Human Magic Marker - Atlanta's Incubus Tribute Band
The last time Incubus played in Atlanta was 10 months ago, but your best opportunity to see those same songs performed live with fervor and abandon was last Friday at the latest iteration of 105.7’s “Under the Covers with Aly” concert series. Incubus tribute band Human Magic Marker performed for the first time in 7 years, and they were joined by 311 tribute band Grassroots. Together they made for a perfectly nostalgic night of late 90’s/early 00’s classics. The concept of the tribute band has increased in popularity in our city over the last few years, due to a number of factors including skyrocketing ticket prices, the tendency for rock bands to skip over Atlanta when touring (it’s an interesting thing you should dig into online), and the opportunity for bands to perform in front of guaranteed large audiences. Atlanta already has several nationally successful tribute bands like Rumours (Fleetwood Mac) and El Scorcho (Weezer), and both Human Magic Marker and Grassroots are ready for the same success.
Tribute bands vary in presentation. Some, like El Scorcho and Rumours, prefer to embrace every facet of their chosen group right down to wearing costumes and “becoming” the original band members on stage. Human Magic Marker takes a different tack. “We haven’t approached it from the angle of ‘I am playing Brandon Boyd.’ We’re not characters,” says frontman Gage Brown. “We’re just playing the songs as accurately as we can, and that’s all we want to do.” To them, Incubus’ fans are drawn to the band’s musicianship and songwriting more than the image, so they focus on being faithful to the music, sometimes right down to using the same guitar pedals and microphones. “We like to stay pretty faithful to the originals,” says drummer Andy Hill. “We tend to stay close to exactly like it is on the album.” Grassroots takes the same approach, chiefly emphasizing authentic performances of the original band’s material. That being the case, if Nick Hexum had walked into Vinyl last Friday, he wouldn’t have wondered how his band was already on stage, and you wouldn’t likely confuse Gage Brown for Brandon Boyd if you bumped into him on the street, but if you turned up last Friday to hear the guitar solo for “Sick, Sad Little World”, or the vocal harmonies for “Amber” executed flawlessly, then you likely left satisfied.
Playing for almost two hours, Human Magic Marker ran through a set covering the full gamut of Incubus’ discography including several fan favourites and some unique choices from deep back in the band’s history.
“We like to strike a balance between playing the music fans want to hear and songs that we like,” says guitarist Josh Hanselman. “I think Incubus fans have a pretty consistent idea of which albums are good, and we start with that and go from there. We tried to get a good mix of early stuff tonight mostly because this show was a 90’s tribute series, but we did throw in some relatively newer stuff.”
“I feel like we have a niche market we can cater to here,” Gage Brown adds, “because if you go see Incubus live now you’re not going to hear a bunch of S.C.I.E.N.C.E. tracks. You might hear ‘A Certain Shade of Green’, but you’re not going to hear ‘Deep Inside’ or seven Make Yourself tracks.” To some in the band, it’s actually part of their responsibility as artists to provide for fans what they can no longer get from Incubus, almost as if they’re carrying the baton passed on in a relay race. “We’re democratizing the Incubus experience,” bassist Aaron Artrip jokes.
When I asked what the band would want any potential future fans to know about them, they were quick to summarize this point. “We play a lot of the old stuff Incubus doesn’t play anymore, and we’re really accurate from a technical standpoint.” During my interview with them, the band was approached by a talent buyer for several other tribute acts around town asking for their business card. Now that they’re back after 7 years, you should expect to see them a lot more often. “If nothing else, it’s incredibly nostalgic, and it feels good,” Aaron says, and what more fitting tribute could there be?
Human Magic Marker is Gage Brown, Josh Hanselman, Aaron Artrip, and Andy Hill.
Grassroots is Tristan Brown, Kenny Carver, George Marlow, Jake Kitchen, and Jared Lanham.
Photos by Pete Ivanecky