Concert Sutra On The Road Again With 311

by terri sapp

Photographed by terri sapp

© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved

Nick Hexum 2005

click photos for photo gallery

From the day I got my first taste of 311 from “Music” back in the very early 90’s, I was hooked.  Ever since, I never miss an opportunity to catch them doing what they do best…rockin the crowd!  They brought the usual bag of tricks with them, as well as a few new flares on their Summer Tour, 2005.  On August 27, 2005 at the Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre in Atlanta, Georgia, fans were faced with a wide range of 311’s musical history, as well as some rarities to celebrate the many years we have had to know and love this band.  These guys have an onstage finesse about them matched by few, as evidenced by any given show they play.  311 is always on point, so far as I am concerned!

On this special night in Atlanta, we were “Welcome”d by a very smooth intro fueled by the masterful guitar stylings of one Tim Mahoney (guitar, and one of my heroes, LOVE him).  P-Nut (bass), Chad Sexton (drums), and S.A. Martinez (vocals, effects) also contributed to the newly extended jam intro to the 311 Music classic “Welcome.”  Of course, we always know the party has started as soon as we hear the words out of Nick Hexum’s (vocals, some guitar) gorgeous mouth.  It’s always good to “Freak Out” at the very start of a 311 show, because who wouldn’t freak out on this one?  “To all my friends, it’s not the end.  The Earth has not swallowed me, yet.”  I really feel this one. 

“You Wouldn’t Believe” from fan favorite 2001 album From Chaos is one that the boys have been pretty faithful to since its success.  Once the first three songs are over, and I am escorted out of the photo pit (pictures up front are only allowed for the first three songs…me being without my photographer is tough…especially because of my excitement level when they are near), I can finally relax and enjoy the “Homebrew” served up by my favorite group of boys onstage.  Many memories come along with hearing the Grassroots jewel “Homebrew,” which Atlanta was fortunate enough to take part in the shooting of this video back in the day at the Masquerade Music Park (Hexum always reminds the crowd of this when they play it).  On the brand new album, the title track, “Don’t Tread On Me” is open for making new memories, that’s for sure.  In true 311 “form,” they played this radio hit pretty soon in the show to make room for those that have not hit the waves so much.  Don’t Tread On Me is a heavy reggae album that translates wonderfully live. 

“It’s not ’95, but still go for the Hive!”  Truly a mantra worth listening to…  Like many of this powerhouse band’s original songs, “Hive” has lyrics that are worth hearing and digesting.  One of my favorite lines from this self-titled 311 SA Martinez 2005album track that has especially come into play in my personal life lately are words to live by for all, “I don’t need friends who act like foes!”  So many times in life we experience things IN A WHIRLWIND and struggle to process everything surrounding our experiences.  That is, until our favorite artists speaks to us and lets us know that we are not alone…that even they (who seem untouchable) ride the “roller coaster.”  “Solar Flare” from 311’s new album is another example of this phenomenon of speaking to our common present state of things.  I don’t really know if musicians know how close they come to people’s inner feelings with the songs they put out there.  For example, I feel the lyrics of “Solar Flare” (with the exception of their extreme talents at word play) could have come directly from my journal (if I kept one). “When did our leaders become bottom feeders?  We’re shooting up flares. Does anyone care?  They’ve got this world locked down, bound and gagged, with constant fear and paranoia toxins in our head.  It’s just something they know how to do.  How to make everyone feel uncalm.  The masses just take it while they turn the screws.  Bring to a boil, add oil, then bomb.”  There were two new songs I really wanted to hear at this show.  “Solar Flare” was one of them.  They did not break it out at every show on this tour, so I feel very fortunate to have been able to hear them play the one song on their Don’t Tread On Me album that literally and deeply speaks to me.

How appropriate that they would follow “Solar Flare” up with “Uncalm” of From Chaos.  They only played this one twice on their Summer Tour.  Nice.  Then the “Garciaesque” guitar of Tim Mahoney plays over the speakers…I am taken back to 1996!  I haven’t heard “Let the Cards Fall” in a very long while.  Usually, if they are going to play from the first Enlarged to Show Detail video, it would end up being “Gap” or “Tribute.”  Short and sweet, but FULL of memories.  On that note, from Transistor, “Beautiful Disaster” has become a staple since that wonderfully experimental album (FROM WHICH I HAVE NEVER HEARD MY FAVORITE SONG, “RUNNING” DESPITE MY Tim Mahoney 2005EFFORTS, including cross country trips, etc., SINCE 97 TO CATCH IT…).  From the new Don’t Tread On Me album, which I maintain is “SA’s album,” “Getting Through to Her” is one that he wrote, and is as sweet live as it is on the record.

Of course, what would a 311 show be without “Applied Science?”  This has been the “drum solo song” for as long as I can remember…”pump it…pump it…pump it…Chad Sexton!”  He proves every time to be THE “rythematic genius” of our generation.  I have not come across a drummer that can “beat” him.  Maybe it is his training over the years, combined with making such beat oriented music with his crew.  All I know is he is definitely one of the BEST around.  In the past five or six years, the guys have taken part in the drum “solo” by pulling out a drum line for the entire band to beat upon…still at it…crowd goes wild!  “I shove it in a battery and save it for later.”

I remember hearing the first notes of “Flowing” from Soundsystem in 1999.  Truly one that does not fit into any category.  Forever this song is the spaced out jam that landed my “too spaced out” friend in Grady Hospital (they didn’t even know what to do with him, he was so “spaced”) dressed as Pimp Daddy Devil on Halloween, 1999 at the Tabernacle.  Now, every time I hear those notes…aahhhh…memory lane.  Good memories for me…maybe not so much for that guy…  No matter, “Beyond the Gray Sky” is beautiful enough to bring anyone back to the light.  This 2003 Evolver gem is the best song on the album, and shows me that no matter what (even before I realized), the songs that Tim Mahoney writes the music for are going to be my favorites.  His very melodic strumming and slight reggae beat gets me every time!  I am not the only one feeling the love, the entire Hi-Fi Buys holds up their cell phones and lighters for this anthem.  “Lovely life I thank you for the reason to see the pain through…one day you’ll see the clear blue beyond the gray skies.”  Since 2003, I long for this song.  Don’t Tread On Me led me to another song I was really hoping to hear tonight.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one, because it was played “by special request.”  Thank you, Thank you, to whoever requested this and was special enough to make it happen.  SA’s voice is so passionate during this song.  The effects that Mahoney puts on his guitar sounds like steel drums, and adds to the already “island” feel.  I love it!  I believe this is their newest single, which makes sense, since it is definitely a highlight of the album.  You should request that it be played on your local radio stations!

Another 311 favorite, that rarely goes UNplayed, “All Mixed Up.”  Mos Definitely one to dance to, and get your groove going.  These moments are the ones that “keep me coming.”  However, even before the 311 craze, there were the Omaha Sessions, which yielded such songs as “Summer of Love.”  Even though this was the Summer Tour, they still P-Nut 2005saved this one for special occasions.  They know when to pull it out, though, don’t they?  I would bet they know that Atlanta is in a constant state of 311’s Summer of Love…Thanks guys!  I am in love with the reggae breakdown at the end of the song.  Another rarity that comes from Transistor that you won’t hear everyday, “Electricity.”  Nick Hexum previews by saying, “the meaning of it (the song) is that we are all equal, all connected by the same electrical life force that runs within all of us.”  The main thing I always loved about the Transistor album is that the songs were all very experimental as far as the standard 311 sound went up to that time.  Some appreciate it, some don’t.  To this day, when I hear something from Transistor, I hear how this album influenced and transformed their sound into what it is today.  Which brings us to “Amber.”  This soft, sweet lullaby from 2001’s From Chaos won so many more fans for 311, including my friend and co-worker, who has not really ever been into this type of rock music.  Since “Amber” hit the airwaves, I am amazed to hear her actually singing along, and attending 311 concerts!!  Good job, fellas!  Thank goodness they have played it both times she has attended…the ladies love this style.

The only other track we got from Soundsystem was “Freeze Time.”  This album was so monumental in my life when it came out.  So what if I may be biased, because ALL 311 albums have been monumental in my life, but I feel I must recognize Soundsystem, since they played “Freeze Time” for us.  Oddly enough, the lyrics sum up my love for this album, “Try to freeze time, try to freeze time for your mind.  Perfect snapshot to always rewind.”  This go around, they even had P-Nut include some crowd participation.  Fun for the whole family.  Of course, for all the “old school” 311 fans, “Down” is played.  They have gotten pretty regular at this.  I supposed since they blew up during the popularity of this album, it makes sense they would play the song from it for the “old schoolers.”  “Fuck the Bullshit” seems to be one they always love to play for the Atlanta crowd.  Contrary to what I would have thought, it is not a song they play all the time anymore.  I wonder if Atlanta has “Attitude” or something.  P-Nut always tears it up with his bass solo, although, I felt they should have turned his volume up a bit.  I could barely hear him, which is a shame.  Good thing I’ve heard it a few times.

For an encore, 311 came out with an old favorite, “Omaha Stylee” from 1994’s Grassroots, with the actual CD intro, Chad Sexton 2005which was cool.  The crowd was even singing along with the intro.  This song remains one of my top favs lyrically.  “In a minute everything you have can all be straight gone.  In a minute things you thought were tied can come straight undone.  How about some knocks on wood, some so far it’s so good.  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…There’s much power in anger, but love’s a bigger banger.”  I feel that this song is even more appropriate now than it was in 1994 when they released it.  Well, I guess it’s just TIMELESS.  Another coincidence (maybe) that I love is that we always seem to get that ONE QUESTION in Atlanta, “Who’s Got The Herb?”  I’ll bet I know why we always get that question…  All that aside, I love this song for its lovely reggae flow, beautiful music and harmonies.  This Bad Brains cover was featured on the 1995 “Hempilation” cd when 311 was still with Capricorn.  When asked about writing this song, Bad Brains’ member told High Times Magazine that, “Marijuana isn’t an influence.  Marijuana is an herb that grows in the ground.  It’s good for digestion if you eat your food too fast, or if you can’t digest your food.  It’s good for people who are nearsighted.  We find it for medicinal purposes, and for spiritual and religious services, too.”  We can guess what was going on when they wrote this number…Finally, Nick Hexum gives mad love to Atlanta by saying, “Every time we play down here, I feel compelled to remind ya’ll that Atlanta was the first city to get off on 311.  We played a sold out show at that Masquerade…we were like…this is the SHIT!  So, we thank you.”  This truly brought a tear to my eye, because we have all grown together over the years.  So much has happened in our lives (the fans), as well as theirs (the band), and we’ve been together through it all.  No, Thank YOU, 311 (sniffle)!  Your music helps us (me, at least) to continue to be “Creatures (for a while).”  “It’s been a wild ride.  I wouldn’t change a minute.”

For a peak at another of my attempts to catch these speedy speedersons (not to imply they are on speed, just in a constant state of motion!) in a photo, visit the site that my wonderful partner in crime Leah Yetter, Photographer, has set up with my photos from this show at:

311 has finished their Summer Tour in the time it has taken me to cover it…DAMNED VIRTAGO!!!  However, true to form, they are already back on the road with a fun filled Fall Tour, 2005.  For full details on their upcoming shows, go to their website,, or join them on MySpace at  Whatever you do, don’t miss out on a chance to see them play live!