NOISE: Meditating on Incubus...and on coveting your neighbor's cellie

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Guardian intern Aaron Sankin checked out the Incubus show put on Verizon Wireless on Oct. 20; here's what he thought:

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Incubus + Verizon Wireless = Synergy!

The LG VX8500 Chocolate phone is available from Verizon Wireless for $149.99. It has an iPod-style touch wheel, Bluetooth compatibility, a digital music player, and a 1.3 megapixel digital camera that can take both pictures and movies.

I assume it can also make and receive cellular telephone calls, even though it’s capacity to do so isn’t really advertised anywhere.

If my phone were to break suddenly, such as if I were to absentmindedly drop it in a toilet during a heated conversation with my bookie (I never said to bet on the Mets!) or have it accidentally fall from my pocket while running from the zombie hordes (they’re everywhere!), I would seriously consider taking a look at this phone.

The people at Verizon Wireless should be happy because they worked like hell to put this idea in my brain. The other group of people who should be very pleased with themselves are Incubus because they joined with Verizon Wireless to have a special private concert at Bimbo’s on Oct. 20 in the most epic feat of techno-musical cross-promotion since Bono realized that Apple loved iPods almost as much as he loved himself.

First, a disclaimer: My relationship with the band Incubus is fairly complex. I first heard about them through a friend when I was in eighth grade. This was during their early period when all they wanted to do was be like Primus and years before any modern rock radio station would touch their stuff.

From the first moment I heard their music, I loved it. It was funky and spazzy and, most importantly, it was mine. Incubus was the first band that I unconditionally loved that no one else had heard of. It made me feel underground, important and cool (the last one being especially important to an uncoordinated middle-schooler looking for angle to talk to girls).

Once they broke into the mainstream, I started liking them less and less. With their albums Make Yourself and Morning View, they seemed to loose some of what made them exciting and distinctive, and got lost in the slop of the myriad or post-grunge alt-metal bands. Two years ago, they came out with Crow Left of the Murder and it was the first new Incubus album that I liked even half as much as the first time I heard them way back in eighth grade.

Anyway, this event was a private party held Verizon Wireless in support of the LG Chocolate phone, which was just released in America last month. When people bought the phone, they could enter a contest to win tickets to this show. If they were one of the lucky winners, they got an email on their phone that contained a bar code. This bar code was their ticket into the concert. Instead of scanning a piece of paper, the security guard at the door scanned the phones.

My phone cannot do this. It can, on the other hand, play Journey’s “Wheel In The Sky” whenever someone calls. While this has never gotten me into a concert, it did once get my into a bar conversation with drunk 35-year-old investment banker who later bought me a rum and coke because, “Journey is awesome!” Yes, yes they are.

Once inside, the real silliness began. There was a screen next to the stage where people could send text messages from their phones and see them on the screen. The messages ran the gambit from “Incubus rox” to “I love my new phone”. Joe Strummer rolled in his grave, and Gene Simmons wished he thought of it first. I tried texting, “Once Incubus killed a pirate in support of the Basque separatists,” but it didn’t make the cut. Why must the telecom industry continually spit on the proud Basque people day in and day out? It truly crushes my heart.

But running up people’s cell phone bills with needless text message charges wasn’t the only goal of the night. Incubus was also there to shoot the video for their upcoming single, “Anna Molly”. Much like Verizon did with its customer service, Incubus decided to outsource the production of their video. They told everyone there with the new phone to take videos of the band playing and send it in to them and they would eventually painstakingly edit the clips together to make the band’s video. I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is probably terrible. But hey, at least they’re trying.

Incubus opened the show with, “Anna Molly." It sounded like Pearl Jam. In fact, it sounded a lot like Pearl Jam. This is neither a coincidence nor is it a bad thing. They recorded their new album, Light Grenades, with Pearl Jam’s longtime producer. Vocalist Brandon Boyd even pounded a bottle of red wine onstage like Eddie Vedder seems to do at every show.

Their set was incredibly solid. Their newer stuff sounded great, particularly “Sick Sad Little World,” and everyone there appeared to know ever word to every song, which always bodes well for a band. And when they played a couple songs from their first album, I wasn’t the only person there who got noticeably excited (there were at least three others).

I guess the whole thing was pretty successful. It made me want to buy a phone I have no real need for and made me remember what I loved about this band when I was a pimply-faced eighth-grader trying to appear hip. I believe, in the business world, they call they synergy.