Wednesday, August 23, 2006

311 Rocks Tech Campus

Rock veterans 311 hit the Burruss stage with their signature beats and in your face vocals last night, giving the Tech crowd everything they were looking for, and officially kicked off the 2006 fall semester, "(311) is a show Tech's been looking forward to for a very long time. We've had a lot of requests for it over the past five or so years. And obviously it sold out in about eight days, so this is something the students have wanted for a very long time," said senior Jon Hardage, director of concerts for Virginia Tech Union.

Their long anticipated Virginia Tech debut wasn't easy though. Hardage said, "This is actually the only college on their tour, so it's kind of unexpected that they accepted the offer. They are a hard band to get because they're so popular," Welbilt, a band from Fairfax, Virginia, opened for 311. According to Hardage, "Welbilt is getting very popular regionally, especially in Virginia and Maryland. They play real good rock n' roll."

If no one had heard of them before they took the stage, Welbilt made their introduction quick and memorable. They played an almost continuous 15 minutes of music, and perhaps would have made it longer had they not literally broken some thing.

"It's a Welbilt tradition to blow something up at each show," lead singer and guitarist Nate Ihara told the crowd.

After a momentary pause to fix the problem Welbilt picked up where they left off. Ihara's face glowed with sweat. He occasionally flicked the sweat from his brow, where it got caught in the stage lighting and hung momentarily in the air. They continued to play for close to half and hour with unexpected confidence for a band opening for such staples of the American music scene.

The crowd was anxious. In the half-hour from the end of Welbilt to 311, several Burruss wide chants of "311" rang out.

This was the first 311 concert for junior biology major Elizabeth Arwood and her friend Caryn Clements. Arwood's expectations would be met if she heard anything from the "Motive" album, and fears that her Thursday Genetics class may be sacrificed because of the concert.

The unique sound of 311 is hard to categorize. Eric Miller, a freshman engineering major, said, "They're hard to place in a genre really. They're rock, but they have a groove, you know? A funky type of rock." When asked what he wanted to hear them play, Miller summed it up in one word, "Amber."

Finally the house lights of Burruss hall were killed and only the red glow of the exit signs remained. The crowd's anticipation overflowed and the screams rivaled the columns of blaring speakers.

On stage vocalist and scratcher Douglas Martinez engaged in a vocal duel with lead singer and guitarist Nicholas Hexem. Back and forth they went in such 311 classics as "All mixed up." Martinez's body bounced up and down as he spouted off the lyrics. Hexum, standing on the amps or facing up with Martinez, poured himself into his performance and Tech responded. Waves of hands in the air, and mouths completely in sync with the song could be seen throughout the auditorium.

Guitarist Timothy Mahoney, and Bassist P-Nut were the stoic bookends that contained the lyrical chaos of Martinez and Hexum in the middle of the stage. And of course Chad Sexton provided the beat that is 311. The most important thing on stage, though, could have been a silent Peace Lily atop a stack of speakers whose exact purpose, aside from being pretty, is unknown.

Bassist Matt Waller of Welbilt described opening for 311 as a "dream come true." "I've loved 311 since I was like 14, and I've always wanted to meet them," he said.

"Personally I had never heard of them," admitted senior Coleman Collins. "The best part is the energy." For many others in Burruss hall on Wednesday night, this was also their first meeting with the band. 311 made sure to make it a memorable though.