311 at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Paul Wellman

311 is like a postcard from a long-lost friend. Taken out of context, they can seem an archaic mixture of vocal harmonies and heavy guitar riffs, rap verses, and stoner anthems, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find the rich history of five schoolmates from Omaha, Nebraska, who are still married to the music they love. Always a positive presence, their annual showing at the Bowl is invariably a PG-rated good time (if you discount their 420-friendliness), and Wednesday night was no exception, thanks to opener Slightly Stoopid and a strong turnout of veteran fans.

If there were any folks less familiar with the band in attendance, Wednesday night’s set was a perfect induction into their long discography. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the band’s fourth full-length, Transistor, and thus their set catered to the longtime fans and (thankfully) neglected newer material. The boys visited From Chaos (“Champagne,” “You Wouldn’t Believe”), Soundsystem (“Come Original,” “Freeze Time”), and, naturally, their beloved 1995 self-titled (“Don’t Stay Home”). As per usual, 311’s formidable rhythm section was given time to strut their solo stuff following an introduction from vocalist Nick Hexum, who called on drummer Chad Sexton to lead the group in their communal drum circle, and singled out bassist P-Nut for a lovely low-end interlude.

After finishing the night with “Down,” it was only fitting that Hexum’s daughter, who turned three that day, should run out into her father’s arms to a cacophony of cheers. Even though 311 is still pulling the same tricks out of their sleeves after all these years, it was reassuring to see that they have not slowed down in the slightest, and neither have their fans.


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