Concert Sutra’s 2004 Ode To 311
by terri sapp
Photographs by terri sapp
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
Oh, how I love 311, let me count the ways! If I had the choice of ANY concert to attend with any living artist, I would choose 311 with NO hesitation. One sign of a great band is that they sound just as good, if not better, live as they do on their studio albums, which you would think to be unbeatable. Since the first time I saw 311’s perfect ensemble of musicians play their music live, I have made every effort to catch as many of their shows as physically and financially possible, because they have everything that makes a great band (including great fans)!
July 31, 2004 in Atlanta, Georgia at the Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre was a true 311 “Unity Tour” Atlanta show. For those of us fortunate enough to have caught the 311 shows in Atlanta understand the love and positivity that flows between the two. Sometimes, like July 31st, they seem to make excuses and reasons to play extra special shows when cruising through Atlanta. This night was deemed the “anniversary of the first sold out show they ever played, 10 years ago here in Atlanta.” Because of this fact, we got “the longest set list of this entire tour!” I LOVE that! I later found that I had my own anniversary to celebrate…this night turned out to be approximately my 40th 311 concert over the past ten years! No doubt, a reggae filled night worth writing home about…
The lights go down, the “Are You Ready” Intro begins, the crowd goes wild…the best most talented hot and sexy live band around, consisting of Nick Hexum (vocals, guitar), Tim Mahoney (lead guitar), Chad Sexton (drums), P-Nut (bass), and SA Martinez (vocals, effects), took the stage, and everyone began to “Freak Out!” What a start! From an older Music favorite into one of the newer favorites, “Come Original’s,” heavy reggae Soundsystem beat (into a quick Led Zeppelin tease by Mahoney). I almost lost it when the next few beats pounded out the beginning of one of my all time favorite “stand up for your rights” songs, Grassroots’ “Off Beat Bare Ass,” which we haven’t heard since Halloween, 2000! This used to be a song you could almost expect to hear, then the 311 catalogue expanded so much that the classics don’t come as often as they used to! It is even the home of one of P-Nut’s best tattoos, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” For sure, one of the most important lines of the night… “The war on drugs may be well intentioned, but it falls fucking flat when you stop and mention the overcrowded prisons where a rapist gets paroled to make room for a dude who has sold a pound of weed, to me THAT’S a crime. Here’s to good people doin’ time, ya’ll!”
This evening had a recurring blue theme going, between Chad’s blue drums, Tim’s baby blue guitar, and the beautiful blue (and other colored) bright lights. The set list definitely started as an even mix of old and new, with 2003 Evolver’s “Reconsider Everything,” Tim’s finger-pickin’ good Grassroots’ “Taiyed,” (which I always love to hear), and Atlanta’s first taste of 311’s interpretation of “Love Song,” originally from the Cure’s 1989 Disintegration album, now on 311’s newest 2004 Greatest Hits release and associated with the 50 First Dates soundtrack, which is fitting, as the movie and 311 are SO very “island.” Another first for Atlanta, Evolver’s “Give Me A Call.” According to the set lists, we were supposed to have heard this one the last time 311 came around, but they played another song instead. I guess it was our time this time. Well worth the wait.
Since the first time we heard “Champagne” on 10-31-00 at the Tabernacle, it always seems like an occasion when they break out this 2001 From Chaos release. A great example of the reggae vibe they so often throw down! Always a crowd favorite from the 1993 Music album, one they call the happy slam-dance song, “Do You Right.” Only to be topped by a very rare track to hear live, the title track from the 1994 Grassroots album. “The roots that grow underground are as big as the tree that you see if not it will fall down.” This has always been one of my favorites, and I am glad to have been present most of the times they have actually played it! This gave me a flashback to the 6-22-00 Capricorn party in Atlanta, wherein 311 proceeded to play both the Grassroots and Music albums in their entirety for a 10-year anniversary of something else really special. I agreed with Nick when he stated, “What a nice night for a fucking concert! If you asked me, it’s just a big gathering of positive people ready to get down and share a groove!” This has been a part of 311’s general ideology through the years, as well as their particular decision to build their core fan base with relentless grassroots touring and word of mouth! “a piece to any crew that want a piece, but peace to all crews that want peace!”
Ever since the 1997 Transistor album, “Beautiful Disaster” has become a regular to show up on a 311 set list. On the contrary, Atlanta hasn’t heard Transistor’s “Galaxy” since the actual tour in ‘97. “Galaxy” was dedicated to the 311 Bulletin Boarders from their website. “You Wouldn’t Believe” from From Chaos started a run into 1999 Soundsystem’s “Eons.” Nick and SA’s psychedelic harmonies on this song go well with the tripped out course of the music. SA is one of the most harmonic singers I have ever heard, and he and Nick make sweet music! Another reggae beat, Evolver’s “Crack The Code” flowed right in with Tim’s tease of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Love.”
Chad Sexton really IS a rythematic genius and in my book one of the (if not THE) most technically trained drummers around, as evidenced in his drum solo that generally occurs during Grassroots’ “Applied Science.” Joining Chad on stage after a bit of drumming is a percussion break with the entire band, cymbals and all! “311’s got the boom, ya’ll!” Soundsystem’s representation in this show was slight, but powerful, “Flowing” having a similar psychedelic sound in the harmonies and melodies to “Eons.” These are definitely favorites from Soundsystem, and are always welcome in my ears! Always a good time, “All Mixed Up,” from the 1995 311 blue album, but the live remix, with a little taste of reggae lyrics, funk rockin reggae beats, and heavy reggae bass. “All Mixed Up” has the best bit of advice I have ever heard in a rock song, “You’ve got to trust your instinct, and let go of regret. You’ve got to bet on yourself now Star, cause that’s your best bet.” I have always wanted to hear them break into a little bit of the thick reggae “All Hexed Up (Dub Mix)” from the 1996 remix ep of this single…one can dream…maybe next time! You never know. 311 even pulled one out that they haven’t played for us since the Transistor tour, and dedicated it to their website Bulletin Booorders, “Borders” commands, “Wake up yourself cause change is comin!” During From Chaos’ “Amber” the lights were gorgeous. There were lighters popping up everywhere. Then, Nick warns us that, “The moon’s comin out,” and that we would “really need the lighters” for the next song. Evolver’s “Beyond The Gray Sky” has become one of my new favorite songs to hear at a show (since I have never gotten “Running”), and I am always relaxed and content when Mahoney’s melodic Garcia-style guitar mesmerizes the crowd. I LOVE Tim Mahoney! You can feel the reggae vibe from the guitar, bass and drums, and uplifting lyrics, “One day you’ll see the clear blue beyond the gray sky.”
From here on out, 311 gave us a real strut down memory lane. Beginning with “Don’t Stay Home” from the 311 album, which was one of the first singles I heard regularly on the radio. Also from the 311 album, one of my favorite island flavored songs, “Sweet,” which I don’t remember hearing since 1996 or 1997. This song has bass, guitar, drums, and sweet harmonies that make me long to chill on the beaches of Jamaica or something very relaxing like that. 311 shot the video to the next old favorite from Grassroots, “Homebrew” here in Atlanta at the Masquerade Music Park. But even farther back than the title track from “Transistor,” Atlanta was once again taken back (for this “special occasion”) to the 1991 Unity unreleased “Summer of Love,” that was then re-released on the Omaha Sessions album spanning 1988-1991, since it was never incorporated into the studio released albums. It is always fun to think of 311 back when they wrote this, being teens getting started!
So, “in the spirit of Democracy,” the crowd was given a vote for the next song performed, between From Chaos’ “I Told Myself,” and Evolver’s “Don’t Dwell.” They “already held the primaries and had the candidates.” Nick was not happy with the response from either, so they decided on the 311 album’s “Hive” instead. The Unity Tour brought the best of the old and new. I suspected maybe they would play the title of the tour, and sure enough, “My bros are down for the Unity, 311 is down for the Unity!” And one of my favorite, most powerful beginnings of a song, from Grassroots, “Omaha Stylee,” “In a minute everything you have can all be straight gone. In a minute things you thought were tied can come straight undone…any day what you think is solid earth can jump up and spread out to the north and south, that’s what plates are about. Nature has no conscience, no kindness or ill will.” P-Nut and Sexton really lay it down on “Omaha Stylee,” mixed with Mahoney’s rock guitar. As always, SA and Nick’s vocal stylings brought down the house. Of course, the time always comes to say, “P-Nut, beat that thang.” Music’s “Feels So Good” always seem to make an appearance, and P-Nut rips it up every time. SA and Nick even turned their finey behinies to the audience, “In your face!”
The lights during this show were different and interesting…big long bulbs on each side of the stage, and a big screen in the middle with a million little lights (Light Bright style) that formed patterns and colors. During “Feels So Good,” there were bubbles and even the 311 logo in the lights. A myriad number of vibrant colors.
When the guys came out for their encore, they were ready to “make a mess” and “blow off stress!” Evolver’s “Creatures (For a While)” was for sure a great choice for the first single from the album. What a fun song! P-Nut’s bass line is extremely bouncy.
The question at hand is, ”Who’s Got The Herb?” SA’s effects and reverbs stand out on this Bad Brains cover from the 1996 Capricorn/Norml release, Hempilation. I also love Tim’s guitar melody, as so many other songs, he makes me want to sway and put my hands up in the air. Chad’s reggae drumming reminds me quite often why I love him so much! A most fabulous feature of this band is that they are all so talented that it is hard to pin point who I enjoy the most!
Finally, 311 sent out the 311 album anthem, “Down” “to the old school fans here in Atlanta that have been down all these years” with “much love!” Every time I hear this song, it takes me back to that September day/night back in 1996 when my friend, Todd and I actually got to witness 311 play “Down” live on the David Letterman show at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York. After that, it has never been the same.
I have been fortunate enough to have seen 311 in many places over the years including (but not limited to), Philly, Nashville, Jacksonville, UMass, Charleston, Raleigh, Birmingham, Las Vegas, and Berkeley, and still, by far, it is worth it NEVER to miss an Atlanta show, as they take the cake. For a look at my fabulous photos to go along with a fabulous night, go to: http://www.concertsutra.com/311/. For more information on 311, to purchase any of their albums or merchandise, or to sign up for the “Hive” mailing list, visit: www.311.com. Most important, make sure you catch any and every 311 show that ever comes around you, they have NEVER let me down! In closing (other than once again begging for “Running” to be played in Atlanta), from the final words of the night, (Nick Hexum) “Stay positive! Love your life, you only got one!”