Tuesday, December 20, 2011

311 Rocks The Valley! (Little Rat Bastard)

On the 9th of December, I had the extreme pleasure of covering one of my personal favorite bands, 311. When I found out that they were coming to the valley I immediately put in my request to The J. A couple days later I received the “OK” in an e-mail, stating that I was on the guest list as well as a time frame of when who was going on. After reading it a couple times, because of the excitement, I soon realized that there was 2 set’s that 311 would be playing. Soon after that I lost my lid and got even more excited. I started going through all of their tracks in my head wondering which ones they would perform. I was really hoping they would play a lot of their older stuff from their self titled album, which in fact they did. They have never disappointed and have always come through on all of the great songs.

After shooting the 3 songs, I returned to my seat but I felt like I was stumbling all over the place…second hand smoke. The place was one giant hot box, but that is quite honestly expected at a 311 show! To my surprise no one was removed from the venue and they were not shy about where and what they were lighting up! For me, a $6 beer was good enough to enjoy the show.

We were on our feet damn near close to the entire show because of the set list. They kept mixing it up from old to new to older to newest. Once I finally calmed down and tried to take it all in I looked around the venue and noticed the crowd. It was a good mix of older and younger people. From my experience, I’ve noticed the older generation will generally be in the crowd. I did notice a couple father/son attendees which I thought was real cool! It made me happy to see that just because my generation can share what we went through in the 1990′s to the younger thundercats and keep great music and musicians going through the ages!

Recommendation, if you haven’t checked out a live 311 show, do so. You will not be disappointed and have a blast! They have such raw talent and all of them, Nick, S.A., Tim, P-Nut and Chad will keep you entertained for hours!!! Just wait until they all get on the percussions and P-Nut “beats that thang.”


Monday, December 19, 2011

A Martinez Music Legacy: 311′s SA Martinez Takes a Music Tradition Laid Down by His Father and Grandfather in a New Direction (The Reader, Omaha)

Singer-songwriter-turntable artist SA Martinez is a cog in the successful rock band 311 that started in Omaha 21 years ago and is still going strong today from its Southern Calif.-base. Recordings and national tours keep the group, whose founding members remain intact, a popular draw.

While he’s reached musical heights, SA is not the first professional musician in his family. His father Ernie Martinez and late paternal grandfather Jose Martinez preceded him. SA feels part of “a legacy” that extends to his musical siblings.

“We always loved music. We all did it, sang it, performed, whatever…just always had nothing but great times with music. It was just a constant,” says Martinez.

He has only “vague memories” of his grandfather, but he does have his old mandolin as a link to the man and the music.

“I’ll look at the mandolin and wonder just exactly how he came into possession of it and what songs was he playing on this thing.”

Sure, SA’s, a rock star, but his elders made their marks on their own terms.

Jose Bonificia Martinez emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. in the early 1900s. He worked as a water boy on the railroad in Texas before migrating to Gary, Indiana, where he landed in the steel mills. In Sioux City, Iowa, he worked in a packing house and played music on weekends. Ernie marvels that his father learned to play the mandolin, fiddle, upright bass and guitar. Jose met his wife Helen, Ernie’s mother, in Sioux City.

After moving to Omaha in 1930, Jose worked the slaughter house kill floor and played in a band that performed South Omaha house parties.

“I remember him telling me they’d cross the river into Council Bluffs to play festivals in the Hispanic section,” recalls Ernie, who was born in Omaha.

Tired of the dirty, dangerous, backbreaking kill floor, Jose became a hired hand for a livestock producer in Gibbon, Neb., where Ernie and his siblings grew up. Jose found a measure of fame fronting his own band, The Kid and His Friends, on a live show broadcast by KGFW radio in Kearney, Neb. and sponsored by a feed store. The signal reached deep into the Platte Valley, bringing the band new gigs at festivals and fairs.

By the early 1950s Ernie began gravitating to music himself. “I listened to a radio broadcast out of New Orleans coming from the Roosevelt Hotel every Friday night — Tony Almerico and his (Original Dixieland Jamboree All Stars) band.”

Ernie learned to play “off the radio” — “I’d get the note from the first chord they played and I’d go from there. Somehow my dad had acquired an upright bass from a traveling salesman and he built me a little stool and I’d jump up on that stool and start messing around with my fingers, thumping away. Then he’d take me down, put the bass away and he’d show me a few chords on the guitar.”

Fast forward three decades later and Ernie, by then a journeyman jazz guitarist with local house bands, was schooling SA.

“We’d sit down on occasion and he’d try to teach me something, but he didn’t honestly have any patience when it came to instructing on an instrument,” says SA. “I remember setting his stuff up in the basement and kind of tooling around on it and just having fun.”

SA grew up steeped in his father’s sideman life.

“Come the weekend he was getting ready to go play somewhere. I just remember that whole era of the ‘70s — the polyester suits, the jewelry, the cologne. Before he’d go out he’d pat my face with some cologne.”

He came to respect his old man’s chops.

“My dad played bass growing up but he’s really a better guitarist and the style of guitar he plays is very wide actually. He can play like the Wes Montgomery, really dope jazz chords. cool and rich sounding, and then he can bust into some cool folk Mexican stuff. He definitely has a pretty deep memory.

“He had a couple buddies who’d come over from time to time. Johnny Vintore played keyboards. Another guy by the name of Charlie Davis played trombone. Just really cool dudes with loads of talent. They had their good times. It’s really cool thinking back on that whole scene.”

Ernie, who worked a regular job at a truck line, gigged at night spots when Omaha was still a hopping live music hub.

SA never saw his dad on stage, but often witnessed him practice or jam at home. He also absorbed the jazz tunes his pops spun, instilling an appreciation for the standards. Together, they “listened religiously” to KVNO radio’s Primetime Jazz hosted by Bill Watts

“Man, that was a killer show and he played like the bomb jazz,” recalls SA. “We loved listening to that show.”

Immersed in music at home and at school, where he played viola and trumpet and sang, SA was destined for a life in music. “It’s weird, I always kind of knew in the back of my mind something like that would surface for me, I just didn’t know when or how.” 311 took off in the ‘90s here at the Ranch Bowl and the Peony Park Ballroom. He ascribes the group’s unusual longevity to “chemistry” and “just hard work.”

“It really is an experience I’m blessed to be a part of. It’s a never ending rock ‘n’ roll fantasy.”

Last July, 311 had its first homecoming show in a long time when it played the Red Sky Music Festival at TD Ameritrade Park. SA says entertaining family and friends after a show like that is more draining then the concert itself. “But it’s a lot of fun.”

His parents return the favor by visiting him on the coast, where father and son always find time to play a few licks. SA invariably breaks out the old bass his dad owned.
SA’s daughter shows signs of continuing this unbroken line of Martinez music makers. “She loves it. She lights up,” SA says. Ernie’s proud it’s lasted four generations, saying, “It amazes me what my dad started.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Live - 311: 12-9-11 (The Pier)

Date: Friday, December 9th, 2011
Line up: 311 & DJ Soulman
Location: Comerica Theatre. Phoenix, AZ

There are no questions about how spectacular a 311 performance truly is. Some fans go to concerts, but 311 puts on a show, and still remains one of the greatest live acts of our generation. On the final full show of their fall tour, Phoenix received bonus music from 311 with 2-full sets of songs, reaching 30 extended live tracks and interludes.

Comerica Theatre in Downtown Phoenix was buzzing prior to doors opening, and even when DJ Soulman from Phoenix manned the turntables inside the venue, the crowd was in a frenzy. It was simple for the crowd to raise their level of excitement as Soulman played classic rock ballads and new-school alternative rock hits ranging from Ozzy Osborne, Led Zeppelin to Rage Against The Machine and plenty of others.

Once the arena was filled to the brim, 311 quickly transformed the club atmosphere into a large-scale festival that would have been ideal for Lallapalooza or Woodstock. The lighting for Phoenix’s showcase was unparalleled. The sound system was top-tier and 311 wouldn’t have it any other way for their double set of live music.

As Nick Hexum (vocals and guitar) led out the other four members of 311 the noise was deafening, with nearly unending cheers and chants of “3-11, 3-3-11…!” For a moment it appeared P-Nut (bass), Tim Mahoney (guitar) and SA Martinez (vocals and DJ) would gaze out into the crowd while absorbing the unending outpour of gratitude. But, it wasn’t long before Chad Sexton (drums) laid down the first beat for “Do You Right”.

There is one thing about 311’s extensive catalog, as a fan, one never knows what to expect from 311’s set list. Friday night followed suit in a similar style. Old Grassroots songs were featured, as well as 1993’s Music had more than a handful featured. With their constantly growing fan base, 311 tapped into every fans soul as they ran through their extensive musical collection, while not leaving out their latest highly acclaimed hit “Sunset in July”.

After releasing their accompanying video for that song over the summer, 311 could have recorded their live performance from Phoenix, and the sound would have been eerily similar. With all of 311’s touring and evolution in the studio, they are no longer performers of music; they are Doctors of the musical sound, at this stage of their careers.

As they unleashed “Come Original” on Downtown Phoenix, that sentiment was apparent throughout the theatre. The crowd was bouncing in rhythm with SA Martinez and Hexum, as nearly every lyric was echoing off the walls. It was an unblemished 311 party as “Freeze Time” and the soulful “8:16 AM” bellowed through the speakers.

For every 311 appearance, something new and unheard of always stands out from their show. On such an occasion, a double set with all the bells and whistles of the highly anticipated 311 Day were present. Bass solos by P-Nut that typically last around one minute were extended to upwards of three minutes, perhaps even three minutes and eleven seconds, but who’s counting?

Along with P-Nut reminding us of the fact that he is one of the premier bass players in the music industry today, his rhythm partner Chad Sexton nearly brought the house down with his drum solo in the second set. But before 311 highlighted their mystifying drumming, a ten-foot-tall bass drum and assorted Latin percussion sets were wheeled out to the front of the stage. The electrical instruments were put aside for a moment as 311’s range and complete mastery of their musical sound flourished. It would be easy to say the crowd cheered on end, but fans in attendance were simply exuberant, maybe even at a loss for words other than, “Oh, my god!”

311 brings a sense of comfort over the crowd, yet still manages to amplify and encourage the most rowdy of fans to bounce and mosh throughout every song. Once the fans caught their breath from the drum circus on stage, 311 seamlessly transitioned into an extended version of another old ditty, “Applied Science”. It was a blast from the past as “All Mixed Up” rang through the crowd, and everyone strapped on their dancing shoes for the timeless hit, but the excitement wasn’t even close to concluding.

After all, “Beautiful Disaster” was yet to be unleashed, and then it happened. The rugged guitar licks of the intro turned the crowd up another notch, something that appeared impossible before the song. It was the height of 311’s set as “Beautiful Disaster” led into perhaps 311’s most infamous song, “Down”.

With over 25 songs already under their belt, 311 exited the stage as pandemonium broke out in the crowd. The lights were dim for only a second, as the Omaha natives returned for another twenty minutes. For some touring acts, it might be difficult to fill three hours of music into one performance, but 311 could have played for another three hours with ease. And no one in the crowd would have left.

It was only appropriate for the last song of the night to be “Creatures (For A While)”. The atmosphere was rambunctious, yet still controlled by the sound coming from the stage. The 5,000-seat capacity theatre remained full, even after the last note was played. For a brief moment, it appeared 311 was going to return for another handful of songs, but Nick Hexum returned to the microphone to thank the fans for coming out for their final show of the tour and making it the most memorable one yet.

If Friday night in Phoenix was any indication, the upcoming 311 Day in Las Vegas, complete with three days of live music, should be absolutely astonishing!


Friday, December 2, 2011

311's Hexum looks forward to KROQ's 'Acoustic Christmas' (Daily Breeze)

Singer and guitarist Nick Hexum has gotten into the holiday spirit with KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas a number of times.

So it's no surprise he will again be gracing the stage with his band 311 this year, as the 22nd annual two-day concert event kicks off Saturday at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City.

Hexum will be sharing the stage that evening with Blink-182, Bush, Chevelle, Incubus, New Found Glory, Social Distortion and Young the Giant.

Acts taking the stage the second night, Dec. 11, include the Black Keys, Cage the Elephant, Death Cab for Cutie, Florence + the Machine, Foster the People, Jane's Addiction, Mumford & Sons, the Naked and the Famous, and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

In an interview, Hexum discussed his band and KROQ's annual event.

Where did you get the name 311?

For a short period there was a different guitarist and he got arrested for indecent exposure, and the code of that crime was 311. We thought it was funny because he was brought home in handcuffs to his parents' (house) naked. So it was a funny story and it's the code for indecent exposure.

Your sound has a mix of genres. How would you describe it today and how has it evolved?

It keeps evolving and it's hard to know where it's going to go next. When people say "I can't wait to see where you guys go next," I'm kinda like "Yeah, me too." There are always new influences to incorporate in the music. If you had to pick one ingredient, we're a rock band. It's kind of a garage-band setting, but we take our instruments seriously like jazz players. We love reggae, we love hip-hop, electronic music, heavy music, it's all in there and whatever you listen to is going to come out in your writing. We've always felt that anything goes, whatever we like we can put into our music and it's that creative spirit that keeps us interested.

You guys released your 10th album in July. Which has been your favorite?

Well, the magic of for the first time, to go into a big studio and be on a label to record your debut album - I mean, that's a high of excitement that I don't think you can ever get back. We were so amped all the time to be doing that, it was definitely a great memory. And then different albums have had kind of a breakthrough feeling that we're really excited about.

Who writes the music?

I think it's been a collaborative effort. Some songs will be written by one person, other songs will be written by a couple people putting different riffs together. I think for me, I get better results if I try to write the words and the music at the exact same time. So that's kinda lately what I've been doing, but then there's also quite a bit of collaboration on the album so it's kinda tough to make a generalization of how it goes.

I read you end each show with the quote "Stay positive and love your life." Where did that come from?

It was just something that I said as sort of a parting well wish to the fans back early on. And then I put it in a lyric on the "Transistor" album. It was just nice parting words for our fans and we've always had a positive, I wanna say hippie, kind of ideal to us about bringing people together through music and being more on the positive side of things and appreciate what you have. And that's all kinda summed up in that little phrase.

What can people expect from your performance at KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas?

Well it's going to be a fun show because so many of the bands that we've been friends with forever are on that bill, and I mean it's really a killer, classic lineup. Only people that have been playing music that long can have the kind of performances that you're going to see that night. Because it's a radio show, you're going to hear the songs that have been on the radio and we'll just do a nice sampling of our entire career. It's definitely going to be a fun night.

This isn't the first year you've done it. What keeps you coming back?

Well, you know, we are on our own label and to maintain our relationship with KROQ. I mean, they were the first station to play us - our first single in 1993 was "Do You Right" and they played it on their own before anyone else did. So we have about an 18-year relationship with them and it's nice to know the programmers there by name and when you have a new song now they will give it a fair shot. So it's a relationship that we keep going.

Do you have any special holiday traditions?

You know, our family is growing quickly. We have two young baby daughters at home and I think this will be the first time they are old enough to really appreciate it, so it's going to definitely be a special Christmas.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

On the Town: 311 for the show (The Courier-Journal)

311 is the Great Plains version of Bob Marley, or maybe Ziggy. The band uses rock, reggae, hip-hop and funk — or, in other words, dance music — to deliver positive messages about peace and love. It’s no wonder that the band is huge on the jam-band circuit, but it may surprise some that 311 has sold more than 8.5 million albums, with six reaching the Billboard Top 10.

Now based out of Los Angeles, Nick Hexum, S.A. Martinez, Tim Mahong, Chad Sexton and P-Nut are performing Monday at the Louisville Palace with DJ Soulman. Showtime is 7:30 p.m., and tickets, from $32.50 to $43.50, are available at the venue box office, by telephone at (800) 745-3000 or on the Web at www.livenation.com and Ticketmaster.com.


Scott Yager’s Top Ten Albums Of 2011 (Campus Socialite)

8. 311 – Universal Pulse
By far the shortest album on this list, and the shortest album 311 has ever put out, Universal Pulse only contains eight songs. After speaking with both bassist P-Nut and vocalist SA Martinez, it’s clear the album is so short because they wanted to make sure that it was only filled with tracks that were WORTH being on the album, even if that meant coming up a bit short of what people have come to expect from the average LP. Both assured me there was little left on the cutting room floor and that the eight tracks that make up Universal Pulse represent the entire body of content that the band had created during this most recent attempt at adding to their beloved catalog.

311 is a band that tours almost every single year, and some years, like this one, they even went out more than once. 311 is also the type of band that rewards fans for following their career, playing songs from every album they have ever written, regardless of whether or not those songs were singles or hits. The first single from Universal Pulse was “Sunset in July”. For a lot of people, this album will simply be “That 311 Album w/ Sunset in July”, however the single is just one of eight songs that perfectly blend together to create one of 311’s most cohesive group of songs.

Earlier this year, the band put on a weekend-long festival during which they played their extremely lengthy and epic albumTransistor in its entirety, which at 21 tracks, is by far the longest album they have ever recorded. Conversely, this year also marked the release of the shortest 311 record, as the guys attempt to trim the fat and make sure that no songs are on the album just to add length. From the opening track “Time Bomb”, in which Tim Mahoney’s palm-muted guitar riff sounds like a funky rock version of a 90’s rap beat, all the way through the last two songs, “Weightless” and “And a Ways to Go”, two of the most melodic and elaborate 311 tracks ever composed, Universal Pulse comes together as a short and sweet reminder that 311 are five of the best musicians at their particular instruments.

When you have guys who know each other and their instrument so well, it’s a lot easier to produce a record that feels like it belongs just as much as its creators do. Although the days of major crossover hits like “Amber” and “All Mixed Up” might be over for 311, the guys have matured to a point that their goal isn’t just to produce albums that lend new concert-worthy tracks to their repertoire, but to produce an album in which ALL of the songs belong on a set list some day. With Universal Pulse the boys from Omaha Nebraska have done just that.

SA Martinez of 311 on recording the eight-track Universal Pulse and what makes this album special (from a Sound Magazine interview w/ SY conducted 10/25/11)

“I think really we were just kinda’ feelin’ it. Everything was just clicking. Just focusing on just a select group of songs, as opposed to trying to work, you know, 18 to 20 songs and then pulling from that. Just having the time to comb through those ideas is really why that record came together sounding so focused and so energized.” – SA Martinez of 311


Casino Scene: This Week's Headliners (Press of Atlantic City)

311 with DJ Soulman at Trump Taj Mahal

WHO ARE THEY: Formed in Omaha, Neb., in 1990, 311 fused rap, metal and reggae to create their own sound. The band released several hit albums including "Music" in 1992, "Grassroots" in 1993 and the self-titled album, known as "The Blue Album," in 1995. The self-titled release wound up selling 3 million copies in the United States and made it to No. 12 on the charts thanks in part to the singles "All Mixed Up" and "Down."

DJ Soulman first experienced success as the lead vocalist for the rap-rock group The Phunk Junkeez. With his solo career in full swing, DJ Soulman is now known throughout the world.

WHAT TO EXPECT: 311 has been doing things its own way since the band's formation more than two decades ago and continues to do so with its latest release, "Universal Pulse," which is a tight, condensed group of eight songs. Fans will get to hear plenty of new tracks at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. In addition to new material, concertgoers can also look forward to hearing hits such as "Down" and "All Mixed Up" as well as other songs from 311's back catalog. DJ Soulman will open the show.

WHAT'S NEW: 311 released "Universal Pulse" in July 2011. The album contains eight new tracks and is on the short side, clocking in at slightly under a half hour in length.

WEBSITES: www.311.com;