When I told people I was going to review 311’s show at the USANA Amphitheatre, I invariably got one response: there’s going to be a lot of marijuana smoking at that show.
Now that the show is over, I’m not sure how much pot there ultimately was (if any?), but I will say this: for an hour and a half set, 311 was smoking.
Hailing originally from Nebraska but channeling what I think of as a distinctly So-Cal sound, 311 has more than two decades of experience and 10 studio albums under its belt. An eleventh album is due out next year.
After that much time and that many albums — including the iconic, triple platinum self-titled 1995 record that was part of the soundtrack to a whole bunch of people’s adolescence — it’s safe to say that alternative rock as a genre has meandered away from 311’s brand of rock-rap-reggae. And so, like many mid-career bands, the question becomes how well they’ve held up.
The answer for 311 is ... surprisingly well.
To the delight of a lot of Daisy Duke clad girls and guys in puffy skater shoes, vocalists Nick Hexum and Doug “SA” Martinez spent basically the entire set marching across the stage as they pulled out an array of old and new songs. They ran around so much, in fact, that just minutes into the show when they played “Transistor” — the title track from their 1997 album — a battery of white spotlights left them glistening with sweat.
The band members kept it up for the whole set, showing that they are, if nothing else, still working very, very hard. (As if that wasn’t already apparent from their Unity Tour, which this year crams 23 shows all over the U.S. into barely more than a month.)
As the show progressed, 311 kept a tight focus on the music, barely talking between songs except to thank attendees and tell them they were the best yet of the tour. Perhaps they say that to every audience. But in any case the band seems to have honed their show to exactly what people want: music, a good stage show and not much else.
Later, drummer Chad Sexton launched into a lengthy drum solo while the other band members retreated off stage. And bucking the trend set by the vast majority of rock and roll drum solos, this one didn’t feel boring or pointless. Instead it was playful, and the audience ate it up.
Soon, the rest of the band joined Sexton onstage, but sans instruments. Instead, stage hands wheeled drums, cymbals and even cowbells out from the shadows. For the next five minutes, the entire band banged along with Sexton.
Later solos were slightly less well-received, with audience members sitting down or going on quick beer runs. But maybe that was the point; with a long set, 311 seemed to have timed their solos, hits and lesser known songs to please everyone.
The band also suffered slightly from a PA that muffled the vocals; with such a large discography, it would have been nice to be able to hear the lyrics a little better on those less known songs.
But minor issues like that didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s mood. By the time 311 finished up their set with the hit “Down,” the pit in front of the stage was, if possible, more crowded and explosive than when the show began. Then, before the band even had time to leave the stage, the audience clamored for more.
The band obliged, playing “Amber,” “You Wouldn’t Believe,” and “Creatures” during an encore.
311 2013 Unity Tour
Who • 311 with openers Cypress Hill and G. Love and Special Sauce
Where • USANA Amphitheater, West Valley City
When • Tuesday, July 30, 2013
311 set list
Do You Right
Sunset In July
All Mixed Up
What Was I Thinking?
Beyond The Gray Sky
Don’t Stay Home
1, 2, 3
You Wouldn’t Believe