Reviews

311: 13 June 2009 - Kansas City, MO

311 put on a formidable live show, but by no means did this gig, ebullient and potent though it may have been, meet the band’s own high standard.

311

311

City: Kansas City, MO
Venue: The City Market
Date: 2009-06-13

311 is, if there is anything still material in this increasingly corrosive business of music, one of the most consistently dependable and formidable bands for this very important reason: The group will always put on one hell of a live show. Having witnessed the band in live settings for over a decade now, very rarely could I claim any serious let down or unforgivable sense of disillusionment on this point. 311 is a band fashioned to thrive and flourish in a live setting. One of its best assets is its distinctly palpable ability to relate to its very devoted following, to feed off the crowd’s vibe as it were. The band performs excellently in such a context -- 311’s bare-bones, reggae-rap-rock groove is freely allowed to take over, and indeed many dubious, perhaps average songs on record tend to become quite phenomenal when they are performed live.

In Kansas City, 311 once again put on a formidable live show, but by no means did this gig, ebullient and potent though it may have been, meet 311’s own high standard. Nor did the band sustain its semi-immaculate image and reputation for concert playing. The show was undeniably decent and, in fact, awe-inspiring at times, but on the whole it was mostly lacking: 311 mistakenly decided that thoroughly hawking its latest album, Uplifter, was more important than playing its more notable, recognizable, and flat-out superior songs.

Instead of playing both rare and acclaimed tunes (“Who’s Got the Herb?”, “Homebrew”, “Freak Out”, “Unity”, “My Stoney Baby”, “Visit”, etc.), 311 foolishly chose to play a total of nine songs from Uplifter, a positively absurd and inconceivable number, especially considering the relatively -- compared to the entire 311 catalog -- low aesthetic quality and outright unabashed, formulaic poppy mediocrity of several of these tunes (see “Hey You”, for example). I would certainly feel quite different if any of the newer songs competed in any thinkable way with any one song from 311, Music, Grassroots, or the underrated Transistor.

Admittedly, bands must be given free reign to play anything they please, but deciding to play so many songs from an average record smacks of shameless pandering to the whims of a youth-oriented market. It seems the business of music has taken firm hold upon the art of music. It is all too likely that many of the youthful folks at this gig had never heard of 311 until the Soundsystem-era (1999), but that could be an overstatement. Still, the bottom line is that the band neglected to play several of its objectively better songs in order to sate the pop musical tastes of a demographic more suited to the likes of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus than to 311 in its mid-1990s rap-rock, not pop, heyday.

Still, there is nuance here, and it would be imprecise to not concede that several Uplifter songs suspiciously became crowd favorites, but that was seemingly 311’s objective to begin with. “Never Ending Summer”, “India Ink”, “Daisy Cutter”, and “Jackpot” stood out as relative high points. In fact, the crowd reacted favorably to most of the new songs, a truly confusing scenario when one considers that Uplifter hit stores just eleven days prior to this gig. Moreover, such a reaction seemed, in part, illusory: Many people simply cheered blindly and indiscriminately at every song played. (Cannabis-friendly songs -- from earlier but recent albums -- such as “Amber” and “Beyond the Gray Sky” only added fuel to this disoriented flame).

Singer Nick Hexum, uniquely dressed from head to toe in virgin white, helped further this suspension of disbelief and subtle theatre. During such sweet and mediocre songs like “Daisy Cutter” and “Jackpot”, Hexum pretended that he was deep amidst the ferocity of a mosh pit at a Sex Pistols show. He danced erratically and head-banged with his whole person. To anyone familiar with 311’s earlier, more intense and heavier-sounding songs, Hexum’s stage behavior in this context was quite laughable, inappropriate, and silly.

It wasn’t a complete washout, though. The aggressive opener “Never Ending Summer” (“These are the good old days”) came across quite well live, as Tim Mahoney’s practiced guitar licks nearly superseded Hexum’s defiant lyrics. “India Ink” was also a bona fide winner, as Hexum’s exotic, reflective lyrics merged well with the song’s intriguing flirtation with metal riffing. But Hexum’s act is largely tame now; tonight he all but ruined a rendition of “Come Original”.

On the other hand, the band’s rendition of Transistor’s “Beautiful Disaster” was unusually evocative and impactful; Hexum must truly love this song in the same way that Mick Jagger apparently cherishes “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. Both songs are fairly weak songs on record but somehow always find their way onto set lists. The dynamic guitar interplay between Hexum and Mahoney on “Beautiful Disaster” and also “Down”, among other songs, was remarkable.

Hexum, alongside fellow singer S. A. Martinez, showed more passion and needful verve during the latter part of the show -- when the more hardcore and testosterone- and adrenaline-influenced numbers finally were played. The encore may have been the apex of this show; it consisted of the holy trinity of “Omaha Stylee”, “Feels So Good”, and, of course, “Down”. As much as the crowd may have enjoyed 311’s new songs, it truly relished the more compelling, tested, and energetic material of yesteryear. This fact alone is proof that 311 should really be themselves and not try to willingly become another shoddy but popular product.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.