was just eight days earlier. After a week, the numbness and shock was transitioning into sadness and vulnerability.
My friends and I had gotten hooked on this seemingly outspoken rock band, Incubus — thanks to their acoustic version of “Pardon Me” that had been in constant rotation on our college airwaves. We were eagerly awaiting the release of their new record, Morning View, and had actually hosted a stellar house party a few months earlier (in celebration) when the band announced a show at the Avalon in September.
9:30 am — 9/11: A phone call from my roommate’s mother at what felt like the middle of the night, awakens us. We learn of the attack. Everything changed.
I’m from Northern New Jersey. All my family still resides there and in Brooklyn, NY. On this day, my sister was 12 days into her freshman year of college. Her dorm? West 65th street in Manhattan. Nobody could reach her all day with the power-lines down.
Everyone has a story. The impact is still impossible to digest, understand or articulate. My family was all safe, but I had friends, colleagues and acquaintances who were not. I was stuck in Boston — four hours away. Somehow, it felt like right next door and the other side of the globe at the same time.
Love in a Time of Surveillance:
September 15, 2001: Incubus was in New York for two shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Having just started their fall tour, like everything else, we wondered if it would still go on? The band courageously subscribed to the power of music and honored their commitments.
As my three friends and I jumped out of a Nissan Altima, we shouted the chorus to “Drive” as we sprinted across Lansdowne St. to the black doors of the Avalon (now the House of Blues). At the Avalon, you had to walk down stairs from the green room to step onto the stage. As the lights went down, the door swung open and step-by-step the members of Incubus appeared. It hit me — How are these guys going to handle this? They are not much older than I and they are here on the east coast mixing with people who are completely shaken to the core.
They let their music do the talking. The set perfectly mixed standouts from Make Yourself with high-energy thrillers from their first records with new soothing tones from the upcoming Morning View release. Then, before song # 10, frontman, Brandon Boyd, takes a step up and sits down on the monitor. Guitarist, Mike Einziger, accompanies him with simply an acoustic guitar. Boyd asks the crowd if it’s OK that they take a moment to be mellow. He then delivers one simple sentence on how we need to come together — unify during such a difficult time. Be there for one another. Like they were there for us. They then glide so gracefully into the opening “E” notes of “Mexico” — a new song we would be treated to in an effort to link arms and bow our heads. It wasn’t the lyrics that connected everyone, it was the melody and the mood.
As the show let out, somebody belligerently barreled into a friend of mine on the street. College, punk rock driven beer muscles started flaring — until suddenly, a voice of reason entered the mix and said, “Hey, remember what he said in there. We need to come together.” That was it. Potential fists turned to hand shakes and bro-hugs. Nice to Know You.
Since Morning View, Incubus has released four additional records, a Trust Fall Side A EP and has embarked on countless world tours. Their music has always inspired me. If love hurt, I was stuck in quicksand, punch drunk needing to find my way back home or here in my room, I could connect with Incubus’ themes of love, art and creativity.
“It’s not who you were, it’s who you are.”
In late 2015, I had the chance to interview Boyd. We had a — sit on the back porch late at night with a drink style conversation, discussing both the simplistic and complex beauties of art. “Human beings are inherently creative; we just all express ourselves differently. Some of us go towards the arts, some us go into finance, some us go into the service industry, some of us drive cars and some are Instagram artists. But we are a creative species. I see all of it,” he told me.
Throw Out the Map:
In the vein of recognizing the vastness of creativity, it’s notable that Incubus has touched all corners. Their ability to stay true to themselves while exploring new terrain has resulted in a diverse catalog of rich and artistic music. “We don’t fit anywhere and we never have. We were never punk rock enough for the Warped Tour, we were never metal enough for Ozzfest, we were never quite indie rock or cool enough for Lollapalooza. We’ve carved our own path, and we’re really humbled by the fact that we’ve had so many supporters and people who appreciate our music,” Einziger recently told Billboard.
With 8, we see Incubus taking their own advice — holding the wheel and driving themselves. It’s a collection of truths dealing with everything from darkness to bright lights and everything in between. Nimble, yes. Bastards, not so much. Then there are the subtle moments like Boyd’s melodic vocal outro closing “Love in a Time of Surveillance” or drummer, Jose Passillas’ fills on “Glitterbomb,” where they scoop you up and subconsciously carry on the emotional wave they are riding. Chilling.
As for uncharted waters, the band teamed with Skrillex in mixing 8 — giving it a modern sonic touch, while preserving the signature sound that is Incubus.
The band will embark on a 36-date tour this summer — playing pavilions across North America and some of the largest festivals in South America. They are offering VIP meet and greet auction packages for all dates where 100% of proceeds from these auctions will go to support the band’s charity, The Make Yourself Foundation — a 501(c)3 nonprofit that was started in 2003, and serves as a vehicle for the band to support causes they care about. Since inception, MYF has raised more than $2,000,000 and awarded grant funding to over 60 nonprofit organizations.
I will be attending the Mansfield, MA show on July 18th. It’s about 34 miles from the old Avalon, and holds 10,000 more people. Regardless of space, distance or song, there’s not an Incubus moment that goes by without me reflecting on September 2001. I’m grateful for how they handled the circumstances and see it as a small example of the ingredients to their success and longevity— exuding an artistic human element that’s versatile enough to take the reins for just two hours or serve as a foundation for twenty-six years.
“Look at you so bright, state of the art.”
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