Nearly 5,000 fans turned out to Providence Medical Amphitheater Wednesday (7/10) to rock with 311 and their killer package of opening acts. It was a perfect night for a concert in the Midwest. Things started off pretty steamy, but dropped to a nice low 80s as the sun started to go down.
I know the majority of our readers are from the Midwest, where 311 is a household name, but if you’re unfamiliar, here’s a very brief backstory.
311 formed in Omaha, Nebraska when five self-described “friends for life” came together over their love of hip-hop, reggae, and punk rock. After making the move to California, the band found success by touring non-stop and cultivating a die-hard fan base.
For over 29 years, 311 has consistently toured and produced new music with the same five original members, lead singer Nick Hexum, vocalist/D.J. Doug “S.A.” Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney, bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills, and drummer Chad Sexton.
There are only a handful of bands in the U.S. who have had the same longevity.
Every summer, 311 fans gather for what the band has dubbed the annual “Unity Tour,” often times traveling to multiple shows, and organizing fan meet-ups.
In addition to the summer tours, 311 does fan cruises and a special 311 Day (March 11) festival typically held in Las Vegas or New Orleans. Fans from all around the world gather to soak up the good vibes and hear super deep cuts you wouldn’t normally catch during a regular tour stop. I’ve personally had the pleasure of attending two 311 Day festivals and those were some of the best times of my life!
You would think after following 311 all these years I’d eventually be fatigued, but in fact, I’m more excited than ever!
This week, 311 will release their 13th studio album Voyager. In recent interviews the band has expressed that each 311 album is a snapshot in time, and Voyager encapsulates the journey that 311 takes with their fans.
I was lucky enough to hear an advanced copy, and I’m happy to report, it’s absolutely fantastic! There are so many callbacks to previous 311 songs both musically and lyrically. With so much fear and anxiety in today’s political and social climates, it’s great to know that you can always count on 311 to bring the positive vibes.
In a bold move, 311 played four songs from Voyager during their 16 song set Wednesday night. I was glad to hear the new stuff because I really dig it, but I was a little surprised, given the set was a little shorter than usual. I was actually looking back at old set lists from the 2000s the other day, and back then 311 typically played 23 or 24 songs. Man, those were the days!
Before 311 went on there were four additional bands! Talk about bringing a full show. Over the years 311 has headlined some awesome packages with bands like Cypress Hill, Offspring, Papa Roach, Kottonmouth Kings, and even Snoop Dogg!
This year’s tour features a co-headline slot from Dirty Heads with support from the Interrupters, Dreamers, and Bikini Trill.
I got to the venue about halfway through Bikini Trill’s set, but by the time I got checked in and to the stage I only saw the very last song. I listened on Amazon Music before the show and I liked a lot of what I heard. Their reggae dub style fit right in.
Next up was another California act, Dreamers. These guys were really talented, but they leaned very Indie-pop and didn’t really grab my attention. Being that the band and their fans are a good ten years younger, I’m not really their target audience. However, when I was walking around I did hear one of their songs and had that “Oh, I’ve heard this one” moment, so they’re definitely gaining ground.
After Dreamers was the L.A. Ska-Punk outfit the Interrupters! I was looking forward to seeing these guys. The Interrupters are having a really big year. They’ve had two hot singles from their latest release Fight the Good Fight, and they just released a third. Their radio exposure has been steadily growing, and I hear them on our local alternative station 89.7 The River almost daily.
The Interrupters put on an awesome show! They had a lot of energy and really got the crowd moving. One of my favorite parts of the set came during the song Family. Lead guitarist Kevin Bivona pointed out that the drummer and the bass player are identical twins and they are his brothers! How cool is that? The family that skanks together stays together. The Interrupters will be in Omaha on October 4 for 89.7 The River’s Megafest. So, if you didn’t catch them with 311 here’s your chance. I highly recommend it!
Thousands of fans turned out to party!
Before 311 there was one more act, hip-hop dub stars Dirty Heads. I’ve been interested in Dirty Heads for a long time, but I never delved deep into their discography. I actually discovered their music through the animated penguin surf movie Surf’s Up. If you haven’t seen it, drop everything! It’s got a killer soundtrack, amazing actors, and lots of cameos. It’s easily in my top five animated films of all time.
The Surf’s Up soundtrack features the Dirty Heads track Stand Tall. I was so hoping they would play it, but unfortunately I think it would be regarded as a super deep cut at this point, so no luck.
Dirty Heads still brought the fire though, playing smash hits like My Sweet Summer, Dance All Night, Lay Me Down, Oxygen, and Vacation. Fans of all ages swayed and sang along during the hour long set.
As the sun went down, the stage lit up with an elaborate space-themed backdrop. Images of earth and aliens flashed across the screen. A countdown started, only a few more minutes until our hometown boys hit the stage.
Thousands of fans waiting with excitement started to chant, “Three Eleven, Three, Three Eleven!”
Tim Mahoney busted out the opening notes of Home Brew and the crowd went wild! I furiously moved from Tim to Nick to P-Nut looking for that perfect shot. I had such a blast shooting my heroes up close.
At this point in my career as a 311 fan every song in the set is a pure delight. After Home Brew was the “blue album” classic All Mixed Up, followed by the smash hit Beautiful Disaster. I still get chills during the opening twin lead guitar notes.
As I was leaving the photo pit, Nick mentioned that 311’s new album would be dropping this week and here’s a new track called What the?! Like many classic 311 songs, What the?! is about road tripping with friends and soaking up the summer sun. A funky little jam, the song kept the energy up!
The band continued to work their way through classics like Come Original, You Wouldn’t Believe, and the “Happy Slam Dance” song Do You Right before the mid-show staple Applied Science. This song features a drum solo from not only Chad Sexton but the whole band! Now, 311 has been doing this for years, but each tour they change up the drum solo slightly.
I really enjoyed the drum solo arrangement this year. Chad had some interesting beats that sounded almost like they were underwater or something. The band also kept things pretty tight. In years past, the solo when combined with the full band, could be almost 10 minutes. This year, it felt more like five minutes. Just enough to give you a little something extra, but still keep things moving.
311 played one more new song Don’t You Worry, before finishing the set with four straight bangers, including one of my all time favorites, Don’t Stay Home. I was so psyched for this one.
Nick dedicated the final song Down to all the “old school” 311 fans in the house. I was really stunned that there wasn’t an encore, but overall, I was happy with the set. There were new songs, classics, and personal favorites, just an all around great time.
I hope 311 can keep going for years to come. Judging by this new album, they’ve still got a few tricks up their sleeve, and I can’t wait to see what’s next! Make sure to pick up Voyager this Friday July 12 wherever you purchase music or visit 311.com for more info!
A huge shout out to Peter Raspler and 311 management for the photo access. This show was incredible.
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