We Went to a Deftones and Incubus Concert and Felt Weird, Conflicted, and Old
Nostalgia makes a fool of us all. Especially at concerts for old nü-metal bands.
All photos by Jeff Hayward
This article originally appeared on Noisey Canada.
Nü-metal, even from the beginning, was always regarded as a joke. It's quaint to think about a period in time where Fred Durst was not only regarded as a dangerous threat to youth, but also a viable millionaire pop star and senior VP of Interscope. I was in high school when this music was at its peak, and I loved it all. I truly felt that songs like "Break Stuff" or "A.D.I.D.A.S." were the turning point of a musical revolution and that these songs were true classics. Naturally, I was wrong, and even though there continue to be angry teenagers worldwide, rapping and/or screaming over chunky bass did not take over the world for longer than a few Ozzfests. Deftones and Incubus, while forever associated with nü-metal, were always more like the weird cousins of the genre. While many groups proudly wore their rap influences on their sleeve, Chino Moreno (of Deftones) and Brandon Boyd (of Incubus) were rarely caught busting rhymes. Exceptions include Deftones' "Back To School," and KoRn's cover of Ice Cube's "Wicked" which both feature Moreno, and Incubus' absurd cover of Big Pun's "Still Not A Player," included on the compilation album Loud Rocks.
I truly, truly, loved this music—but the key here is the past tense. I do not harbor nostalgia or sentimentality for this stuff. I was a dumb teenager who was lucky enough to be a dumb teenager when dumb teenagers truly controlled the market. There will never be another time in history where a band like Linkin Park could reach the levels of success they've achieved, and you can quote me on that. That being said, I did listen to this stuff incessantly, so despite my best efforts there will always be a tiny place in my heart for it. When Edgefest announced that Deftones and Incubus would be headlining one of their shows this year, I quickly joked about going online, and since some jokes go too far, I soon found myself sitting in the seats watching their Toronto appearance.
As I arrived at Echo Beach, the wave of morbid curiosity swelled. Were all of my old high school friends going to be here? How many Rage Against The Machine shirts would I see? (The answer turned out to be four.) Does this music still hold up in any way, shape or form? Would I even recognize the songs, seeing as how both acts have cranked out at least three records each I didn't listen to? Was beer really 11 dollars? As my photographer googled how to use his camera, I surveyed the area for answers. The crowd was nowhere near as haggard as I'd expected, but they did seem locked in a particular era, to put it gently. I hadn't seen this many oversized cargo shorts, clutch newsboy caps, white-guy-dreadlocks, or tribal tattoos since… well, the last time I saw Deftones and Incubus. The music is in this weird transitional period where it's not quite old enough to be classic or dad rock, but it's certainly not current. The crowd's fashion choices reflected that almost too perfectly. I felt like I had traveled back to the year 2000.
Deftones were on first, and, thankfully, they are still a very good live act. When I followed their music closely Chino was a bit of a drunk and (allegedly) quite fond of cocaine, as the title of their third album White Pony implies. I was shocked to hear them come out to what is arguably their biggest hit, "My Own Summer (Shove It)," a song I not only recognized, but still remembered the words to. The set was mostly comprised of earlier stuff I knew, which had to be deliberate. The years of constant touring have tightened them up substantially, and they were all energetic and engaging, despite it being 7 PM on a Wednesday. After a while I remembered why I stopped paying attention to this music, though—incessant screaming does not feel good to listen to. It is too loud and I am, in fact, too old.
Incubus headlined, and I had completely forgotten about the true pop/rock success they had after Make Yourself, their third album. I was always more into their early stuff (and yes, I did wretch slightly writing that), which was much weirder, louder and dumber. I had also forgotten that women freaking love Brandon Boyd, who at 39 still looks, dresses, and behaves like a 25 year old onstage, much to my disappointment as to what has happened with my life. But this isn't about me. Of the 18 songs they played I only recognized four, which is really on me, not them. The crowd was in their palms, and I was taken aback. Not at how in 2015 a crowd can be in the palm of Incubus's hands but at how strange the music sounded. I don't mean strange like unique or revolutionary or anything positive like that. It all just sounded so out of time, without any actual place to be. It simultaneously sounded contemporary (because it is) and dated (because it is.)
You will never hear a band describe themselves as "like Deftones" or "like Incubus" unless they are Deftones or Incubus cover bands. I can't think of one contemporary musician who has referenced them as an influence, but they clearly still have fans in droves. Maybe that's the point–critics and musicians always want to figure out why something is "important," but maybe what makes bands like these important is precisely that they aren't important. If either of these bands broke up tomorrow fans worldwide would bemoan it, but I feel like they'd get on with their lives fairly quickly. I didn't witness anyone experiencing a life-changing experience, just some very normal, slightly pudgy white people enjoying a concert. And that's fine, great even.
Ultimately, neither of these bands will end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I have no idea what the radio landscape will be like when they truly qualify as "classic rock," but I feel like people will still just listen to The Beatles or whatever. It's strange to look back on an era of music that will potentially be largely forgotten and remembered mostly as a punchline, but it was my punchline, dammit. Even though the nostalgia waves wore off almost immediately after the first Deftones song, I will probably still show my kids how dumb the music I listened to as a teenager was, probably because some small part of me hopes they'll be listening to third wave nü-metal in 2035.
Adam Jackson still knows how many "ahhhs" are in "Change." Follow him on Twitter