Who Is Incubus?
Incubus Is Who? (Or) Enter, Delicious Complication!
There have been countless instances in our career as a band that were too delicious to savor completely in the moment; where I recognized that something potentially indelible was carving itself into my bark, and that these would be moments I would lovingly drag my finger across while reminiscing in years to follow. But staying focused on the task at hand (in these instances it was usually “finish singing the song and don’t start crying out of happiness”) was more important than reveling in whatever childhood musical fantasy was unfolding before me. There are those instances, then there are the events that to this day, I am shocked we had the opportunity to participate in. Shocked, not because I have a low opinion of what we are capable of, but eyes wide and flushed with surprise at some of the opportunities that sometimes wiggle their way into our line of sight. Stuff that even in my wildest rock ‘n roll dreams I didn’t dare to indulge. “Stuff” like being invited to perform the music of The Who on national television, with the band themselves and a respectable huddle of others, including Pearl Jam, The Flaming Lips, The Foo Fighters, and Tenacious D.
The recording up above ☝🏽 is the board mix of The Who track ‘I Can See For Miles’. We were enlisted to perform this single song and we happily rehearsed it up over a week long period to get it familiarized enough that it felt less like we were on the verge of shitting ourselves and more like we’d been playing it all along and of course we could handle this Herculean task.
We arrived to the Los Angeles venue on this early summer day, prepped and pumped and we sound checked our song a couple of times on the big, shiny stage. Everything felt smooth enough and for all intents and purposes we were as ready as we’d ever be to pay homage to one of our lineage’s tallest hills, The Who. But of course, these little regalings never end with a tidy bow. Enter, Delicious Complication!
If memory serves, we were less than two hours from walking on stage to perform our track. We were perusing the backstage compound and doing our best to play it cool and not look too suspicious while we rubbed elbows with so many people we grew up watching and listening to, when our (then) manager called us into our trailer for some kind of emergency band meeting. Welp, we’d had a good run. Got our names on the playbill and in the commercials, but someone had figured us out for the interlopers and fraudsters we were and this was likely the moment they’d hand us our hats and quietly escort us out the back gate. Sigh…
Alas! No. We were being asked to perform another song after ‘I Can See For Miles’. Evidently The Foo Fighters were slated to play the classic track ‘I Can’t Explain’, among a couple of other classics but as it was detailed to me, Dave was a little under the weather and needed to not take on so many songs. Great! Sure, we’d do that! One problem though: we’d never played the song and didn’t know how it went. Of course we knew the song but performing it in front of millions of people necessitates a more intimate understanding of it, right? You got this guys, it’s only live TV.
OK, yes. We’d do it. It was strangely unanimous in the band, actually. I don’t recall any dissenting voices in the trailer that evening. Mike and Ben grabbed their guitars, Jose had his sticks, a practice pad and the couch arm, Chris had…Chris(?) and I had my wits about me so we put the song on the tiny stereo we had in our trailer and we played along with it five or six times until it seemed like we had the gist. Here, you decide. 👇🏽
For what it’s worth, I watched the Foo Fighters’ set that night and I couldn’t tell that Dave was under the weather. That dude is a beast of a performer and it never ceases to amaze me how well he embodies his role. Watching these performances from this unforgettable event also brings our dearly departed Taylor Hawkins to mind. He is a once in a generation talent and if I could be so bold as to say that very few (if any) drummers can do justice to Keith Moon’s inimitable bombast, but Taylor definitely rose to that occasion. While I’m in this moment of unabashed praise for my friends and contemporaries, Jose, you also did Keith Moon proud and I am so proud of us as a band for saying yes to something most smart people would have said no to. That being, playing the second song we didn’t really know on live, national television. Was our take on ‘I Can’t Explain’ perfect? No. But was it fun? Fuck yeah it was, and the experience indeed put some hair onto the our band’s collective chest.
If there is a moral to this story, perhaps it is this; delivering a well placed NO can exhibit wisdom and restraint and there have been many NO’s this band has dispatched that have ultimately helped to carve out important bends in our career. But a spontaneous YES, poorly researched, unexamined and born of a transient spark of enthusiasm can knock every strategically placed move, carefully crafted position and toiled over game plan into obsolescence. Have you ever seen the 1980’s classic ‘Vacation’ staring Chevy Chase? I know it’s a strange analogy but Chase’s character, Clark W Griswold, is a self described ‘family man’ and wants nothing more than to give his brood precious memories. His methodology in doing so consists of obsessive planning, and if you’ve indeed seen this film (and it’s multiple sequels) you will remember that everything memorable that happens does so as a result of nothing going according to plan. That might not be what makes rock n’ roll good, but that is most certainly one of the key ingredients in what makes it fun.