By Julissa Trevino
After over two years of missing their live shows, I finally saw my favorite band 311 again on Nov. 27 at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom. Just like the other four times I’ve seen them, 311 didn’t fail to put on a good live show (they’re actually quite known for their live performances, which often sound better than their albums)—the band’s energy and interesting set lists, as well as their loyal fan base, makes each and every show special and thrilling.
The band began their set that Friday night with “Sick Tight,” a great hard-hitting opener from their 2001 album From Chaos that really got me in the mood for the 20 plus songs that followed. They went on to play classics like “Down,” “Freak Out” and “Applied Science”—the perfect sing-alongs for the crowd.
A small venue for a band that’s been around 20 years—with a capacity of about 3,000—the Hammerstein Ballroom opera house, which features a two-tier balcony, proved to be perfect for 311. The crowd on the floor was intimate, singing along and dancing (and occasionally trying to mosh): these were real 311 fans. When I showed up to stand in line two hours before the doors opened, there were already about 10 to 15 people waiting in front of me, and more gathered soon after. Early arrival would ensure a spot up against the rail, squeezed in front of other sweaty fans and loving every minute of it.
The sound at the venue was right on, and each member of the band was definitely into the show that night, dancing and jumping around, smiling and coming up to the fans.
Along with their staples, they played several songs from their 1993 Music, like “Plain,” and a new mix for this tour: a 311 “medley” of about five minutes that combines the happy slam-dance songs “Do You Right,” “Don’t Stay Home” and “Hive.” While the three songs all have completely different melodies and rhythms—from a funky groove with “Do You Right” to the straight rock/rap combo of “Hive”—the blend was an interesting and fresh idea for 311, but I have to admit I had a hard time keeping up my own singing in the switch between songs.
Besides their non-stop energy on stage, the band mixes up their set list each night to include a few rarities to please the fans. This time it was “Jackolantern’s Weather,” and the crowd grooved to every beat perfectly.
Two albums completely absent from that night’s show, though, were Soundsystem (1999) and Don’t Tread On Me (2005). Soundsystem includes a few favorites of mine I would’ve loved to hear. What I did hear was four songs from their latest album Uplifter (2009), one of my least favorite records by 311. It felt weird to not know the lyrics to the songs from start to finish. But even these songs, disappointing compared to the rest of the band’s collection, sounded great live.
As usual, the band went off stage after playing their set list, we called them back, chanting “three eleven, three, three, eleven” over and over again, and they came back to play two or three more songs. This show, they played the “medley” and “Feels So Good,” though unfortunately Nick Hexum, one of the singers and guitarists, didn’t stage dive for it like he often does.
After leaving the show, sweaty and completely in love again with my favorite band of over 10 years, I debated for several hours whether I should stay in the city and go back to hear them play the next night at the Hammerstein again. For whatever reason, I didn’t stay. Late the next night, I would come to hear that the Saturday show was “crazy” and “better” than the Friday show. What the fuck was I thinking not staying
Still, for as long as they’ll last, I’ll proudly display the several bruises I have on my arms from being pressed up against the rail: Why yes, I did get these at the 311 show. Thanks for asking.