Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Maui Gets Down With 311 (Maui Weekly)

The homegrown national sensation returns to rock the Valley Isle, and fans prepare to be electrified once again by the sounds of 311. The Omaha-bred, multi-faceted band will turn out the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Events Lawn on Saturday evening, April 10, for an unforgettable rockfest under the stars in paradise.

I’ve found a love-hate relationship among my friends and music industry associates over the years when it comes to the funky-fusion outfit, 311. From pals with tattoos committing their lifelong dedication to the band to individuals who cringe at the mention of their very name, 311 has stimulated various reactions over their 20-year career in and out of mainstream music.

Regardless of your taste, 311 has proven its talents and unique staying-power in a music industry saturated with overproduction and mediocre hits. These nice guys stay true to their sound and are committed to their solid fanbase, which can seem nearly cult-like at times.

The five eclectic bandmates have remained on solid ground and continue to persevere with their underlying message of unity and positivity, and steadily produce successful records and tours that incorporate a variety of styles including hip-hop, alternative, rock, punk, reggae, metal—you name it.

Their first jazz album is due this fall—kidding!

Forming in Omaha, Neb. in 1990, vocalist/guitarist Nick Hexum, vocalist/DJ SA Martinez, lead guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton and bassist P-Nut, probably never thought they’d still be together, and boasting over 8.5 million units sold nationwide to date.

Nick and Chad have been playing music with Tim since high school, and the current line-up has remained consistent for nearly two decades.

“We’ve been sharing creative freedoms throughout all these years together, and working collaboratively to keep it going strong,” said Tim in a recent phone interview.

This band of "brothers” continues to "get along real well” and shares the stage during their electrifying concerts.

“It’s been a great ride,” said Tim.

Funky fact: The guys faced controversy on their road to success when a rumor floated around that the band’s name alluded to the Ku Klux Klan. (K is the eleventh letter of the alphabet, yada, yada, yada…)

This myth was busted when the band revealed the name’s true origin came from the citation number of an offensive violation.

According to 311’s funny-guy/guitarist Tim, the “original, original” 311 consisted of P-Nut and a few of his friends who got together to start a band back in the day in Nebraska.

“P-Nut and their guitar player were skinny dipping, and P-nut’s buddy got caught, while P-Nut got away,” said Tim. “The poor guy got taken home, naked, by the police.”

And, the citation number #311 was checked for indecent exposure, and the rest is history…

Six 311 albums have reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top 200 Sales Chart, and eight of their contagious singles have reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Alternative Rock Chart. (Not too shabby for a band who’s claim-to-fame for a lot of folks was their intoxicating, music festival favorite, Who’s Got the Herb?, from the mid-‘90s benefit compilation Hempilation: Freedom Is NORML.)

The band attributes their longterm success to their slow-growth grassroots development.

Right at the beginning of their career, 311 released three records on their own independent record label, What Have You Records. These releases—Dammit, Hydroponic, and Unity—and their busy tour schedule helped them blow up in the Midwest. They eventually relocated to Los Angeles, with starry eyes and the willpower of a small army, and sought out major labels.

In 1993, 311 released their first major release, Music, with catchy single, Do You Right. I can remember rolling around in my teen years, jamming out to this record and thinking I was really cool. I’m still trying to figure this out…

In 1995, they released the self-titled, 311—aka The Blue Album—which is undoubtedly the quintessential 311 record. From start to finish, this record kept listeners engaged, and it rarely left my CD player during my high school years. Even if you don’t like 311, you like this album. Admit it…

The three singles Don’t Stay Home, All Mixed Up and Down achieved stellar approval, thanks to heavy radio rotation and MTV videos. (Yes, MTV did play music videos for good bands at one point.) The singles drove the album to platinum status in 1996, and the album eventually went triple-platinum.

The late ‘90s gave birth to Transistor, which included a few amiable tracks characteristic of 311’s homegrown sound.

After leaving high school, I simmered down on my obsession with 311, but time and time again, I found their tracks sneaking onto my playlists. Whether it was faux entertainer punk-out (Come Original), sugary energy anthem (Amber) or my jogging jam (Creatures (For a While)), 311 has weaved its catchy, multi-genre tracks into my music collection now for nearly two decades.

I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled about their lackluster cover of The Cure’s Love Song, but apparently the rest of the nation was, as the 311 version topped the modern rock charts in 2004.

311’s latest effort Uplifter— produced by Bob Rock (Metallica, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith, The Offspring)—was released in June 2009. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart—the band’s highest chart position to date.

The band is so well loved that an entire day on the calendar has been set outside for fan appreciation. Guess which day?

Every other year on March 11 (311 Day), the multi-platinum group holds a very special event that attracts thousands of its fans from around the world. The music extravaganza is usually held in New Orleans, and as a result, the mayor of New Orleans presented the band with a plaque and officially proclaimed March 11 as 311 Day in New Orleans.

According to Peter Raspler from 311’s management office, this year’s 311 Day at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, sold out of its 12,000 tickets in just a few hours. For 2010, the 311 Day event moved to Las Vegas due to over-booked hotels in New Orleans during the same time for a medical convention of some sort. The band is extremely dedicated to its fans and wanted to make sure everyone could be accommodated, so they moved it.

“Vegas is an easy destination for our fans to get to, with marketing deals galore for cheap rooms and airfare,” said Tim.

“It’s clear that 311 Day has become more than a concert—it’s a true happening,” said Peter. “An event that began organically and has taken on a life of its own.”

311 played a five-hour, marathon set of over 60 songs, with state-of-the-art production to keep the party going all night long.

“We pace the show and ourselves—do about three or four sets throughout the night, so it’s not too long at one time,” said Tim.

“It’s easier for us than for the fans,” said Tim. “I’m in my head, concentrating—lots to think about. Physically tiring, and mentally a workout, but it’s such an amazing experience.”

Coming off a four-show, jam-packed stint in Japan, 311 is looking forward to nestling in with the island verve.

“We like to play Japan because than that means we usually get to go to Hawai‘i,” said Tim, with a chuckle. “Alooohha!”

It’s a good time in Japan, according to Tim, but the crowds are definitely different than say places like Hawai‘i.

“They’re going crazy in Japan during the songs, but then very quiet between songs,” said Tim. “It’s strange and interesting.”

311 is set to play Thursday and Friday, April 8 and 9, on O‘ahu, before landing on Maui for one of their final shows of their energized spring tour. (They’ll also hit up the Big Island on Sunday, April 11, for a newly-added show.)

“We like to decompress and get back to U.S. time,” said Tim. “It’s not an accident that Hawai‘i is at the end of our tour—it’s a great place for us. We love it there.”

On Saturday, April 10, King Michel Concerts presents 311, with special guests Hawai‘i-bred reggae rockers Iration, and an adrenaline-induced opening performance from Maui’s own badasses, The Throwdowns.

The dynamic show will surely feature some of 311’s hits—old and new—and the raw performance power audiences have grown to adore over the years.

“We’re not taking our clothes off as much these days as we’re getting a little but older, but some of us are still taking them off,” said Tim, with a laugh.

Iration recently released their latest CD, Time Bomb, and The Throwdowns are still flying high off their national distribution deal of their debut, Don’t Slow Down, with ADA.

(Visit www.irationmusic.com and www.thethrowdowns.com for information on these rad bands.)

Gates open at 5:30 p.m.; show starts 6:30 p.m. Sorry, no outside food or drinks will be permitted. Concessions available.

Cameras and video recording are also prohibited at this all-ages show.

Get your tickets now at www.mauiarts.org or by calling 242-SHOW (7469). You can also grab your tickets today at Green Banana Café in Pä‘ia, Requests Music in Wailuku and the Old Lahaina Book Emporium. Tickets run for $35 presale, $40 day of show.

Visit www.kingmichelconcerts.com and www.311.com.

Monday, March 15, 2010

311 and their fans celebrate each other at 5-hour 311 Day concert (Behind the Hype)

The 311 Nation convened in Las Vegas last week for the band’s concert/fan convention extravaganza known as 311 Day. On Thursday (March 11th, duh) the band played a sprawling five-hour, 60-song show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center that left everyone sweaty, tired and pretty damn satisfied.

This was my third 311 Day, having traveled to New Orleans in 2004 and Memphis in 2006 (The band holds these huge events every other year).

I’m a self-admitted diehard fan of the band, having attended an innumerable number of shows over the years, in many different states, including California, Nevada, Tennessee, Louisiana and New York.

311, comprised of Nick Hexum (vocals/ rhythm guitar), SA Martinez (vocals/ DJ scratches), P-Nut (bass), Tim Mahoney (lead guitar), and Chad Sexton (drums) treats these concerts as big fan appreciation blowouts, playing hits, rarities, and obscure b-sides spanning their extensive back catalog as a way to say thanks to the fans for being so loyal and continuing to support the band over their more than twenty years of existence.

It’s amazing to me that 311 still manages to thrive in the live arena, as it’s no secret that their mainstream popularity has long since gone by the wayside. Despite that, they consistently tour large venues in the summer and spring to mostly packed houses filled with rabid fans (and the occasional concertgoer who only knows Amber).

The 311 spirit was thriving in Vegas this week, as people from all over the globe met up in the city to celebrate the band and its positive energies. Walking around the Strip it was evident that we were taking over the entire damn city.

Arriving at the Mandalay Bay Events Center around four in the afternoon on Thursday only heightened the excitement. Fans clad in t-shirts, hats, and other garb routinely sparked up “3 11! 3, 3, 11!” chants that got the energy flowing and put everyone in a full-on frenzy.

By the time the show actually started, we were all so pumped up that our noise was deafening. 311 utilized a ridiculously awesome stage set up for the show, with a big spiral beehive-looking thing that rose when the house lights dimmed, revealing the band, who launched into the song Jackpot (off of 2009’s Uplifter), a fitting song to start out the show. Sexton’s drum kit was on a rotating platform, so he spun around in circles the whole night, allowing fans behind the stage to get a good view every now and then.

Over the course of the next five hours, the band played songs from all corners of their repertoire, including hits (All Mixed Up, Come Original, Beautiful Disaster, Amber, etc.) and obscure or infrequently-played gems (Brodels, Loco, Uncalm, Running, Livin’ & Rockin’, Six, and Slinky), as well as premiering a few songs that had not been played live previously (Sun Comes Through, Get Down, Two Drops in the Ocean). It was really an impressive set list, spread out across five sets, interspersed with some Vegas entertainment like a contortionist playing with big plastic hoops and a Jamaican dance troupe tearing it up on the floor.

P-Nut (Aaron Wills) enjoyed an indulgent bass solo before the band went into Nutsymtom. During the solo we all expressed our love for the Nut and his bass wizardry. He’s often the most expressive and active member of the band, onstage and off (He’s the one with a personal Facebook page where he interacts with fans). The solo, carried out on his Warwick with the light-up fret board, showed just how skilled he is, while not getting boring (as bass solos sometimes get). Simply put, P-Nut crushes.

During Applied Science, Sexton had an extended drum solo where he smashed and pounded his Pearl kit for about ten minutes or so.

At that point I was such an exhausted zombie that the solo sounded endless, but it was still impressive. The other members of the band eventually rose out of the stage on risers and began the full-band drum solo that always takes place midway through the song. It was a new solo and a pretty slick stage set up for that segment of the show.

Playing sixty songs in an evening must be quite an ordeal for a band, especially one whose members are mostly in their mid-thirties. The fact that the band does this really shows how much they care about the fan base, as this is really one big amazing party, with the band feeding off of the crowd’s electric energy and reciprocating onstage.

The sound was a bit muffled in the Mandalay Bay Events Center at the beginning of the show, as the vocals and guitar echoed around the cavernous arena, but it was eventually remedied a bit, and while it was never perfectly crisp, it was as good as could be expected in such a venue. 311 usually has a pitch-perfect live sound so it was probably the venue that caused any issues this time around.

311, for some reason, seems to be a band that does not really get the credit they deserve. Too many times, as a fan, I’ve witnessed people criticize the band or hate on them for no reason. As someone in the band’s inner circle of dedicated fans I find this hard to understand, since the band’s positive message (“stay positive, love your life” is what Hexum says at the end of every show) and uplifting music set them apart from their peers and have allowed them to continue on well past the heyday of the rap/rock/reggae stuff that they effectively pioneered in the early 1990s. Yes, the lyrics may tend to be somewhat cheesy (as some people say) and perhaps the band’s creative peak has passed them by, but the fact that they’re still doing their thing and remaining true to themselves while retaining a hardcore fan base that travels all over the country to see them in concert says something. No other bands that I can think of put on an event anything like 311 Day, a show that is truly a way for the band to acknowledge and thank the fans for all their years of support.

Hexum, Martinez, Mahoney, Sexton and Wills (P-Nut) kicked everyone’s asses at this show, even busting out a song (Slinky) that they had not played in SEVENTEEN YEARS. It has always been a favorite of the hardcore fans, so to see them play it after basically ignoring it forever was another sign of appreciation. They love the fans, and it was more than evident at the show.

By the time the last notes of Unity echoed around the arena and we had to leave the venue, there was a palpable sense of satisfaction all around. Sixty songs and five hours after the show began, we in “311 Nation” screamed and cheered despite throbbing feet and hoarse voices, showing appreciation for the band and their amazing performance. P-Nut followed suit, hopping off the stage and greeting the fans in the pit for about five minutes after the house lights came back on. He rules.

I’m already counting down the days until 311 Day 2012.

Champions bow.
Here’s the entire set list from the show, so you can get an idea of just how many songs they played:


Intro >
1. Jackpot
2. Sick Tight
3. Plain
4. Beautiful Disaster
5. Hydroponic
6. Flowing
7. Still Dreaming
8. Loco
9. Uncalm
10. Mix It Up
11. Purpose
12. From Chaos
13. Running
14. Solar Flare
15. Taiyed
16. Sun Come Through (Setlist debut)
17. What Was I Thinking?
18. Livin’ & Rockin’
19. All Mixed Up
20. India Ink
21. My Stoney Baby
22. Come Orginal
23. Silver
24. Don’t Tread On Me
25. Beyond the Gray Sky
26. You Wouldn’t Believe
Extended P-Nut Bass Solo
27. Nutsymtom
28. Brodels
29. Creatures (For a While)

Welcome Intro >

30. 1, 2, 3
31. Rub a Dub
32. Color
33. Light Years
34. Who’s Got the Herb

35. Let the Cards Fall
36. Crack the Code
37. Two Drops in the Ocean (Setlist debut)
38. Random
39. Nix Hex
40. Feels So Good
41. Golden Sunlight
42. Six (Last played 8/15/07)
43. Do You Right / Don’t Stay Home / Hive – Mash-Up
44. Omaha Stylee

45. Down

46. Off Beat Bare Ass
47. Amber
48. Daisy Cutter
49. Use of Time
50. Get Down (Setlist debut)
51. Applied Science
52. 8:16 AM
53. Visit
54. Sever
55. Freeze Time
56. It’s Getting OK Now
57. There’s Always an Excuse

58. Slinky (Last played 10/10/93)
59. Fuck the Bullshit


60. Unity
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Friday, March 12, 2010

For Boise fans, 311 day came a week early.Continue reading on Examiner.com: For Boise fans, 311 day came a week early (Boise Music | Examiner.com)

Omaha, Nebraska's, 311, are nearly impossible to classify musically. They have managed to successfully cross numerous genres from alternative and modern rock to sub-genres of metal, rap, funk, reggae and even jazz fusion. For that reason one can find their fans in most any setting. Each year on March 11th, the band celebrates their fans, and their music with 3-11 day. This year, it was held in Las Vegas, but Treasure Valley residents did not have to wait or travel to get a taste of the celebration.

311 (pronounced, three eleven) rolled into the Boise Knitting Factory last Friday night to an enthusiastic and fully appreciative crowd. Boise fans came alive to hear the band's funky sweet sounds.

The opening act, Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds began the night throwing down some nice soulful reggae tunes and moving the crowd. They managed to blend high energy punk with some excellent reggae. The 311 crowd had no problem enjoying TBS, and it was difficult not to. These guys worked hard and were a lot of fun to watch. They played a nice eight song set, closing it out with “Vices” which was perhaps their best song of the night. If you like The Expendables or Slightly Stoopid, you should definitely enjoy Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds.

And then there was one… one band to rule the night. With a sold out crowd, the air was thick with anticipation. The lights dimmed and the crowd screamed. The first thing to be seen on stage was bassist P-nut’s light-up fret board on his beautiful Warwick bass. These eerie green dots floated about for a few seconds and then the light illuminated the the stage just enough to watch the band walk on stage. One thing I loved about their entrance was how casual it was. They walked on with confidence and without glamour. They knew that everyone there loved their music and that they were going to honor their fans.

The kicked off the set with “Jackpot” from their latest album Uplifter, and the crowd went nuts. Photographer Ben O'Brien was busy dodging crowd surfers coming over the barricade. Perhaps he deserves hazard pay.

Next up was “Sick Tight” and then their most popular song, “Beautiful Disaster.” The atmosphere around this band was absolutely electric and you could not help but move to their music.

Vocalist/Turntablist, Doug 'SA' Martinez was his usual unenergetic sweaty self, spitting rhymes and harmonizing with vocalist Nick Hexum. They played several songs off Uplifter including “Mix it Up” and “India Ink.” Over the course of the two hour set, fans were treated to both new and old 311. Classics like “Come Original” from 1999's Soundsystem and “Down” from their self-titled '95 CD, were great to hear again. Chad Sexton treated the crowd to a tasty drum solo, although he could hardly seen behind his notoriously huge drum kit. After a few more tunes the lights turned the classic amber color and the crowd immediately knew what was coming next. Lighters and cell phones popped out and waved in sync to their hit song “Amber," a sweet reggae tinged love song from 2001's From Chaos album.

“P-nut, beat that thing” and he did just that. The bass solo from P-nut was amazing. I would have come just to see him play that Warwick. After 21 songs the band waved goodbye and strode off stage for a breather. Meanwhile the crowd was so loud screaming for the encore, I was briefly contemplating ear plugs or duct tape for the mouths of the overexcited high school girls behind me directing their screams into my ear canal. I was quite relieved when 311 appeared on stage again and treated us to “Creatures (For a While)” and “Feels So Good” to close the show.

As usual, 311 did not disappoint at all and left the audience with their rock thirst quenched... for the meantime. The Boise Music Examiner highly recommends putting a 311 show on your bucket list and getting out to see Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds when they come around. Stay Prime \m/

Marathon Band (Las Vegas Weekly)

Sixty songs. Five hours of music. Four intermissions filled with acrobatics, gymnasts, and extreme Indo balance-boarding.

A short music festival? A line-up of several bands playing their latest songs off their newest album? No. This show was one band taking the time to play everything from their biggest hits to B-Sides, as well as some songs making their concert debuts.

As 311 lead singer Nick Hexum put it, "Tonight is fan appreciation night."

311 Day is much more than another concert; it's a semiannual tradition on March 11th (3/11) that brings fans from across the country on a pilgrimage to worship at the feet of their favorite band.

Aproximately 11,000 fans chanted "THREE-E-LEVEN" as they mobbed the Mandalay Bay Events Center last night and wore band-branded everything — 311 hats, Lakers jerseys, beanies, wristbands, hoodies and even shirts with the Las Vegas sign that read "Welcome to this Groove, 311 Day 2010."

The crowd of die-hard fans, many of whom had traveled to Vegas to attend the show, high-fived, posed for pictures and talked about common 311 concert experiences. In front of me, a Wisconsin couple in their 40s had heard the concert was sold out, but were determined to attend the Mandalay Bay show: "There was no way I was going to accept that I couldn't get tickets to this concert."

The band opened the marathon show with "Jackpot," a heavily distorted track with high energy and a fast-paced guitar riff off of their latest album. From there, the energy never let up.

A 360-degree stage was set in one end of the Events Center so that everyone could see the band, now in its twentieth year, perform for five solid hours. In the middle of that stage drummer Chad Sexton played at a hydraulic rotating drum set that rivaled even the great Neil Peart's rig, encasing him in a fortress of toms and bongos.

As 311 played on, they mixed fan favorites like "All Mixed Up," "Beyond the Gray Sky" and "Random" with more obscure songs like "Let the Cards Fall," "Nutsymptom" and "Slinky."

But the show wasn't simply an endless stream of album fodder. 311 played a team drum solo that included all five band members performing simultaneously on symmetrical drum kits during "Applied Science." Gradually, the band members left the drum sets one by one, grabbing their instruments and picking up the song, as the throng jumped along with Hexum's lyrics.

However, the five-hour extravaganza took its toll on the crowd, and many began sitting down at any opportunity. Looks of defeat and general fatigue were displayed on faces. Fans may have heard the concert would be long, but they couldn't believe that it was this long. But the band never let up. Even as the fans grew weary, 311 didn't seem to tire, only gaining strength as the marathon continued on. The band beat us in the stands. No contest.

That is, until the show culminated with a stage-diving Hexum on their second to last song. "We're going to do this old school," he yelled, before leaping into the raucous crowd, sending them into an even bigger uproar.

311 returned for one final song to end the night. "We've done 59, why not make it an even 60," Hexum stated defiantly.

As the show ended, groups of the exhausted, the adrenaline-fueled, and the amazed left the show together. 311 bowed to the crowd and sent them on their way with the message they've always preached: "Stay positive and love your life."

311 Thrill Fans During Epic Five-Hour Set (MTV)

"It's the most epic show in the world," declared die-hard fan Matthew Brill of 311 Day, a five-hour-plus marathon of music put on by veteran mellow rockers 311.

Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas served as the worship center for the most holy of holidays for 311 fans (March 11, of course). Fans lined up as early as 1 p.m. to secure spots close to the stage, which was tricked out with the most advanced stage displays that the band has ever used.

311 shirts plastered the arena as eager fans waited for the show to begin, shortly after 7:30 p.m. As the boys from Omaha hit the stage, the sold-out crowd rejoiced as loudly as the reverberating amplifiers that were blaring the opening notes of "Jackpot." Vocalists Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez pogoed around the 360-degree stage, taking full advantage of the sprawling space. Above the band hung a multi-tier circular screen playing the simultaneous webcast of the show.

The crowd kept up with the band, staying on its feet and dancing during the entire 60-song set. In addition to all of the hits ("Beautiful Disaster," "All Mixed Up" and "Down"), 311 sprinkled rare, older gems into the mix, "Brodels," "Slinky" and "Loco" to name a few. Fans especially responded to "Taiyed," which included an extended midsong jam session.

311 maintained their stamina by dividing the show into three sets, taking short breaks in between. They also officially announced the 2010 Summer Unity Tour, featuring the Offspring, bringing a huge roar of approval from the audience.

311 closed out the impressive event with "Unity" as an encore. Over the five hours of music, every bandmember got his time to shine, with Aaron "P-Nut" Wills lighting up his backlit bass, Tim Mahoney proving his acrobatics on the guitar, and drummer Chad Sexton performing impeccable drum solos. By the end of the night everyone was drenched in sweat — both the band and the crowd — suggesting that 311 Day is more than just a concert, it's a religious experience.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy 311 Day! (Las Vegas Sun)

What does March 11 mean to you?

If the answer isn't obvious, you probably are not a fan of rock band 311, who, since 2000, has declared the 11th day of the third month of the year as its own. Considered a "worldwide holiday" by their fans, 311 Day, celebrated officially on even-numbered years, is far more than your typical concert experience.

Las Vegas is hosting this year's festivities, which typically have been held in New Orleans but were moved after a large medical conference in the area promised to hog hotel rooms. Omaha-bred 311 will begin performing at 8 p.m. tonight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and will continue playing. For five hours. That translates to more than 60 songs.

The five-hour set allows 311 to perform a variety of material, including covers, rarities and their hits, which include songs like "Amber" and "All Mixed Up," as well as their cover of the Cure's "Love Song."

While it may be all about the music at 311 Day, that doesn't mean there won't be some nice perks offered alongside that end-all, be-all set list. Many Mandalay Bay restaurants, nightlife spots and attractions are offering deals in the spirit of 311 Day.

Eyecandy and Mizuya/J Pop Lounge are offering drink specials for fans sporting ticket stubs. Mix is granting free entry and 2-for-1 shot specials, and Foundation Room is giving VIP line passes to fans. Many of the resorts restaurants, including the House of Blues Restaurant, Raffles, Mizuya and The Café, are offering 20 percent discounts as well. Finally, Shark Reef will be offering $5 off admission to fans. Most deals will be honored today and tomorrow.

The Mandalay Beach and Wave Pool, typically open to all guests of the hotel, will host a 311 Beach Party beginning at 6 p.m. tomorrow only for ticketholders of tonight's concert. It promises to be the perfect spot for fans to socialize and debate just how hard 311 rocked the night before.

Tickets for the performance have been long sold out — they went on sale in late October — but for any fan not lucky enough to be one of the more than 11,000 people in attendance at tonight's concert, the performance will be filmed for a webcast made available live (for $11.99) through the band's Web site, 311.com, and through television's Video-on-Demand.

311 Talk Plans For 'Ultimate' 311 Day Show In Las Vegas (MTV)

Are you at work today? You totally shouldn't be. After all, it's 311 Day, which is practically a national holiday at this point.

Ever since March 11, 2000 — when 311 decided to perform an extended 46-song set at New Orleans' State Palace Theatre — celebrating 311 Day has become an annual tradition for the band's diehard fans. And every other year, the band gets in on the act as well, throwing an elaborate, certifiably epic concert that also doubles as a fan convention, party, and de facto rite of passage for 311 obsessives.

This year, the band has taken over Las Vegas for a three-day extravaganza, the centerpiece of which is Thursday (March 11) night's performance at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. (MTV News has two fans on the ground in Sin City.) In anticipation of the show — which, rumor has it, will last five hours — we spoke to 311 bassist Aaron "P-Nut" Wills, who was already preparing himself for the looming marathon.

"I don't think we'd be able to physically play a show like this, not even once a month. But I'm ready. I'm trying not to think of it as this huge thing, because, if you think about it, the people who attend most rock shows are on their feet for the same amount of time," Wills said.

"It helps to see it from that side of things. We're the entertainment, but of course the fans are going to be there with us the whole time. Then again, [frontman] Nick [Hexum] does do marathons, so I know he's going to be ready. We all are, because we think of this as a huge opportunity to do something special, to play the ultimate show every two years for our most fanatic fans. It's perfect."

And while Wills wouldn't reveal any of the surprises the band has in store for fans at Thursday's show, he did say that things are most certainly going to be epic. It's only fitting, after all.

"It's just going be as big as it gets for us. It's going be nuts," he said. "I've only seen some of the sketches of what our set is going to look like, and it's amazing. Our front-of-house guy designed it, and he's kind of a nutcase, but we trust him."

And while the idea of playing the ultimate show before their ultimate fans is inspiring, what really drives Wills, and the rest of the band, is what 311 Day represents. It's a gathering, a community, a chance for both the band and its fans to share the love.

"It's a great experience for our fans and for us. It's a rite of passage. So we know we've got to bring it," he said. "I know we will, too. This will be the best of the best, both from our fans and from us. And I know that at the end of the set, we'll probably want to play even more. We're out to chop heads off. Unless we're playing reggae, then it's a different vibe."

311 Fans Get Hyped For '311 Day' Fan Party In Las Vegas (MTV)

It might have been the day before 311 Day, but the festivities were already in full swing Wednesday night at the Jet nightclub at the Mirage Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The official 311 Fan Party at Jet served as the epicenter for die-hard fans from all over the country to converge — and converge they did.

Fans packed the line in droves even before the doors opened at 9 p.m. Jet let its usual formal dress code slide for the night, allowing fans to show their true colors in 311 T-shirts, hats, and plenty of tattoos. By 11 p.m., the line of fans stretched all the way to the entrance of the Mirage. But you didn't have to see them to feel their presence — their chants of "311!" could be heard all the way to the blackjack tables.

Inside the club, 311 music was blasting on the speakers — and that's where MTV News' guest correspondents Dave Kosin and Lauren Black, (winners of the 311 Day contest) were hard at work. The pair were meeting old friends and new ones from all over the country: ecstatic fans from Lauren's home state of Texas to a local Las Vegas couple who booked a hotel room to take part in the activities.

But it was a fan from across the pond that proved just how die-hard 311 fans are. He told Dave, "I had to threaten to resign from my job to be allowed to come." For him, a week without pay ended up being a small penalty for his first-ever 311 Day.

He could hardly contain his excitement. "In England they never play a 311 song, so even tonight, it's just wow! It's amazing — tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life," he said with a smile.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review: 311 still sounds like there's gas in the tank (Reno Gazette-Journal)

On the road to its marathon four-plus hours show that will happen Thursday in Las Vegas, 311 crammed 20 years worth of songs into a 100-minute show Monday at the Knitting Factory.

The band known for its hybrid style of rap, rock and reggae was able to pick through nine albums of material for a set that represented 311 well — from its first album, 1993’s “Music,” to last year’s “Uplifter,” — but skipping entirely 2003’s “Evolver” and 2005’s “Don’t Tread on Me,” (which was perfectly fine with me).

Opening with a song that goes back to the band’s Nebraska roots, 311 pulled out 1994’s “Omaha Stylee” and wasted no time burning “All Mixed Up,” one of the band’s 1995 breakthroughs.

The band played for a crowd of about 900, respectable for a Monday night. Sound was over-the-top loud and muddy near the front, which has been the case for several shows recently at the Knitting Factory. The room seems to be facing the challenge of firing sound all the way to the back of the narrow space that also loses half of its sound to the second floor. What’s a sound engineer to do, but make it as loud as it needs to be to reach the back? Sound did improve, however, near the mixing board and behind.

311 is good at working a crowd, with rapper-scratcher SA Martinez pacing and bouncing around the Knit’s stage, which was crowded with five musicians and Chad Sexton’s drum set massive enough to rival Rush. Martinez wasn’t the only one bouncing around, as many of the band’s songs are natural pogo inducers, and the crowd didn’t hold back.

While I could have done without the bass solo, each of the musicians are masters of their instruments and do so much more than strum a few chords. Chad Sexton is not an economical drummer by any means. Numerous fills and extra beats are the norm for him. But instead of the typical drum solo, the band halted 1994’s “Applied Science” for a full-band drum solo, bringing out a set of tom-toms and cymbals for each member of the band to bash. It’s the best example of a drum solo I can recall.

While the band’s arsenal runs from heavy rockers to ballads that could have been sold to the Carpenters, the set on Monday stuck mostly to the harder stuff. But the reaction was probably strongest for the mellow “Amber,” played under amber lights, natch.

Since 311 has based a career on positive messages and uplifting songs, though, some of the oldest material no longer seems relevant. While “Feels So Good” and “F--- the Bull---” are good songs, the vulgarity of the lyrics in both seem like they should be retired, particularly when they’re played right before singer Nick Hexum advises to “stay positive.”

But the band has outlasted most of its peers from the 1990s, and still draws a lot of fans. Aside from Hexum, who is now 39, seeming to struggle to reach some high notes, 311 still sounds like it could be around for years to come.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

'Idol' Gets Its First Taste Of Hip-Hop — Thanks To A Rock Band (MTV)

It didn't measure up to 50 Cent, but the "American Idol" stage got its first-ever taste of hip-hop Tuesday, and even more surprising, the judges actually liked it.

Tackling 311's 1995 rap/rock/reggae hit "All Mixed Up," contestant Blake Lewis both sang and rapped Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez's parts, respectively, along with adding a bit of his own beat-boxing (see " 'Idol' Recap: Sundance, Phil Stacey Strike Out On Disappointing Guys' Night"). The judges praised the performance for being modern and unique, and "Idol" bloggers have followed suit.

"Blake brought something new and fresh, and showed his versatility," David Bloomberg, editor of FoxesOnIdol.com, told MTV News.

"His style is unheard of and he draws from a much more current pool than contestants in years past," added Jacob Clifton, who covers "Idol" for TelevisionWithoutPity.com.

Also approving of Lewis' performance was 311's Hexum, who has been following "Idol" closely because fellow semifinalist Brandon Rogers is a friend who has collaborated with his brother, singer Zack Hexum.

"I was really stoked that he gave it such a cool dubby arrangement," Hexum said. "I thought he did it really good and I thought it was really courageous of him to do something outside of what they do on that show. I was pretty nervous, like what if this is his nail in the coffin, choosing one of your songs? What if the judges trash him and he's voted out? But then it turned out to be really positive."

Hexum said his phone began ringing off the hook as soon as the performance started.

"It's funny, it's a guilty pleasure for so many people so people were like qualifying it, like, 'Oh, my girlfriend likes the show,' or, 'My kid likes the show.' Yeah right," Hexum said. "I'm like, 'I know, I got it on right now.' Even as many cheesy elements as there are to the show, it's got a lot of real human drama."

The 311 boards were also instantly slammed with comments, mostly encouraging other fans to vote for Lewis, who called 311 his all-time favorite band. "311 fans are open-minded and not too [snobby]," Hexum said. "I always say to just like what you like and not worry who else likes it."

Oh, and Hexum was not offended that none of the judges knew his song. "It adds to the cool factor," he joked.

Lewis' performance came just five days before 311 fans' annual holiday, 311 Day (held on March 11, of course), which the band is celebrating through several Web contests and promotions. 311 are also planning to announce a summer tour soon.

"Even though traditional logic is to work on an album and tour after that, touring has become such the core of what we do," said Hexum, who just ran the Los Angeles Marathon as a benefit for his Liberal Hexum charity. "We could tour forever without putting out an album. But when we tour in the middle it makes the album better because we see what works live and it gets our chops up to the best they can be."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ready to Rock (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Nick Hexum has been running marathons of late.

And in a few days, he'll be playing in one.

As a singer and guitarist in rock/rap/reggae hybridists 311, Hexum is steeling himself for the band's biennial blowout concert, "311 Day," where the group plays upward of 50 songs over five hours, attempting to conjure more good vibes and sunshine than the month of July.

In the meantime, Hexum's getting himself in fighting shape, even though the dude is so laid back and Zen, you can't really imagine him balling up a fist over much of anything.

"It's a little harder, but this is definitely similar," Hexum says of his pre-concert running routine. "You have to pace yourself, and you have to be prepared. You couldn't just step out there cold without any kind of stamina preparation."

Hexum remembers the previous "311 Day," when he got through the show just fine, legs strong, then it hit him all at once and he was drained, like someone had pulled the plug on a bathtub full of adrenaline.

"There's so much energy in the room that I didn't even get the slightest bit tired," he recalls of the concert. "And then even after the show, I was just walking around talking to people, high-fiving, hugging people, and then an hour later, the bottom fell out and I was just beat. I was just so tired."

With 311 first starting to get a set list together six weeks before the concert, where they play lots of rarities and deep album cuts alongside a heightened production show, the event has become a massive undertaking.

This year's installment is expected to draw fans from all 50 states and at least 10 other countries, with the 311 faithful snapping up 12,000 tickets to the event in a day.

Now in its sixth go-round, "311 Day" began in New Orleans in 2000, and has traditionally been held there, except for in 2006, when it moved to Memphis in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

As for the idea for staging a "311 Day" to begin with, it all started almost coincidentally.

"In the early days, we didn't tell people how we made up the name '311,' and that opened it up to a lot of speculation. People were like, 'Maybe March 11 is some special day,' " Hexum says. The band would later reveal that they took their name from a police citation code for indecent exposure in their native Omaha, Neb. "Then, we just happened to have a show on March 11 in New Orleans way back in the day, so we kind of turned that into a special thing.

"It's kept growing and growing," he adds. "Then about 11 years ago (on 311 day), we were like, 'OK, we're going to play three hours and 11 minutes tonight.' And that was like our longest show up to that point. Now, we're not going for any kind of duration record, we're just trying to make it the most special 311 show that there's ever been."

The event has grown to encompass more than just a concert, as it's now a three-day affair with a fan get-together at Jet at The Mirage on Wednesday and a pool party at the Mandalay Bay Beach on Feb. 12, where The Wailers will perform.

Basically, it's one big giant bear hug between the band and its most die-hard followers from across the globe.

"Since everyone's wearing 311 shirts and stuff, they'll just start bonding immediately," Hexum says of the atmosphere at the "311 Day" festivities. "I hear all these stories where people are walking around, like, 'Hey, where are you from?' I've heard that people have met their husbands and stuff like that at these things. It's something that's become bigger than just the band and the music. It's like a movement between the fans."

And this is very much in the spirit of the ideals that 311 has long espoused.

From the onset, a more communal vibe has hung about these dudes. The band was among the leading acts who took the rap-rock amalgam into the mainstream, but unlike most of their peers at the time, there was seldom any testosterone involved.

Instead, 311 has deliberately cultivated a more positive aura -- the band's most recent disc is titled "Uplifter."

As such, this bunch always has been more New Age than nü metal.

"We often have felt like, 'Man, we're a little out of step with where pop culture is at,' " Hexum says. "Especially in the late '90s, there was so much over-the-top anger, we were like, 'Well, what are you guys so mad about?' Music can be a very unifying force, and my heroes are The Beatles, who sing about love and coming together, and the spirituality of U2 and things like that, more than someone who's just here to destruct. That's just what's come naturally to the band, and we've continued to embrace it. It just feels right."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

311 visits Reno before their bid day (Metromix)

When rap-rockers 311 pull into Reno on Monday, it will be just a few days before the band’s biggest day of the year. Because when March 11 rolls around, it’s 311 Day, a day where fans from 50 U.S. states and several countries will fill the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas for a marathon show with a near 70-song setlist.

It’s a special concert the L.A. band does every two years, with the 2008 New Orleans 311 Day playing to 14,000 people at the Superdome. The Las Vegas show sold out in a day.

“It’s just a cool occasion for any hardcore 311 fan,” said SA Martinez, the band’s co-singer and rap expert before a recent show in Seattle. “We’re so lucky to have a day in the calendar year that we can really make the most of.”

And the band, now in its 20th year, considers itself very lucky to have been around with the same guys he played with in 1990 and making a living. While many of the bands that 311 shared radio waves with over the years have faded or folded (think Rage Against the Machine, Sugar Ray or Bush), 311 is still on the road and making new music.

“We really lucked out as far as the chemistry of the band,” Martinez said. “And there’s always going to be bumps in the road, regardless, and I don’t care how great it is for anybody, it’s a marriage and five people are involved ... I think we all realize what it means to be together as a band and how much we depend on one another. That really goes a long way for everyone, and at the end of the day we all realize that. We really truly are blessed to keep this going and to have this fan support over all these years.”

Fans at Reno’s show will get to see a much more intimate show, albeit a shorter one, than the massive 311 Day show. The band is doing small theaters before and after 311 Day as it ramps up for its bigger summer touring schedule, which Martinez says is the band’s main meal ticket.

“That’s really where we are able to sustain ourselves, and it’s just a lot of fun too,” Martinez said. “There’s not many bands that can make a living just selling records in this day. There are for sure some manufactured acts that will sell a gazillion pop records, but as far as rock bands, you have to tour and that’s it. We’re no exception there, but we enjoy it. It’s what we do best.”

True, 311 hasn’t sold “a gazillion” albums. They’ve sold about 8.5 million albums in the U.S. with six albums having reached the Top 10 of Billboard’s albums charts. While the band’s biggest album sales days may be in the past, the band released its ninth album, “Uplifter,” in 2009, its first since 2005. It’s got some of the harder-rocking songs that helped launch 311, as well as some of its mellowest music, which seems fitting, seeing as how the 2002 slow-burner “Amber” is one of the band’s biggest hits.

Before the band recorded “Uplifter” at its own North Hollywood studio, the members felt like it was time to take a break from making albums.

“It was just a matter of ‘let’s just go do some shows and not worry about having to make a record, and just enjoy life between tours,’” Martinez said. “Because we will be touring, we know that, but do we necessarily have to make another record? No. And that was something that will help recharge your batteries and make you hungry to make another record. And I think ‘Uplifter’ was one of our best records in a long time.”

While the band wasn’t making records, two of the members were making babies. Both singer-guitarist Nick Hexum and Martinez welcomed their first children last year, the first for the band as well. Martinez lit up while talking about his baby daughter.

“It’s great. I’ve wanted kids for a bit, and my wife and I had talked about it. Really, what it was, Nick called me up and said ‘I’m expecting.’ And I was like, ‘whoa! no way.’ After I hung up, I’m like, I’m going to try and have a baby. And at that point I just said ‘let’s try.’ Right off the bat, she got pregnant and that was that. My baby will have her first 311 Day coming up.”

It’s a beginning of a new era for Hexum and Martinez, but Martinez said he still sees no end in sight for the band.

“I think we have a lot of life as a band yet, and I would imagine everyone else feels the same way.”

In the short term, 311 will be spending most of next week in Nevada with shows in Wendover, Reno and Las Vegas. Martinez isn’t sure what the band will stay busy with amid the sagebrush, but he does have one idea while in Vegas.

“I’m a fan of (the History Channel’s) ‘Pawn Stars.’ I may try to make it to their pawn shop. It’s like a realistic ‘Antiques Roadshow.’

Doubling Down on 311 (Skinnie Magazine)

As they take their ’311 Day’ tradition to Las Vegas, veteran reggae-rap rockers 311 reflect on 20 years together—and their hunt for a new record label.

With only a few words the minister managed to crash his own Southern Baptist convention.

“Christians need to courageously seek persons of other races to mix with—and to marry,” he said.

The crowd of 12,000 gasped. Interracial marriage? Dr. R. Lofton Hudson, the father of pastoral counseling, struck a chord with his conservative audience. He spoke of unity. While lost on this crowd, Hudson’s message that day in 1970 would eventually rub off on his newborn grandson. Nicholas Lofton Hexum would form rock band 311, graduate high school early, write songs of acceptance, and move out of Omaha to spread unity far and wide. Twenty years on, Nick’s crowd is clearly listening—311 regularly sells out shows and has moved almost 10 million albums.

Since 1990 the funky reggae partiers known as 311 have promoted peace and positivity across the globe through live music. The five-piece band will play its biennial blowout, an event dubbed “311 Day,” to an audience at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay on March 11 (3/11). The tradition showcases a five-hour setlist and unites as many as 15,000 spectators from all 50 states. This 311 Day will be the first for lead singer Nick Hexum since he started a family.

“I’m on a little daddy duty this morning,” he explains in a hushed voice from his Los Angeles home, an hour before band practice. 311 is wrapping six weeks of rehearsing songs from its latest album, Uplifter, released last summer following the band’s three-year break from the studio.

“I took some guitar lessons and really buckled down on a daily discipline of working on becoming the player I always wanted to be,” says Hexum of the last few years. “The only way you can really screw yourself as a musician is to you think you’ve got it all figured out.”

That’s why reggae-rap architects 311 turned to a new mentor in 2008. #Uplifter#, the band’s ninth album, finds long-time Metallica producer Bob Rock pushing 311 beyond its comfort zone. While the group hasn’t left behind its trademark approach to songs, the rap-rock style isn’t leading the charge this time around. “Too Much Too Fast” emphasizes guitarist Tim Mahoney’s soaring tropical riffs over a shuffling Beatlesque time signature. P-Nut’s rich bass throbs in time with Chad Sexton’s brilliantly precise backbeat

on the textured ballads “Golden Sunlight” and “Two Drops in the Ocean.” These softer gems highlight the vocal beauty of 311 co-frontman S.A. Martinez and allow a break from the band’s more formulaic output, like “Hey You,” a single suited for those content with the familiar, radio-friendly side of 311.

“There’s plenty of 311 fans that say, ‘Just do the heavy stuff,’” says Hexum. “The truth is that we have to make music that’s just from the heart. You can’t make music by a focus group.”

“If we were just the same band every record, maybe we wouldn’t even be a band anymore,” admits drummer and songwriter Chad Sexton. “I think the last one is the most formulated musically on the songs, but in a good way, a way that 311 absolutely needed.”

While Los Angeles bands Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers drew up the funk-metal blueprint in the early ’80s, 311 pioneered and popularized the double-frontman, call-and-response concept of the ’90s. Soon after the band recorded its first official demo, #Unity#, in an Omaha studio in July 1991, the tape caught the ear of Capricorn Records’ general manager.

“They had this ability to cross-pollinate all these different musical genres in a seamless kind of way,” remembers Don Schmitzerle, who signed 311 the following June.

Twenty years and nine albums later, the band plans to start recording again following the spring tour—with or without a label. “We’re free agents now, and so we’ve got a lot of options on the table,” says Hexum. The band satisfied its contract with Volcano Records last year. “I will say that we’re leaning towards one, kind of a label-producer combination,” he adds.

Before the band moved out to L.A. 20 years ago, 311′s tradition meant Monday night gigs at a popular Omaha bowling alley. Now the guys have their own holiday. 311 Day, a five-hour, Grateful Dead-like experience, never disappoints and always climaxes with a drum solo performed by every member of the group. To watch it is to witness unity at work.

“311 really showed us how to be a band, how to tour, how to make it a business,” says Sugar Ray leader Mark McGrath. “They’re really underestimated for what great musicians they are. They’re working on another plane.”

This year that other plane finds four of the band’s five members turning 40, an age when, as the adage goes, life begins. If all his years of making music didn’t convince Hexum of this, the realization hit home six months ago when he and his wife welcomed their first child.

“It’s just a very fulfilling thing,” he says, “a sense of purpose that you can never really fully understand until you’re in it.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Doubling Down on 311 (Boise Weekly)

The place isn't hard to find: Just look for the rainbow. Its spray-painted spectrum, weathered and sprawled along the length of a concrete building off 64th Avenue, has been known to lead certain musicians to gold records.

Beyond the music shop facade, down the hall of wall-to-wall guitars and past piles of drums, a modest setup of microphones and vintage equipment showcases an unsung Omaha, Neb., landmark. This back room at Rainbow Recording Studios once hosted Willie Nelson. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks cut a record here not long ago. And it was at this studio, in July 1991, that the guy in charge convinced local band 311 to put its songs to tape.

"I badgered them into recording at a real studio," remembers Nils Anders Erickson, Rainbow's founder. "I told them if they were going to press a thousand CDs they'd better keep the quality up, or it would haunt them the rest of their musical life." Erickson fronted the band $2,000 to cover the session.

Twenty years later, the funky reggae partiers known as 311 regularly sell out shows and have moved almost 10 million albums. The group's promotion of peace and positivity through live music culminates every two years on March 11--"311 Day"--an event that draws some 15,000 spectators from all 50 states. Next week, the band will play its biennial blowout at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay.

"The only way you can really screw yourself as a musician is to think you've got it all figured out," says 311 frontman Nick Hexum.

That's why he and his reggae-rap architects returned to the drawing board with a new mentor in 2008. Uplifter, the band's ninth album, finds longtime Metallica producer Bob Rock pushing 311 beyond its comfort zone. While the group hasn't left behind its trademark approach to songs, the rap-rock style isn't leading the charge this time around.

"Too Much Too Fast" emphasizes guitarist Tim Mahoney's soaring tropical riffs over a shuffling Beatlesque time signature. P-Nut's rich bass throbs in time with Chad Sexton's brilliantly precise backbeat on the textured ballads "Golden Sunlight" and "Two Drops in the Ocean." These softer gems highlight the harmonies between Hexum and 311 co-leader S.A. Martinez and allow a break from the band's more formulaic output of songs like "Hey You," a single suited for those content with the familiar, radio-friendly side of 311.

"There's plenty of 311 fans that say, 'Just do the heavy stuff,'" says Hexum. "The truth is that we have to make music that's just from the heart. You can't make music by a focus group."

"If we were just the same band every record, maybe we wouldn't even be a band anymore," admits drummer and songwriter Chad Sexton. "I think the last one is the most formulated musically on the songs, but in a good way, a way that 311 absolutely needed."

While Los Angeles bands Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers drew up the funk-metal blueprint in the early '80s, 311 pioneered and popularized the call-and-response, double-frontman concept of the '90s on early albums like Music and Grassroots.

"They had this ability to cross-pollinate all these different musical genres in a seamless kind of way," remembers former Capricorn Records executive Don Schmitzerle, who signed 311 in June 1992. Twenty years and nine albums later, the band plans to start recording again following the spring tour--with or without a label.

"We're free agents now, and so we've got a lot of options on the table," says Hexum. The band satisfied its contract with Volcano Records, their label since 2000, last year. Before the band moved out to L.A. two decades ago, 311's tradition meant Monday night gigs at the Ranch Bowl in Omaha. Now the guys have their own holiday. 311 Day, the band's five-hour display of continuous classic cuts, climaxes with a drum solo performed, in unison, by every member of the group. To watch it is to witness unity at work.

"311 really showed us how to be a band, how to tour, how to make it a business," says Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath. "They're really underestimated for what great musicians they are. They're working on another plane."

This year, that plane inevitably leads four of the band's five members to age 40, a time when, as the adage goes, life begins. If all his years of making music hadn't already convinced Hexum of this, the realization hit home six months ago when he and his wife welcomed their first child.

"It's just a very fulfilling thing," he says, "a sense of purpose that you can never really fully understand until you're in it."

Learning to count to 311
(Sparks Tribune)

At its biennial March 11 show, rock/punk/hip hop/reggae band 311 is known to play sets of 60-plus songs that last for five or six hours. The group's current tour, which includes a stop at the Knitting Factory in Reno on Monday, is the band's way of doing stretches before the marathon of this year's "311 Day" in Las Vegas.

The bassist for 311, who goes by the moniker P-Nut, proved he has the energy for long sets in a recent 40-minute phone interview, during which he demonstrated that if given a topic — from the band's history to electric cars — he will expound on it with gusto. Had the batteries in this reporter's recorder not run out, the interview could have kept on going.

"This whole tour is based around us getting songs ready for 311 day," he said from his home in Southern California. "It's an eclectic show, not a specific set. It could be anything."

P-Nut was referring to what fans might hear at the Reno show from 311's library, which goes back more than 20 years. Casual listeners will recognize 311 by songs that hit the charts and the radio, such as 1995's "Down" and "All Mixed Up," 2001's "Amber" and 2004's cover of The Cure's "Love Song," which was featured in the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film "50 first dates."

The group officially formed in Omaha, Neb. in 1990, with vocalist/guitarist Nick Hexum, vocalist/dj S.A. Martinez, lead guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton and bassist P-Nut. The quintet of Midwestern boys grew up with all different kinds of music being played in their homes in the 1980s, P-Nut said, which contributed to the variety of influences each member brought to the group.

"There was no scene in the Midwest, so we kind of got to make our own scene music-wise," P-Nut said.
The result of that blend was a style of music that is difficult to categorize, but always upbeat with undeniable rhythm. The group's varied appeal is evident in some of the other stars with whom 311 has performed: from rap legend Snoop Dogg to rocking Hasidic Jew Matisyahu to The Wailers.

While the group has, according to official Web site www.311.com, sold more than 8.5 million albums in the U.S., 311's real mark has been made by extensive touring and unique live shows. The highlight of the group's live shows is 311 Day, which started as a New Orleans show in 2000 but was moved to Memphis in 2006 because of Hurricane Katrina. This year, the show is being held in Vegas for a slightly less dramatic reason.

"This time there's a surgeon's convention in which 30,000 or so doctors are showing up on that same week in New Orleans and they scooped tons and tons of hotel rooms and actually kind of jacked up the price since surgeons are a little more well-to-do than your average traveling-around fan of rock music," P-Nut said. "So we had to come up with another place and we didn't really want to do it in Memphis again, just to do something different. If we were going to be forced to do something different, we wanted to do something different different. So Vegas kind of reared its head and I was a little reluctant about it, picturing our fans taking over the city, but I've warmed up to it a lot."

Vegas will no doubt welcome the thousands of fans who turn out for 311 Day, which typically is a multi-day event, culminating in an hours-long performance by the band.

"It's more mentally challenging than physically challenging because you can take it at whatever pace," said P-Nut, who cites R&B singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Curtis Mayfield as one of his biggest influences. "On stage you can pretty much decide how hard you're going to push yourself and it's easier when there's 12,000 people watching you, egging you on. They're the hardest of the hard core fans that take the time, trouble and expense to travel and see our marathon show. It all makes it, not easy, but it makes it easier. We wouldn't do it on a regular show but knowing people expect a lot out of the 311 Day show and it's every other year it kind of allows to get physically and mentally prepared for it."

Throughout their career, 311 has remained steady in releasing new albums, putting out new material every other year or so, in addition to various greatest hits and live recordings.

"I think its just our drive to just keep doing something different is really the key," P-Nut said of the group's motivation and longevity. "You listen to a lot of our older stuff and the stuff recorded in Omaha and then the first couple albums I saw and I continue to see us on mission to just keep being creative and not fall into any particular kind of formula. If we want to make hard rock song or we want to make a reggae song or we want to make some kind of evil mishmash of the two and then anything else kind of comes out its all fair game for us and the band and that's what really keeps it interesting. I think if we had just a narrow view of what our sound should be like I don't know if we'd have made it as far as we've gotten because some or all of us would have gotten bored with a simpler concept."

The band's most recent album, "Uplifter," was released in June 2009 and was produced by Bob Rock, who is known for helping bands through tough times (e.g., Metallica in the mid-1990s). P-Nut said 311 was in a bit of a rut and that Rock helped them through it.

"He picked out little gems of ideas during jam sessions, which impressed us all really deeply," P-Nut said. "He broke some of the tension that had grown between us and helped us appreciate each other's idiosyncrasies."

The band will play Monday at the Knitting Factory, 211 N. Virginia St. in Reno. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. with Tomorrow's Bad Seeds. Tickets range from $40 to $90 and can be purchased by visiting http://re.knittingfactory.com.

311 and the Wailers at the Commodore Ballroom, Mar 2 2010 (Guttersnipe)

When I found out that the Wailers were the opening act of the evening, my first thought was, “THE Wailers”? Legends in their own right, they put on a performance that did not merely warm up the crowd, but had them steaming. That’s what all the clouds of smoke floating on top of the audience must have been.

As their current lead singer approached the stage and saluted the audience, his dreadlocks, formerly twisted on the top of his head, automatically unfurled. I took this as a surefire sign that they were ready for business. What proceeded was a hit parade of party playlist staples such as “Stir it Up”, “I Wanna Love Ya”, “One Love”, and “I Shot the Sheriff”, which had me regretting that I left my skanking shoes at home. The audience, comprised of everyone under the Rasta rainbow, had no problem mimicking the gyrating hips on the stage, an awkward and thoroughly amusing sight for any spectator.

From the Jamaican-themed spotlights, to the velvety voices of the Wailers’ back-up singers, to the pulsating bass lines of band pioneer Aston “Family Man”, the show provided a fun-loving and vibrant environment, uplifting those suffering from the 17-day hangover left from the Olympics. The Wailers’ peaceful and positive aura had completely rubbed off on their fans as they performed “No Woman No Cry”. As the organ notes filled the room, the audience joined the band in singing “Everything’s gonna be alright” with such resounding conviction that it must be true.

The Wailers are currently on tour until April, celebrating 40 years of playing music that rarely hits a sad note, as proven by songs such as “Jammin’” and “Don’t Rock my boat”. However, there is always a pang of grief when thinking of the absence of Bob and Carlie from the current line-up. The band has decided to pay it forward by setting up a global initiative to eradicate world hunger, called I Went Hungry. Their camaraderie and communalistic outlook obviously extends far beyond the stage.

It is a bold move choosing to follow a band as historic as the Wailers. But 311 completely switched up the nostalgic tone of the evening and put on a vigorous show that did not pale in comparison. The moment the lights dimmed and distorted chords blasted from the speakers, it was clear we weren’t in Jamaica anymore. Fans who had come to the show expecting to hear the romantic air of songs like their breakout hit “Amber” would have been surprised, and possibly disappointed, by the Omaha natives’ decision to stick to their brand of punk-metal anthems infused with a generous helping SoCal hip-hop.

The band is currently promoting its latest, Uplifter, which offers hints of their skank roots, but moves closer in the direction of punk-core. Set-opener “Jackpot” displayed this stylistic departure. Lead guitarist, Tim Mahoney, switched to a clean effect for the alternative sounding “All Mixed Up”, which had SA Martinez sweating bullets as he dashed around the stage, rapping about his dream girl. Sounding like a wired version of Q-tip, he and lead singer Nick Hexum, ran circles around the stage throughout the set with an enviable amount of energy. Hexum’s vocals leaned towards being monotonous on the verses of “Freeze Time” and “Mix It Up”, but his constant fist-pumping and trademark twirls made up for this weak spot. That, and the fact that he’s no disaster to stare at. He shines in the seductive and subdued tracks “Purpose” and “Beyond the Gray Sky” when he is able to take his time through the melodies instead of rushing through them like a bullet train.

Martinez and Hexum passed the spotlight over to P-Nut, allowing him to delve into an impressive bass solo on his 6-string. His musicianship can’t be doubted after his display of slapping technique and his precise use of harmonics. Drummer Chad Sexton also had the opportunity to showcase his prowess in his own interlude, supported by an expanded rhythm section comprised of Mahoney and Martinez banging on cowbells and gongs. Rest assured, each member has earned his keep in this unit.

Most of the songs that followed seemed to meld into a medley of fast-paced hip-hop fortified with power solos and record scratching. The crowd had weeded out by the time 311 had reached their final song of the encore. This is probably due to it being a Tuesday night, but quite likely because no one could keep up with the serious efforts on the stage.