311 at Bayou Music Center, 7/30/2014
Photos by Francisco Montes
311, Full Service Bayou Music Center July 30, 2014
Three songs into Wednesday night's show at Bayou Music Center, 311 played their hit song "Come Original." Despite what its name might imply, there was nothing original about it, and that was exactly what the crowd wanted. 311 came to Houston Wednesday night to give their rabid fan base an energy-packed dose of what they love: more of the same.
If the band 311 were a walking cliché, they would be "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Forming in Omaha Nebraska in the late '80s and gelling up their lineup and sound in the early '90s, 311 is a band composed of moderately talented guys who found a formula to make easily-digestible, audience-pleasing beach-rock, and have not wavered from this formula since.
In all earnestness, they haven't had to. The 311 fan base is not looking for that, they want more of what they already love.
311 makes music for semi-aggro dudes who still like to get their groove on. Singer SA Martinez was eager to facilitate the groove factor as he bounced onto the stage with an impressive amount of energy to kick off the show with "Sick Tight." Lead singer Nick Hexum, who possesses a natural skater-boy sexiness, is the alto contrast to Martinez's squeaky vocals. Between the music's energy and danceability and Hexum's throwback '90s hotness, it's easy to see why girls dig this band as much as the guys do.
311's music all sounds the same, like an indecipherable time capsule that is continually added to. The band boasts 11 full studio album recordings that essentially could have been released in a completely different order and no one would be the wiser. Unlike many groups that broke around the same time as 311, the band has never tried to "find their new sound" or "experiment" with their formula; instead they continue to pump out music that their fans want, and it works. Wednesday night's audience was 100 percent engaged all evening long.
It makes sense that 311 has such a large fan base. Their sound has a common "Eternal Summer" quality that appeals to lovers of rap, hip-hop, reggae, classic rock and alternative alike. And what else is common among these people? Marijuana use. Stoners past and present love this music; after all, it makes the listener feel almost as though they are on a vacation.
Composed of true fans, the crowd sang along to every song the band played -- 20 songs in the regular set alone -- with the same zeal. Diehards around me loved "Champagne," "Flowing," and "Eons" as much as they loved radio hits like "All Mixed Up." One of the band's first breakthrough songs, the group sounded just as excited to perform that one as any other song of the night, even though they've been doing it since 1995.
And why not? It sounds like something they could have released in 2005...or 2015.
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A major highlight came 15 songs in, when 311 played fan favorite "Amber." It was performed beautifully and made the audience feel that they were floating around in an underwater dreamland.
The show did have other unique moments, too: a drum break led by drummer Chad Sexton that culminated in all band members moving to the front of the stage and playing various drums in unison; a lengthy funked-out solo by bassist Aaron "P-Nut" Wills.
The band closed their regular set with their first major hit, "Down," which they performed with such dedication and energy that it may as well have been their first major concert. It was impressive.
After the audience worked their asses of for an encore, the band came back and played the marijuana-celebrating fan favorite, "Who's Got the Herb?", a ridiculous song rife with reggae clichés. Again, it was obvious what most of this audience had in common. (Also, it looked like almost everyone had the herb.) The band ended with an explosive version of "Creatures," some earnest audience appreciation, and called it a night.
The beauty of this show is that the fans in attendance could have listened to eight more hours of the band's indistinct material and still would have been excited for more. And if a crowd feels like that, you must be doing something right. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
So, How was the Opener? Obviously inspired by bands like the headliner, Austin's Full Service was just okay. This tour will likely be a huge highlight of their career.
Personal Bias: If you are not a huge 311 fan, their music is completely indecipherable. Good for the band; they have a massive and loyal fan base that wouldn't have it any other way.
The Crowd: Of all the shows I have attended or reviewed in Houston, this was by far the most excited, engaged, and dedicated crowd. They LOVE 311. They worked hard for their encore, and cheered and danced like maniacs the entire show.
Overseen in the Crowd: There are only two times that people at shows crowd-surf or sit on shoulders: at music festivals or in the 1990s. In the '90s, this was normal behavior at a cement-floored club. In 2014, not so much.
So it was pretty hilarious when this happened and security guards started filtering through the crowd with force. Paranoid potheads thought they were about to be busted and tried to palm their joints, but could take a puff of relief when they realized the guards were only concerned about someone cracking their head open. Hilarious.
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