311 and The Green at the Hard Rock Live in O-Town

By on July 30, 2015

 

photo by Will Ogburn

photo by Will Ogburn

It’s been a while since I came out to Hard Rock for a show, and a 311 + The Green was the perfect occasion. The place was sold out; friends took selfies in the corridors and raised a toast at one of the venue’s many bars. A wispy cloud of ganja smoke drifted through the floor as the crowd waited for The Green to take the stage.

This double barrel of a show featured a link between American reggae’s past and its future. 311 were the old-timers here; the multi-platinum selling band came into the show celebrating their 25th year together. The Green have only existed since 2009, but they erupted onto the music scene by topping Billboards Reggae charts for 69 straight weeks with their self-titled album.

photo by Will Ogburn

photo by Will Ogburn

The Green

 

The mellow bros from Hawaii set the tone for the evening with their opening track “Love and Affection”. Frontman Caleb Keolanui’s voice and disposition were as relaxing as the Maui breeze as he spoke of his lady in the highest regard.

Next came “Good Vibration”, a prototypical roots reggae song with a slow relaxed tempo. A similar song, and one of The Green’s biggest hits “Love I” followed quickly. Drummer Jordan Espinoza controlled the paced riddims as the bands chorus of members sang in unison. The Green did a great job throughout the night of making everything fluid, from their harmonies within a song to the transitions between them.

Covers were an interesting part of the setlist, as The Green channeled both Minnie Riperton and Bob Marley for the crowd in Orlando. Minnie’s “Lovin’ You” was adapted into a fun islandy style that fit the theme of the show. Even though it was kind of out of left field, it actually seemed like an original track to most in the building (including myself) that hadn’t heard it before. The second cover was Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up”, a classic among the reggae community. Keolanui knew how to relate to the fans by paying tribute to the GOAT, they sang along and danced into the night.

For the encore, The Green rolled out “Alone”. The track is a hodgepodge of reggae, Hawaiian music, and something that sounds kind of like a Legend of Zelda remix. “Alone” is my personal favorite of the set because of the beat as well as the energy contained within the notes. By this point, Keolanui was dripping with sweat and it was slinging off the dreads of guitarist Zion Thompson.

They ended the show with “Good One” off of their latest record Hawaii 13’. The song, fitting for the end of a show, talks about waking up the night after a party and not remembering anything. This easy-going track was a great way to cap off a solid performance by a band that is quickly becoming one of the new faces of reggae.

 

311

 

By this point, the place was absolutely packed. The crowd overloaded the pit and spilled out into the halls. That thin cloud of smoke had become an L.A. pollution style fog that sat at eye level as I waited off to the side for the cue to enter the photo pit.

“3, 11, 3, 3, 11” someone in the crowd began to chant. When a band has been at it for 25 years, hypemen are optional – the people were already whipped into a frenzy when the band took the stage.

They walked out to thunderous applause and got right to it, opening with “Transistor Intro” from their 1997 album Transistor. This track feel like it should’ve been written by early-era Rush, with a spacey feel and a chugging guitar-heavy intro. After a couple minutes of shredding, vocalist Nick Hexum began to emphatically coo some reggae vocals on top of the track for a sound unique to 311.

Next up was “Homebrew”, a song so old that the used to play between breaks of Beavis and Butthead on MTV. This song captures a moment in time when 311 were truly in their element, with retro guitar stylings of Hexum and Nick Mahoney combined with elements of both rock and rap. This song is where the audience truly got to meet vocalist/rapper/tambourine man Doug “SA” Martinez, who danced like a wild man through the rest of the show.

311 treated the fans to three heavy-hitters to start off with, going next to “Beautiful Disaster”, the main single off of Transistor. The distorted vocals/guitar give the song a trippy feel, while the ever-present metal-ish riffs give it a decidedly 311 flair. The group has a ton of musical range thanks to multitalented band members Hexum, Martinez, and drummer Chad Sexton who also handles programming.

Another highlight was “Come Original”, a hit off of their 1999 album Soundsystem. This track brought us back to a confusing point in American music history where frosted tips reigned supreme and guys like Fred Durst were part of pop culture. The hypnotic chorus, as well as the steady guitar makes this song one of my favorites. If not for the heaviness of the guitar, this is the kind of song that makes you want to skank.

In the middle of the show, the band exited the stage and Sexton started whaling on the drums. It started off sounding like the drummer favorite “Wipeout” by the Surfaris, but then morphed into a freeform playground for him to create. The surprise came when several massive drumming rigs were brought onto the stage and the band rejoined Sexton with each one hammering away in a different style. Smiles adorned their faces as the friends played off of one another and created on giant drummer jam.

The band got silent and the crowd followed them – a golden light began to shine on the crowd and they erupted into cheers. They knew it was mellowest and most popular song of the day: Amber. The amber light rotated around the crowd as they danced, sang, and smoked long. When the song finished, the lights went out. Hexum asked everyone to hold up their lighters/phones and the result was amazing. The whole venue lit up like the night sky.

After that barrage of activity, 311 were still far from done. The band came up from blackness with only one light illuminating bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills. He began ripping into a funk filled bass solo that landed somewhere between the intro to “Killing in the Name” and the Seinfeld theme song. The crowd loved it because…I mean really how often do you hear a bass solo, and it was a pretty good one at that.

The last track before the encore was probably their second most popular, “Drown”. The angsty, catchy track would go well in the soundtrack to an American Pie movie. It’s a short song with more of a pop feel than the typical 311 track, but it became iconic for a generation of kids just trying to figure it out. This was another track that the crowd sang along throughout, instead of just feeling the music.

 

After the break came the heavily instrumental “Let the Cards Fall”, followed by the energetic and audience-involved “Creatures”. SA Martinez rocked and contorted his body while rapping. He waved his hands, jumped, danced, and did all other things that made him resemble either a man who really loves his job, or one who’s been temporarily possessed by a spirit from the great beyond.

After their set, Hexum and SA came back out bearing gifts. Drumsticks, guitar picks, and whatever else they seemed to have came flowing out of their coffers in a show of appreciation for the fans. After they were done, 311’s official hype man came out and started the 311 chant I talked about earlier. He danced and held up the numbers 3-1-1 on his fingers while the crowd erupted in the cheers of a night well spent.

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