Despite the recent departure of the Olympic fever, the Commodore Ballroom was alive and well last night. The Nebraska natives, 311, brought the house down in an outstanding performance. Opening the show were The Wailers, the all around good time reggae originals, with their peace and love code. The contrast of energy between the two acts added a great angle to the night. Overall it was good music, good times and great fun.
The Wailers were set to take the stage at 9:00pm but were running on Rastafari time. Clouds of happiness followed them on to the stage as they took over the venue. With the historic influence this band has bestowed on the music world, the crowd was definitely excited when they took the stage. The set list was a compilation of most everyone’s Marley favorites, sung near exact to the original recording; with Jamaican accent and all. From big time hits like I Shot The Sheriff to such lesser known pieces as Don’t Rock My Boat; it made for a magical set. Looking over the audience, it was easy to see that the reception of this band was amazing. A series of Caucasian men with their gangster hands bouncing to the base line. The Wailers amazed the crowd, and as the smoke cleared it was easy to see why.
After a longer than normal interlude the main act stormed the stage. 311 was set to start at 10:30 but didn’t start until five minutes to eleven. The wait was worth it. The lead singer, Nick, was powerful and swooned the fans from the get go. His charismatic rapport had the floor feeding from his hand within the first few songs. The supporting vocalist, SA, was intense and energetic, leaping around on the stage like a demon. The music secreted from his pours and saturated his clothing. Immediately his vivid display spread to the crowd. Combined with Nick’s charisma, it is definitely a one, two punch.
The drummer, Chad, was set up with a huge kit perched on a 3 foot riser. Buried behind a wall of cymbals and skins; the feint shadows of his feverish rhythms were evident. The bassist, Aaron, was playful and held his own musically. His reggae beat was heavy and deep. Throughout the night he exchanged funny faces with the fans before him. Tim, the lead guitarist, is over the top. At his feet was a plethora of foot pedals; a miniature sea of tiny little robots. He too played with intensity and pure sincerity. The band was tight and brought everything to the show. Historically, this is the norm for them, they are true musicians. Never have I heard stories of 311 having a bad performance, they are pure.
The set list was the norm, no obscure rarities, just hits and great feel good piece in between. The stage setup was very minimalist with the exception of the monstrous drum kit sitting on that 3 foot perch. 311 is a band that succeeds because of its attitude. They do not show up to play a gig because they are getting paid. They show up to rock the house off its foundation. Their love and passion for the art is evident in every note they play or lyric they sing. This is contagious, the people in attendance catch it like a fever. Overall they play an amazing show, they have huge staying power and I am sure they will be around for a few decades to come.
Some bands are fleeting and only sell tickets because they are popular at the moment. 311 is not one of those bands, they put it all out there and play for the music. I suggest seeing them live. Their albums are amazing but you cannot capture what they bring to a live show. Next time this band is in town, get out your credit card, its time to rock.
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Photographs by Jamie Taylor