The Joy of Joy Division

A Florida tribute band gives the dark-wave kings new light

If it looks like Ian Curtis, sings like Ian Curtis, and dances like Ian Curtis... and it's onstage in 2008 and you're in Florida, well, it's not Ian Curtis. It's Aaron Branch, the frontman of 3 One G, the state's (and maybe the whole Southeast's) only working Joy Division tribute band. Hailing from the Central Florida town of Winter Haven, the band was born a little over a year ago out of bassist (and Peter Hook impersonator) Danny Scott's lifelong love affair with the original. Although he already played in another electronic project and a dark-wave band, he couldn't shake his need to play live the tunes of the gloomy, legendary Manchester post-punk act.

He recruited a drummer (faux Stephen Morris) and a guitarist (faux Bernard Sumner), but the hardest part was finding someone to channel the iconic frontman Curtis, who famously hanged himself in 1980. That is, until last December, when buddy Branch, formerly of a Christian rock act, wandered into practice and heard the other three practicing. "I'd heard them before, but I'd never really dug in," Branch says. "I went home and started learning the songs one by one, and it's become a huge obsession."

His practice has paid off — the band's YouTube videos show an almost creepily authentic facsimile of the band, from minimalist stage gear (oxford shirts, slim pants, etc.) to the minimalist background projections they were known for. Branch looks more than a little like Curtis himself and has perfected the latter's deep vocal intonations and famous spastic, herky-jerky dance. So much so, one worries he might have an accompanying epileptic fit for historical accuracy.

The rest of the band, meanwhile, hangs in that loose, angular pocket, the guitar slices and turned-up bass moving the classic songs along over their signature tribal drumming. "A friend of mine from Tampa is 42 and an old dark-wave fanatic, and he came to see us and said it was like seeing Joy Division in 1978," Scott says. "It was the biggest compliment of my musical career." But isn't it a little funny to have the biggest compliment of one's musical career come after playing someone else's music? "In a way, I guess," he says, "but hey, it's Joy Division!"

 
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