If I had to make one overarching generalization about human behavior based solely on the recent Sublime with Rome and 311 show at the Santa Barbara Bowl, it would look something like this: People prefer the familiar; give them a tune they know versus something they’ve never heard, and chances are they will go bonkers for the former.
Lucky for the near-capacity and generally quite enthused Sunday evening crowd, both Sublime with Rome and 311 are quite adept at delivering both familiar and beloved jams. As the Bradley Nowell-less Sublime rocketed through a set list composed almost entirely of the genre-bending, hyper-brilliant catalog penned by their late frontman, the audience—an all-ages blend with a definitive affinity for tasteful arm tattoos and hipster fedoras—ate them up joyously in big clouds of cannabis smoke. Songs like “Santeria,” “Wrong Way,” “Summer Time” (the saxophone of which was certainly something worth remarking), “What I Got,” and “Date Rape” all caused full-on, Bowl-wide sing-alongs, and even the occasional mosh pit. However, when the tunes took a turn toward the new—specifically Sublime’s singles off their new studio album—folks were not nearly as impressed. “Take It or Leave It” and “She’s a Murderer,” though not entirely bad, sounded pedestrian when stacked up next to the old-school Sublime hits.
The headliners provided no exception to my hypothesis. Anything but strangers to the Bowl, the boys from 311—who seem to have played here virtually every year since our little sandstone amphitheater first opened—put on a show Sunday night as energetic and inspired as perhaps they have ever done before for the Santa Babylon crowd. From “Beautiful Disaster” to “Amber” to “Come Original,” 311 was all bounce and energy, injecting just enough edge in their staple hits to inspire a whole new generation of teenage fans to go out and get a speeding ticket while driving their parent’s car.
Though they didn’t elicit quite the same “Wow, this really misses the mark” reactions as Sublime’s new songs, 311’s cuts from their recently released Universal Pulse (“Time Bomb,” “Sunset in July”) seemed to fall a bit short for the crowd. Heads were bobbing and beer was being spilled, but not many seemed motivated to aim their cameras and press “record.” All of this was quickly forgotten, though, as bassist P-Nut embarked on a truly epic solo, and the ganja smoke rose once again into the flashing blue lights of the stage. The audience, now grooving on something they knew by heart, took a collective step back into the bliss, screaming with pleasure and raising their phones in the now universal sign of concertgoing approval.