This mainstay of the ‘90s alternative scene is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, but it showed no signs of slowing down during its encore Sunfest performance. The show started with “HomeBrew”, followed by the reggae/rock classic “Beautiful Disaster.” More hits followed: “All Mixed Up”, and the band’s hit reggae version of The Cure’s “Lovesong.”
Frontman Nick Hexum is also one of the band’s two guitarists, so for his time singing he was usually parked in front of a mike stand. But his being stationary was made up for by rapper/vocalist Doug “S.A.” Martinez, who bounced around the stage while singing, sometimes shaking a tambourine.
Occasionally, S.A. did stand still himself, though, to deliver some tight harmonies. Bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills also provided some visual flair, with the LED inlays of his instrument.
The band played its alt-rock material loudly, but it would shift gears to suit the softer songs. From the opening guitar riff for “Amber”, all drenched in effects and reverb, the mellow dub was truly hypnotic. And “Come Original” was a nice marriage of the band’s rock and reggae sides.
One dramatic band tradition is the group drum solo for “Applied Science”, where mini drum-kits and even a gong are pulled onstage so that every member has something to bang on. But the result is far from ragged, as 311 proved to be a tightly coordinated drum corps.
The set concluded with a three-song encore. “Omaha Stylee”, a rap/rock homage to its Nebraska roots, began with a sample of Big Youth’s classic line “Wake the town, tell the people!”
During the ballad “Beyond The Gray Sky”, the band encouraged the concertgoers to hold up lighters or cellphones “or anything that lights up.” Final song of the night was “Down”, apparently another group tradition.
Overall, this performance seemed better than the group’s 2009 Sunfest debut, and not nearly as noisy. Perhaps this is a melodic mellowing with age.