Thursday, August 28, 1997

Variety provides plenty of spice at concert by 311 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

It's a tribute to just how trendy the hybridazation of pop has become that a band like 311 can draw on as many as four or five genres at once and comes away sounding exactly the way you expect a commercial alternative rock band to sound in an age of one world, one music, one record collection.

They hit the stage rapping to heavy guitars last night at the Coca-Cola Star Lake Ampitheatre, treating the crowd of 9,849 to a block of "Hive", "Freak Out", and "Misdirected Hostility".

It was all Red Hot Chili Peppers without an actual tune to hang a groove on until they dipped into their title track from their latest effort, "Transistor." It's got an odd beat that you can't really dance to (at least, not at first), but the song is a well-deserved hit boasting some of the band's most accessible hooks, from the opening riff to the slow reggae ending.

It's hard to imagine Nick Hexum, a white guy, pick up and Jamacian accent from parents and friends growing up in suburban Nebraska. Still, it was pretty effective for putting the newer, more reggae-inspired material over. He credits the Clash with having turning him to reggae as a child, and it showed on the two most intriguing cuts they played from the new album, "Light Years" and "Prisoner."

"All Mixed Up", a standout from the band's self-titled breakthrough, built from a Red Hot Chili Peppers funk-guitar groove to a lazy feel-good chorus as a disco ball dropped from the ceiling and splashed the crowd with streams of light. A heavier hit from their last album, "Down," drew the biggest response of the evening.

The set was a mix of hip-hop, metal, disco, funk, and arena rock (on the frum solo anyway). There was even a point at which the guitarist, Timothy J. Mahoney, appeared to be channeling Jerry Gacria. There wasn't a whole lotta soloing going on, though Mahoney and Hexum did combine for a cool-twin guitar lead on another reggae-cut from the new one, "Beautiful Disaster."

Hexum didn't really have much to say, but when he talked, he knew just how to whip the crowd into a frenzy, inviting them all to jump up to the beat together.

De La Soul, appearently one of the few acts in rap to care if you understand more than a handful of words at a concert, opened the show with a set that took the 311 crowd on a pyschedelic trip from the trio's 1989 Top 40 single, "Me, Myself, and I" to their latest album, "Stakes is High."

At times they sang, but mostly they rapped about ego trips, celluar phones, and vibrations.

Friday, August 22, 1997

Rock Band 311 Now Deals in Big Numbers (Star News)

Want to make a record with 311? Get ready to work.

Platinum-selling quintet likes to do things big. Like cut 30 songs this spring for it's new disk, Transistor. The band considered even more tracks before holding itself to 21, about double the number of songs on the average rock album, and clocking in at 65 minutes.

"We didn't want it to be too long." cracked guitarist Tim Mahoney. "We didn't want the listener to be taxed or feel like they're embarking on a mission."

No fear. Chances are fans will take all the songs they can get.

Recent times have been good for 311: After toiling on a grass roots circuit for five years, the Nebraska-bred band broke through with two sinewy radio singles, Down and All Mixed Up, pushing it's self-titled album to triple-platinum status. High-profile slots on skate and surf Warped Tour and the earth-rock H.O.R.D.E. tours fermented the brew. Now the band - including vocalist Nick Hexum, drummer Chad Sexton, bassist P-Nut, and vocalist-scratcher SA Martinezis - is headlining a tour all on it's own.

Mr. Mahoney said the long, grinding road helped ease a lot of the pressure that accompanies the follow-up to a winner like 311.

"We've developed over the years in a way that so long as we're writing and creating music that's important to us, our fans tend to follow us." He said. "If there was any pressure, it was pressure on ourselves to make a good record. There was no pressure from the recording company to have another Down."

Mr. Mahoney also knows the dangers that lie in rising to the top in the 90's, when information overload can kill a band as quickly as it propels it.

"Nowadays, there's so much more to being a band, with all the big media. You can see bands much more easily, and the focus isn't always 100 percent on the music," he said. "Part of rock 'n' roll is all the stuff that goes with it, but the foundation is music. If you don't have good music, and can't perform live, it's gonna sink."

So Mr. Mahoney flinches at letters from fans who toss up the requisite, knee-jerk "selling out" gibes.

"When people say that, it has nothing to do with the music," he said. "I can understand why they're saying that, but at the same time, we never been about glamour or being a big fancy rock band. As far as role models, we look at bands like Grateful Dead, playing 30 years in from of 20,000 people a night. That's a great thing to shoot for."

Anyhow, it's not like there aren't any benefits to scoring pole position in the rock race.

"It seemed like a natural step to have more mainstream sucess, and it got our foot in the door to radio and MTV," said Mr. Mahoney, "It allowed us to release Transistor as our first single, which is kinda weird for radio programming, with reggae on there at the end and all. If we hadn't had sucess, the radio may not have played a song like this."