311 Warms Up the Faithful at Intimate L.A. Club Show: Concert Review

Chris Godley
Alt-rock band's pre-tour show delves into deep catalog for enthusiastic diehards.

Alt-rock band's pre-tour show delves into deep catalog for enthusiastic diehards.

311 played their first of two “warm-up” shows last evening at The Roxy, launching their upcoming U.S. tour dates with an intimate performance targeted to diehard fans. Billed as “An Evening With 311,” the show was the rock band’s first of 2014 and an opportunity to stage-test material from their upcoming new album Stereolithic (out, of course, on March 11).

Fans jam-packed the 500-capacity venue, representing a large and consistently interested contingent of 311 devotees. Before the band took the stage, audience members could be heard reminiscing about their past experiences with the SoCal group, recalling shows from the mid-‘90s and reminding each other of the moment they first discovered certain releases in the band’s catalog. “This is going to be the best show we’ve ever seen,” one man in his thirties told his friend as the crowd anticipated 311’s onstage arrival. His friend quickly concurred.

There’s clearly a level of expectation 311 fans possess – one largely based on experience – but there’s also an element of pre-acceptance. The band’s fans trust them so wholly that they’re willing to give the show a positive review before even seeing it played out. Certainly, though, 311 didn’t disappoint anyone in the audience once they appeared onstage at precisely 9 p.m. The performance, shaky at first, found its legs by the time 311 played their hit 1999 single “Come Original” a few songs into the set, evolving into an impassioned, grandiose show that proved 311 fans know every single word to every single song.

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Frontman Nick Hexum, who released a solo effort last year, offered little banter between songs, occasionally pausing only to shout out the achievements of a band member or to thank the crowd for their support. There were few lulls, the moments between songs punctuated by impressively wrought bass solos by Aaron “P-Nut” Wills (one of which was bolded on their set list as “BASS SOLO”). The band cherry-picked from their vast discography, pulling out everything from B-side “Get Down” to 1997 album cut “Transistor.” The set list, which presumably will vary at tonight’s performance, included very little new material, focusing more on the rehearsal of lesser played tracks rather than songs the band has just finished.

“Ebb & Flow,” a new song the band did perform, revealed a slight evolution in 311’s show, reflecting a more melodic, layered aesthetic. Stereolithic is the band’s first new album since 2011’s Universal Pulse (and their first ever self-released effort on 311 Records) and Hexum recently told Billboard that it takes the band into fresh territory, representing a “less conservative” sound. In many ways, jumbled together in a Sunset Strip nightclub, 311 feels like a punk band, their music rough, unabashed and quick. The musicians have established a long drawn sound that has remained largely consistent over ten albums, fusing alt-rock, reggae, rap-rock and funk together in an immediately identifiable manner. From the sound of the new songs, which melded into the set fairly seamlessly, 311 hasn’t eschewed anything, but may have found themselves interested in more complex instrumentation that reflects their acquired musical skills.

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After nearly 90 minutes, Hexum and crew launched into “Feels So Good,” off their 1991 album Unity. The song concluded with a grandiose finale, the lights flashing and Hexum raising his microphone into the air to wild applause. “We want to thank you all for coming out,” he said simply before his exit. “We had a good time.”

311 returned for a two-song encore a few minutes later, concluding with “Creatures” and Hexum’s professed sentiment that the crowd should “stay positive.” There was little flash to the show – the only production involved a few colored lights already installed in the venue – and it was clear that the band wasn’t attempting to reduce their usual arena show to this smaller room just for the sake of playing there. It wasn’t perfect, sure, and 311 has a sound specific to their fan base, but it was a performance that felt beyond simply a warm-up show. But, then again, their fans knew it would be that impressive before it even started.  

Set List:

T & P Combo
Can't Fade Me
My Stoney Baby
Come Original
Bomb the Town
Other Side of Thnings
Bass Solo
Ebb & Flow
Offbeat Bare Ass
From Chaos
Something Out of Nothing
You Wouldn't Believe
Get Down
Don't Let Me Down
Still Dreaming
Feels So Good
Five of Everything

Twitter: @emilyzemler
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