By Rebecca Bulnes
By Lee Zimmerman
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If it looks like Ian Curtis, sings like Ian Curtis, and dances like Ian Curtis ... and it's onstage and it's 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 borne a little more than 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 postpunk act.
He recruited a drummer (faux Stephen Morris) and a guitarist (faux Bernard Sumner), but the final piece — someone to channel the iconic frontman Ian Curtis, who famously hanged himself in 1980 — remained missing. That is, until this past December, when buddy Branch, formerly of a Christian rock act, wandered into practice and heard the other three playing. "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 the minimalist background projections to the minimalist stage gear (oxford shirts, slim pants). 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."