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311 review: Decent, though oddly removed

BY RACHAEL LANDER | APRIL 20, 2009 7:30 AM

311 played a semi-decent show on April 18 at the Field House. Though the concert wasn’t good enough to warrant day-after talk, it held its own.

I’ll be honest — when 311’s Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez started singing that first tune, I thought it was going to be like listening to Fall Out Boy live: absolutely horrible. But the band surprised me. After a brief and rocky beginning, the members hit a smooth rhythm that launched them into a good, albeit not fantastic, concert on April 18 at the Field House.

As a unit, 311 has been around since the ’90s. The quintet could probably perform blind if its members really wanted to, and truthfully, it kind of felt as though they were. While they had a lot of energy onstage, it felt as if they were lacking a little when it came to actually engaging the audience. There were a few “Hey Iowa City how are you feeling tonights” thrown out there, but it seemed rather subpar and insincere.

Despite not actively including the audience in the set, 311 did bust out a few tunes the crowd really took to. Take the band’s rendition of “Amber.” The song, originally released in 2001 on 311’s album From Chaos. Here’s some useless information: The track is about Hexum’s former fiancée Nicole Scherzinger of Pussycat Dolls fame. “Amber” had a real reggae vibe to it, which was completely different from the other crowd pleaser, “Down.”

“Down” was more of a rock-fused-with-rap styled tune and definitely one of my favorites. Judging from the screams of joy emanating from the crowd “Down” was one of its as well. The hit comes straight off 311’s 1995 self-titled album. The track is one of the band’s most widely recognized, probably thanks in part to its reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, as well as being one of the songs responsible for helping push 311 into the mainstream.

One thing is for sure: The members of 311 proved they could play their instruments. Several highlights included solo guitar, bass, and drums. Though bassist P-Nut — who was featured during the encore — and guitarist Tim Mahoney did fantastic jobs, drummer Chad Sexton was the standout. His drumming was not only kick-ass as a solo, it was mesmerizing when he was joined by every other member of 311 banging drums and cymbals along with him.

If there is one thing that really bothered me throughout 311’s concert, it’s that I couldn’t classify the band’s sound. Technically speaking, the quintet classifies itself as reggae fusion. However, sometimes it seemed to be hard-core rock, but then it would have more of a reggae vibe to it. To add to that, Martinez threw some rapping into the mix. Though I thought the sound was a complete mess, it does say a lot about the band and its ability to create a strong following with such a shitstorm of sounds.

Hexum looked quite studly in his white T-shirt, and he had a great stage presence to back up his fantastic vocals, but Martinez was just a massive tool. I mean, really, the guy was jumping around stage doing awkward dance moves that were just plain annoying. Not to mention that his voice is rather high-pitched and no match for the deep, sexy voice of reggae-rocker Hexum.

So here’s the thing: 311’s concert wasn’t bad. Am I in love with the band? No. Did I mind spending a night listening to it rock it onstage? Not at all. And I wasn’t even stoned.


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