Driving down Interstate 5 listening to all of my 311 CDs, I realize that I’m about to see a band that I’ve been listening to for over 20 years. I started with the album Music and didn’t stop until I arrived at my destination, The House of Blues in Anaheim. By that time I had graced my ears with all but the last 2 albums they’ve released.
March 18, 2017 was a day I’ll never forget. I had my usual nervous anxiety messing with my stomach while my hands were glued to the steering wheel and my eyes locked on the road. Thinking to myself that I’ve seen 311 six or seven times these last 20 years, this next time was going to be a whole new experience for me. Not only do I have the opportunity to photograph the band, I also get to write this review. I don’t consider myself a writer, but I wouldn’t miss this chance to conjure my thoughts about this amazing band.
Walking into the House of Blues in Anaheim I knew that this show was going to be special. A sold out crowd, the merchandise line almost as long as the line to get in was, the aroma of fresh beer and straight liquor being served to the consumers, couples meeting up with friends and pouring out positive energy; I could feel the intensity of this gathering building up.
After making my way through the maze of the crowd, I was standing up front waiting patiently for the first band to come on. PIEL caper through their set in front of all the early birds and create a vibe that saturates the fans for 311. The place is packed and everyone is ready for the main event.
Standing up front in the photo pit I see a huge blue curtain in front of me hiding what’s going on behind the scenes. All the fans, most of them at least, are waiting patiently with chants of “311, 311, 311.” Hands start clapping, the lights go down and the crowd goes wild. The curtain opens and a blue light illuminates the stage as Nick Hexum’s silhouette walks up front and center. Tim Mahoney’s guitar starts off the feel good song Do You Right, from their debut album Music, and gets the crowd going right away without hesitation. It’s amazing how fun a concert can be with the right setting and ambience.
I’m in full photographer mode while singing every word of the opening song; I can’t control myself, I love it. Not wasting any time, 311 jump into Hive, the fifth song off their third studio album, 311. The flow style that Nick Hexum and SA Martinez spit on this track gets the crowd dancing and bobbing their head while pure optimistic energy is flowing. Tuning the tempo down just a tad, 311 smoothly transition into Prisoner, the second song from their 1997 twenty-one song album Transistor. This definitely calms the crowd and has them swaying back and forth to the melody of this genuine tune.
As I walk out of the photo pit and into the sweaty, sticky group of die-hard fans, 311 sticks with the same style and album, Transistor, and play the “no worries” song Running. As I’m swaying with the crowd, I realize they’ve only played four songs and it makes me that much happier. Looking around I see nothing but smiles and feel lyrics sung with passion.
To get the crowd back to boogie, Come Original from the Soundsystem album starts and not a single body in the venue is motionless. Even the waitresses bringing drinks to the crowd seems to be enjoying the melody and trance 311’s gives to us so effortlessly. To my surprise 311 start to play a song they’ve only played live once. The new song Extension, off the bands forthcoming twelfth studio album Mosaic, let’s the fans hear a really cool reggae influenced jam for the first time. (Unless you were on their latest cruise.) It’s instantly received with open arms from everyone and I can see this being another hit single off their new album. As amazing as it was to hear a new song, I was really curious to hear the next jam. They jump back to the Soundsystem album and give us Large In The Margin. While P-Nut jumping around sticking his tongue out at the audience, Chad Sexton elegantly making the drums speak to us, and Tim Mahoney flicking his wrist ever so gently, the harmony of Nick and SA singing together makes everything come together perfectly.
311 dedicate their next song to a rock and roll legend Chuck Berry. Chuck passed away earlier that day after a long life and 311 wanted to make sure that we all knew how much he meant to them and the musical world. The familiar chime of the first two notes from the song Tribute, off their four-track bonus CD that came with their DVD Enlarged To Show Detail, was the superb tribute to the late and great Mr. Berry.
The next lick they played, All Mixed Up, was their second single off their self-titled album, 311. A perfect uplifting song after the beautiful tribute they displayed. Everyone knows the lyrics and was singing in unity with the band. Keeping in the feel-good mood from the previous song, 311 play Stealing Happy Hours, the jam at the end of Transistor. P-Nut jumps into a slaptastic bass solo for a few minutes and leaves the audience with their eyes wide open and their chins on the floor. P-Nut sure knows how to beat that thing and finds ways to make noise from that bass only he can come up with.
From Chaos enters the show and You Wouldn’t Believe enhances our eardrums and gets everyone jumping in uniform. Nick and SA blend their voices together in a way that you can’t help but sing along. Chaos in this case is very necessary because it brings the energy of the audience back up and ready for more. To my surprise, they canter into the song Tranquility, off the album Stereolithic, which was released in 2014. The reverie sound of the guitar and bass mix almost too well with the beat of the drums. It feels like this could be the last song of the set because of the heart-felt energy 311 is putting out there to the crowd. The simple “aahh-oohh” throughout the end of the song makes you feel like an incredible journey has come to an end.
Not this concert; that was only the thirteenth song of the night. 311 go back to their roots and start the melody for 8:16 A.M., off of the Grassroots album, which is a fan favorite. This was the first song off this album of the night and the crowd wasn’t taking it for granted. The audience cheers after belting the last lyrics of 8:16 A.M., and 311 whip out a golden nugget called Who’s Got The Herb? At this time, everyone in the venue is probably stoned from the constant smoke being blown into the air by all the herbal consumers. While this song is nice and mellow for the first couple minutes, they play the rock ending that they only play once in a while. The crowd goes nuts and for a moment there was a good little mosh pit going on. You get knocked down, and instantly someone is picking you up so you don’t get hurt. That’s what I like about these shows, everyone watches out for one another and makes sure you’re having a good time.
Kicking it old school, 311 springs into the song Freak Out off of their debut album Music. Getting the crowd back to the intense energy that makes them groove and sway in every way, 311 put all their energy out and dance their hearts out while jamming.
A fan favorite over the last 15 years or so is Applied Science. Off the Grassroots album, 311 play this percussion masterpiece in the middle of their set. Playing the first minute and two seconds flawlessly, the crowd anticipates the immaculate drum solo Chad Sexton is about to put on display. His skill with percussion shows through years of dedication and love for the instrument. The snare drum has a distinct sound that only comes from the master himself as he mixes it with the rest of the drum set perfectly. One of the highlights of the show is after Chad does his solo, the rest of the band join him by playing added percussion on the stage: seven extra drums, six extra snares, and a huge bass drum for P-Nut to beat. During the middle of the bands drum solo, the crowd goes wild after each member of the band throws one drum stick in the air toward another band member and catch it and keep playing without missing a beat. It was pure entertainment.
Their new single that just hit the air waves, Too Much To Think, gives the audience that pure happiness that comes with the guitar sounds from the brilliant Tim Mahoney. P-Nut’s bass line fills the gap between the drums and sounds coming from SA’s turn tables. This song will put anyone in a feel good trance that will make you move to the music.
Jumping back into their debut album, their jingle, Plain, hits you with a funky beat and rock rhythm that’s unforgiving. It’s in your face and it feels better than good while fans nod their heads to this and that. No stress among the crowd, only friends in this dream setting.
As the crowd is all stirred up and energized, 311 flips the tempo and plays the mega hit Amber off of From Chaos. Everyone is in sync as they sway to the beautiful melody and beat of the song. Nick Hexum serenades the gazing audience while SA Martinez softly harmonizes perfectly with him. The song comes to an end and the crowd cheers as loud as I’ve heard them that night. Amber is a song loved by the 311 community with all their heart, and it showed at the House of Blues in Anaheim.
Feeling that we (the audience) have won the night with this concert, we had no idea that we were about to win big. 311 come out with Jackpot from their uplifting album Uplifter, released in 2009. Chanting and singing along with the rock guitars, the crowd flows along with the two singers as they spit lyrics. Their hip-hop influence in the style they have serves them well when picking up the pace of a song.
One of their biggest hits, Down, off of the self-titled effort 311, gave the crowd a continuous energy that kept the momentum going. SA Martinez bouncing around and one hundred percent into his verses keeps the energy going as the sweat from his head rolls down his face. The life, the time, the energy, the passion, the thrill of doing all of this for the fans is what motivates this group. They’ve played these songs many of times, but still play them with the love they have for them. Down is no exception. Their twenty-second song and they haven’t lost a beat.
Was that their last song? It may seem so as they wave to the fans while walking off the stage. The venue lights stay dim, while the glow of blue, purple, and magenta lights light the stage…
Of course it wasn’t the last song, there was too much positive energy going through everyone. 311 starts out with a new fresh melody I’ve never heard before. Nick Hexum starts singing as the build up of the music behind him indicate something big is about to happen. The music goes from a mellow funky feel to a full on body fluctuating rock and roll hit you in the chest crunching sound. A mix of those superb different styles mixes flawlessly into probably my new favorite track of theirs. This gets me even more pumped up for their new album Mosaic coming out soon. Everyone couldn’t help but headbang at the end of the song with the band because it was in the realm of some heavy metal riffs. The entire venue erupts with a loud roar of excitement for that last song called Too Late. All I have to say is wow!
As the next song starts out with the lyrics “I am a music lover,” the tempo changing melody of Starshines, off of the Transistor album, buzzes through the crowd with a quick burst of energy that has the crowd waving the arms back and forth in the air. There isn’t anyone who looks tired or wants to slow down. “Thank you everyone, this is our last song…” Nick says as Tim plays the distorted sound of his guitar for the Creatures (For a While) intro. The crowd erupts into amazement as the first song off the 2003 album eVolver blasts through the building. Everyone is going crazy, in a good way, and feels great about it. Sure, we would all like to rest, but we don’t want to slow down inside, just like the ever-evolving band 311.
Playing songs from all but two of their albums, one has to wonder how they come up with these set lists. 311 has so many songs in their catalog they can play a different set list for each show for the rest of their careers. They never disappoint with their live shows and the passion for their art comes through right before your eyes. If you ever have a chance to see 311, I highly recommend it. The Unity Tour, Summer 2017 kicks off June 22nd in Cleveland, Ohio and 311 will play 40 dates throughout the United States, hopefully in a city near you (if not, travel to one of the shows, totally worth it), and will end on September 1st in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Make sure to pick up their new album Mosaic when it comes out later this year. I can’t wait to see these guys again, it’s always an adventure when 311 is involved. Peace, love, and unity.
Do You Right, Hive, Prisoner, Running, Come Original, Extension, Large In The Margin, Tribute (dedicated to Chuck Berry), Stealing Happy Hours, Bass Solo, You Wouldn’t Believe, Tranquility, 8:16 A.M., Who’s Got The Herb (with rock ending), Freak Out, Applied Science, Too Much To Think (live debut), Plain, Amber, Jackpot, Down, Too Late, Starshines, Creatures (For A While).
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