Live: The Day Incubus Came to Town
CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION — 8/25/12: “Your great pal Jason Smith has deferred me to you, and you are now approved to shoot Incubus and Linkin Park.” This was the news I awoke to on the morning of August 25th, 2012, a day that forever changed my life as a music fan and photographer.
Where to begin, where to begin? I’m sure no one wants to sit here and listen to my life story, so I’ll just begin on a day in 1999, when I first heard Incubus‘s “Drive” on the radio. Of course, I was just nine years old; looking back, you sort of have a vague memory of the music you were into, you just remember the songs and melodies that happen to be playing at the time. I just remember thinking “man, this song rocks!,” and “why hasn’t daddy bought me a guitar yet?”
Eleven years later, when you can learn an entire song on guitar by using just your ears, you thank bands like Incubus for inspiring you to ever want to play in the first place. Fast-forward from 1999 a year, and that marks the moment myself and the world were introduced to an alternative rock band by the name of Linkin Park.
For me, Linkin Park was the definitive soundtrack to my angst ridden preteen years. They truly defined a whole generation of music. You couldn’t turn on The Buzz or 104 KRBE without hearing the loud, abrasive, yet tight-sounding echoes of Linkin Park. From their loud guitar sounds to their rap breakdowns, Linkin Park were definitely ahead of their time.
Now, fast-forward 12 more years, to a day that would shape a young 20-year-old photographer forever.
Arriving two hours early, I frantically and nervously walked to the gate of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion to collect my photo credentials. For once in my life, my photo pass didn’t have the opener’s name on it. This meant that myself, a 20-year-old college student and menace to society, was approved to shoot not one but two headlining bands. The anticipation/nervous-as-hell look on my face began to weigh down heavily, as I realized I was about to be next to a band whose fans base’s total over 50 million! The time had come to shoot the openers, aka Mutemath. Myself and the other 10+ photographers made our way to the pit to see what these guys were all about.
Having a couple of YouTube videos to go on, I sort of had a feel for what Mutemath were about. I remember watching handstands, back-flips, and even cartwheels during their YouTube performances. As someone who saw them open, I can say it’s a whole different ballgame. As I sat through three songs, anxiously waiting for a single handstand or a back-flip, I didn’t get my wish.
Not to say that there isn’t talent in the band, but these guys are much more of a headlining rather than an opening band. I just don’t think it was possible for the guys to fit all their greatness into a mere 60-minute set. They still sounded great, and I would definitely have loved to see them again in a headlining scenario. Up next, though, what this whole journey had been about: Incubus!
Let me tell you personally, as a guy who grew up in the Incubus era and waited 20 years before he ever got to see them, it’s truly surreal to see this band live. All your preconceived notions about the gorgeous Brandon Boyd and his life-changing vocals are met. All those expectations about the effortless guitar playing by Mikey Einziger, from performances such as Alive at Red Rocks are fulfilled. The tasty bass playing you know from Ben Kenney is everything you hoped it would be. The hands of drummer Jose Pasillas move as flawlessly as you’ve remembered.
Lastly, the backbone and soul of Incubus you know as DJ Kilmore was ever so prevalent. Long story short, these guys do not disappoint. Opening their set with a newer song called “Adolescents,” Incubus began to blow people’s minds, and I felt like seeing Incubus play live was more of a religious experience than it was a concert. Somehow, these guys managed to put every ounce of energy, art, and glory that we had known over the years into one single, glorified set-list.
Incubus hit every note of the musical scale, from songs like “Privilege,” off the band’s 1999 Make Yourself album, all the way to “Rebel Girls,” a B-side off their latest album, If Not Now, When?. As I watched Incubus go on that stage, I couldn’t help but feel my eyes tear up, as the most beautiful yet bittersweet moment was developing before my eyes.
Yes, my dream of seeing Incubus play live was happening, but I couldn’t help but to feel remorse and guilt for neglecting to see these guys all these years. I wanted to slap myself while muttering the words “WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?”
I swallowed up that moment of being just a few feet away from my idols, and I made those three songs in the pit feel like a lifetime. When Incubus took the stage, it was like time stood still. This is what music is supposed to be all about. Here is a band that eats, sleeps, prays, and lives for the music. What more could you ask for? No flashy stage antics, no silly props, just a naked, in-the-flesh Incubus.
I felt like these guys would’ve made music even if no one ever told them about a record deal. They do it out of a sense of respect, respect for themselves and respect for their fans. All these guys know how to do is make beautiful music, and that’s good enough for me and everyone else.
Unfortunately, the fatal ending of the three songs had arrived, and my time was up. Standing on a median placed between the stage and the exit, I used my iPhone to snap one last photo of my heroes, and to my seats I ran.
Having only missed one song, “Megalomaniac,” I sat back down in my seat and watched the greatest two hours of my life unfold. Every time they played one song, I would think of another song I wanted them to play. Either Brandon Boyd is a mind reader, or I’m one lucky guy, because all my favorites, new or old, were played.
While Incubus was a beautiful band by themselves, the essence of the Incubus experience is joining in with the crowd. The crowd holds the band together, especially on songs like “Drive.” Sometimes Brandon would just stop in the middle of a lyric to listen to the crowd sing. I can only imagine what it feels like to have a sold-out arena sing every word to a song you wrote nearly 15 years ago.
Although a seemingly perfect band, Incubus did have one slight mess-up during their set. “You guys are awesome, Dallas!,” a mistaken Brandon Boyd muttered, just as he realized he was anywhere but Dallas. The Houston fans raged, but this made it easier to weed out the true Incubus fans from the Linkin Park fans. Any true Incubus fan would have realized that they tour everywhere (even in Chile), and sooner or later a screwup was bound to happen. Afterwards Mikey noted that the 20+ years they’ve been together, not once has that ever happened. I forgive you, Incubus, for your live show speaks for itself. Ending on “Tomorrow’s Food,” tha band waved goodbye and made room for Linkin Park.
Now the 20-year-old, snobby-taste-in-music person in me wasn’t too thrilled on the idea of seeing Linkin Park. On the other hand, though, the nostalgic, “oh my god, I can’t believe this is happening” part of me couldn’t wait to get on with the show. I have to give credit where credit is due, and Linkin Park, if you are reading this, you put on the best live show money can buy.
The people in the pit definitely got their money’s worth, as an angry yet fun-filled and energetic Chester Bennington and his army took the stage. The name of the game with Chester was “now you see me, now you don’t” — he almost looked like he was playing a game of leapfrog when he hopped from one side of the stage to the other. Mike Shinoda, on the other hand, took his place at the center of the stage unless he was on the keys.
The first three songs were sort of a letdown, but of course they weren’t going to open up with any of their old stuff. Although Linkin Park’s style of music may have changed over the years, their live performances have definitely not. They have been the same 6 crazy group of guys since their days of touring for Hybrid Theory back in 2000.
From a photographer’s standpoint, I can firmly say that if you ever have the chance to shoot Linkin Park, take it. You will thoroughly thank yourself when Chester comes inches from your high-dollar camera lens as if to give it a kiss. I would’ve stayed longer, but three Linkin Park songs is really all I could take. I know I’m only 20, but it literally took me three days to recover from having my face screeched off by Chester.
There’s a reason these guys have a built in fanbase of over 44 million. As for myself, I got all I needed out of those three songs, and I can now say I’ve seen the biggest band in the world…from three feet away. END
(Article photos [top to bottom]: Incubus; Mutemath; Incubus; Linkin Park. All photos by Max Mueller.)