Music. Unity. Happiness. Youth. Energy. Talent. Fun. This band kicks serious ass. This band is 311, and in my opinion they are one of the most entertaining things to ever happen to music.
I have had the pleasure of seeing 311 about 7 times in my life and it has always been enjoyable. But I haven't seen them in at least 3 years – and never before in LA. Seeing them on Halloween at the Universal Amphitheater reinforced my love for them. Despite whatever preconceived notions there may be that 311 is just for kids with hackey sacks, let me reassure you that they are NOT. Anyone can enjoy them if given the chance to witness a live show. I might as well have dressed up as a Jack-O-Lantern for this event, because the smile 311 put on my face for almost two hours straight could have compared quite nicely to a freshly carved pumpkin grin. I would have rather done nothing else with my Halloween night than spend it with the boys from Omaha.
Bands come and go (some, much too quickly), but 311 has been around for over 10 years now and they are still a solid crowd pleaser. And an eye pleaser…taking the stage in full costume, Nick Hexum as a fireman and Count SA Martinez in his military commando get-up led the crowd into their opener “Beautiful Disaster” from Transistor. SA Martinez has quite a distinguishable stage presence. He struts and bobs around…almost like Angus Young without a guitar, with boundless energy between his unique rapping and turntable wizardry. Meanwhile, Nick on the other side of him perfectly balances out the frontman duality with his strong vocals and rhythm guitar licks. The band itself has an original style which fuses hard rock, funk, reggae and punk and are just as amusing to watch as they are to listen to. By their second song, “Freak Out”, the crowd was doing just that – 30 year old people next to me were in just as much a frenzy as the 8 year old in the isle.
Playing a lot from their first two releases Music and Grassroots (both personal desert island discs), 311 delivered pure energy to a sold out amphitheater. Tim Mahoney is a master guitarist to behold, especially during his spotlight solos. In addition, Chad Sexton's stellar drum solo, which seems to have a place in every set they perform, is also a real treat. The band stopped “Unity” mid-song to let Chad show off for a nice long solo, which soon included the members of opening act Alien Ant Farm on separate drums. After 5 minutes of rhythmic delight, they picked up right where they left off in the song. In the spirit of the season, they played “Jackolantern's Weather”, and from the same self-titled album they did their hit “All Mixed Up”. During their traditional performance of “Hydroponic” I joined all the other fans in sparking up the ceremonial herb (which Nick Hexum advises “Just take a moment to smoke a joint once in a while, we do it daily, and like it, but that's our style…”) Continuing to please the dopesmoking followers, they didn't hesitate to play “Who's Got The Herb“, and anyone who has seen them more than once knows they can't leave until 4 string genius P-Nut “beats that thing” during the raucous song “Feels So Good”. The band also played a few off their latest record From Chaos, including their current groovy single “I'll Be Here Awhile”, and future promising hits “Amber” and “Champagne”.
I was an 18 year old kid graduating from high school when I fell in love with 311's first single “Do You Right” (which they played during their 3 song encore), and from that point on my devotion to them never ceased. Over the years, as my music taste matured, other CDs made their way into my disc changer…but I never forgot about 311 and still buy all their CDs loyally. Seeing them again after so many years has made me wonder why I ever put their music back on the rack to collect dust. These boys are definitely worthy of attention. Hopefully after reading this review, you'll take your old 311 CDs off the shelf and maybe purchase a pair of tickets the next time they're in town. Extra ingredients to bring for a guaranteed good time: a friend and some weed.