Kaleidoscopic alt-rock band 311 put on a compelling and solid 100-minute exclusive, sold-out show at Crossroads-KC, a premier venue which contained approximately 3,000 cheerful folks (the band played for 10,000 fans in St. Louis). The profound intimacy at this outdoor concert suggested it was a rare and prized positive experience — meant principally for hardcore fans. 311 was in the midst of a 37-city tour, and it vigorously promoted its eleventh LP, Stereolithic (2014), from which a stunning seven songs were played.
Stereolithic was produced by Scott Ralston, most notable for his work on the band’s triple-platinum self-titled LP (1995), but also the platinum-selling Transistor (1997), among others. Moreover, Stereolithic debuted at #6, marking the band’s ninth consecutive album to debut in the top ten on the Billboard 200. Christopher R. Weingarten described the LP’s “joyous choruses and taut grooves” (Rolling Stone, 3/14).
Highlights: At least three or four new songs were well-done, most importantly “Showdown”, “Five of Everything”, and the penultimate track, “Tranquility”, which was written solely by Hexum, and must be influenced by fatherhood. It was a rather bold move to include “Showdown” in the opening trifecta — with the gargantuan Transistor hit “Beautiful Disaster” and “Come Original”, from Soundsystem (1999).
That said, it was worth the while, as “Showdown” blended in nicely. Tim Mahoney’s guitar licks were well-calculated and Nick Hexum’s vocals were confident and crisp. “Friday Afternoon” was an idyllic, sensual tune.
So, the majority of fans soaked up a mellow, lysergic 311, as “My Stoney Baby” and “Who’s Got the Herb?” enticed concertgoers into a slow-dance, THC-accompanied communal state. Add “Amber” and “All Mixed Up”, and the deal is sealed, as it were. What I wouldn’t give to see 311 in Colorado or Washington! Ditto the 311 cruise to, of all locales, Jamaica in 2015! Hexum shook hands with VIP fans post-gig.
Relative downers: S.A. Martinez sounded like Frankie Valli during “Boom Shanka”. The band didn’t play “Homebrew”, a holiday song. Only one song was played from Transistor, a veritable shame. During “Do You Right” and “Applied Science”, Mahoney’s guitar didn’t seem loud enough. The percussive gimmickry during “Applied Science” may have run its course. Maybe Taylor Swift was right about the element of surprise. Two Uplifter tracks should have been swapped for classic material.
Steve Bloom claimed that: “311 are slower, subtler, more sophisticated; their music sort of floats by, as if on a cloud. Cushioned by Hexum’s melodic vocals and Mahoney’s laid-back guitar, Martinez and Wills provide counterpoint with the necessary funk, while Sexton deftly directs the constantly shifting song tempos” (High Times, 12/97). Save for the fact that Hexum’s vocals are not always melodic. Save for the fact that Mahoney’s guitar is not always laid-back. That is, the band has a rough, heavy, and aggressive side.
Notwithstanding, 311 most definitely underscored its cannabis-friendly, mellow, laid-back facet, as more intense tracks were largely set aside. Yet again, though, 311 put on a top-notch, electric live show that few bands could touch.
Photo credits: William Carl Ferleman
1 Beautiful Disaster
3 Come Original
4 My Stoney Baby
5 Sand Dollars
6 India Ink
7 All Mixed Up
9 Who’s Got the Herb?
10 Applied Science
11 Five of Everything
12 Boom Shanka
13 Do You Right
16 First Dimension
18 Friday Afternoon
20 Creatures (For a While)