311 (pronounced three eleven), the rock, reggae, rap group from Omaha, Nebraska, packed in the crowd like a rush hour subway at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair on Saturday October 28. Coming off a full summer tour behind their 2017 album “Mosaic,” the band continued right into fall. This is the first time they’ve done a fall tour in seven years.
Before the show began the line to enter was two blocks down the street from the 2,200 capacity theater. Fans sporting 311 shirts, hats, socks,and even pants, jumped up and down to keep warm in the cool fall night. Many fans not decked in 311 apparel came in costume to celebrate Halloween’s fast approach. Outfits included 80’s hair metal band, cats, skeletons, and, of course, people dressed as the members of 311 itself.
311 is named after the police code for “indecent exposure” in their hometown of Omaha, and is made up of Nick Hexum (Vocals/Guitar), SA Martinez (Vocals/DJ), P-Nut (Bass), Tim Mahoney (Guitar), and Chad Sexton (Drums/Percussion). Dubbed “The Beatles of Rap Rock” by news host John Oliver, 311 started in 1990. They have 14 studio albums with all five original members still in the band. Twenty-seven years later, they are kings of live performance.
Vocalist SA Martinez talked with The VOICE and explained his straightforward view about why 311 is a success, “We enjoy what we do, it comes down to that.”
As the stage was being set, fans began to chant, “3 -11 – 3 – 3 – 11.” The stage went black and everyone in the room started screaming, raising fists and beers in the air. The 311 logo appeared on the screen behind the band as they walked on the stage.
They took their place and began their 2 hour, 24 song, in your face, non-stop show. Having 14 albums worth of material to choose from, 311 creates a one of a kind setlist each night selecting songs spanning through their career.
Martinez told The VOICE: “We have a lot of fans who come to [see us] multiple times in a tour, so we don’t want to give them the same show every night, and we don’t want to play the same show every night. We like to switch things up.”
As Hexum roared into the mic, “New Jersey!” the walls and floor began to shake. Then the intro guitar lick rolled into the band’s 1993 hit, “Do You Right.” At that point, two mosh pits opened up. Fans were soon flying back and forth, jumping to the beat, and moving to the rhythm. The momentum only quickened as the band jumped into their 1999 hit, “Come Original.”
Next they tried out a new song from their new album, Mosaic, “Perfect Mistake”.
The crowd knew every word and by the time the chorus came, the entire crowd sounded like a choir that had joined the band. This is one of the five songs off Mosaic that was produced by John Feldmann, who also produced Blink-182’s 2016 album, California and also the lead singer and guitar player of the ska band, Goldfinger.
Martinez explained, “We worked with [Feldmann] three quarters of the way through making the album. We never switched things up like that, and he had a different approach. It was a 180 shift of how we operate, but we’re most likely going to continue with him in other directions in the future.”
As soon as the band shifted back to older material and played their 1997 hit, “Beautiful Disaster” the mosh pits re-formed and heads started banging.
Marisa Falsetti, a nursing major student at Mercer and 311 fan told The VOICE, “311 shows are the most exhilarating concerts I’ve ever been too. It’s more than the music. It’s the performance they give at each concert. They connect with the audience in a way that not every artist can. They show they’re having fun with the fans and you can feel the positive energy they give off. Everyone is together enjoying the moment, dancing, letting loose, and not having a care in the world.”
311 is known for the way it incorporates its brand into the concert experience, producing, among other things, their own 311 Amber Ale to go with the hit song of the same name. They also have a 311 branded vape pen, “Uplifter,” a 311 cruise in which they take fans on a weekend cruise to a tropical island, and a their own holiday, March 11th (3/11) of course.
Martinez explained the importance of the fans in the process of making the Mosaic album cover and “Till the City’s on Fire” music video saying, “We are a several decades entity at this point, you don’t get that far just on your charm. You need a big net of support and our fan base is that for us. So honestly, it was a nod to them for being with us for so long, and making them feel a whole part of this whole process.”
Playing the 2001 hit, “Amber,” Mahoney made a groovy, Grateful Dead sound with his guitar, while Martinez provided harmonies underneath Hexum’s melody. The audience was led into a sing-a-long while dancing under the blue and yellow lighting projected around the theater.
311 ended their set with the 1995 hit, “Down,” their 2017 song “One and the Same,” and their 1993 song “Unity.” Hexum dedicated these to “the old school 311 fans,” showing the band still goes back to their music roots.
Elizabethtown graduate and Yardville resident Noah Rusnak said, “This was my fourth time seeing 311 and I’ve been impressed with variety of music and energy they put in at each show. The set was energetic and the crowd reflected the energy of the band.”
What is next for 311? Martinez hinted, “We’ve made some changes in our organization and things are lined up for now and we feel like we need to get back in the studio to make another record. We’re grateful to be where we’re at.” Not having a time for the arrival on a new album he did say, “We’re going to try to come with another one relatively soon.”
As the band left the stage Nick Hexum said one last thing, “Stay positive and love your life”- quoting the song “Unity,” adding that “311 is down for the unity. Unanimity is down for the unity.”