311 Bring Unity to Atlanta With a Little Help From Their Friends
One band that I’ve been interested in seeing for a couple years now is 311. And I finally got that chance when I purchased tickets to this show with my own money. I’m fairly positive that this is the sixth installment of 311’s Unity Tour, although I could be wrong. I know that last year’s Unity Tour featured Sublime w/ Rome
And Lambert which I missed because we were out of town for that one. But last night I was able to catch not only 311, but also Slightly Stoopid and the supremely underrated LA group The Aggrolites, whom I saw open for Social Distortion last year.
This show took place on July 21st 2012 at Aaron’s Amphitheater in Atlanta, which is a venue I’d never been to before. Located right next to a high school (not even kidding) the entrance to the venue appears without much warning and the venue itself is just sort of…. there. But parking was free and easy, it wasn’t too crowded; so far a great concert experience compared to some I’ve been to.
The doors opened at 5:30 which, conveniently enough, is the exact time we got there. We walked in and got barely frisked by the guards and procured our pit bracelets. The Aggrolites were set to play from 6:30 to 7 and we had a little bit of time to kill, during which we bought our merch and made our way to the pit to check everything out.
The pit area was small and really the whole amphitheater itself was pretty small compared to some that I’ve been to in Washington. The lawn towards the back was huge, but there were maybe a couple hundred seats and maybe a 100-200 capacity pit at the most. Fortunately, the weather was nice—although Atlanta in July isn’t exactly cold weather—for some good vibes and other reggae-based cliches.
As expected, The Aggrolites graced the stage at 6:30 sharp and opened up their set with “Free Time.” They had great energy for an opening band. Their sound isn’t exactly built for an amphitheater setting, but they certainly made it work, encouraging sing-a-longs the likes of which I’ve never seen from an opening band. They finished off their 30 minute set with a great cover of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” during which they invited everyone to sing along to the chorus, which they did. The band sounded great, as always, and were a great warmup act for the bands we all wanted to see.
About 20 minutes after The Aggrolites’ set ended, Slightly Stoopid and all its 8 members hit the stage for an instrumental intro followed by “Till It Gets Wet.” Singers Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald traded instruments a couple times throughout the set, one usually taking bass while the other sings and plays guitar, depending on the song. They played a few of their hits like “Anywhere I Go” and “Closer To the Sun,” as well as a few songs from their upcoming album Top Of The World. They even threw in their cover of “Leaving On a Jet Plane” as well as a cover of “Express Yourself” (the Charles Wright song, not the NWA song) to end the set. I also noted how during one of the horn solos I could hear a tease of the “riff” from “Yeah” by Ludacris, which you have to play if you’re in Atlanta.
Slightly Stoopid played a very impressive set. It was about an hour long and ridiculously chill. After a 30 minute wait, the lights went down (it was pitch black in the pit) and the men of 311 hit the stage. Nick started playing what I could only assume was the intro to “Down,” because that was the first song of the set, but no sound was coming out of his guitar, nor was any coming out of Tim’s guitar. SA began rapping his verse of the song and not much sound was coming out of his mic either. Really the only elements of the show that sounded good were Nick’s mic, the bass, and the drums. Everything else was not nearly loud enough. And that didn’t really improve at all during the rest of the show.
They then broke into “Large In the Margin” from their Soundsystem album. And then, as the sun set, they played the very appropriate “Sunset In July” from last year’s stellar Universal Pulse album. 311’s setlist is ever-changing, with a revolving door of at least 40 songs that they choose from for each show of the Unity Tour. During one of their songs (I wanna say it was “From Chaos”, but that’s just a guess) drummer Chad Sexton went into an awesome drum solo, during which a few mini drum kits, two gongs, and a bass drum were rolled onto the stage for the rest of the band members to jam on. After Chad’s solo ended, all 5 members went into a drumline-esque performance, eventually going back into the chorus of the song they were playing.
311 played pretty equally from all their albums, even throwing in a cover of “Leaving Babylon” by Bad Brains. After they performed “Amber,” P-Nut broke into his highly anticipated bass solo. P-Nut is an astounding bass player and did a really cool slapping thing, but compared to greats like Les Claypool and Flea, he’s not the greatest.
They ended their set with “Beautiful Disaster,” which actually was the best sounding song of the night in terms of sound coming out of the instruments. They came out for an encore of “Outside,” “Hydroponic,” and “Creatures (For a While)” before leaving the stage and barely making their 10:30 end time. 311 played an impressively great show that was way better than I was expecting. It was a great concert experience too, with no moshing that I could see and no crowd-surfing whatsoever. That might be a general rule for the venue, but perhaps people decided to not suck for once.
After the show, I came to the conclusion that 311 are just like Phish. 311 have had more mainstream success, but probably not enough to keep them an amphitheater band for so many years. They have a huge cult following and don’t need praise from critics to keep them a happy and fully functional unit. And I saw a guy with a shirt after the show that said “311 Is My Religion.” I think that’s all you need to know to really understand how big this band is, regardless of lyrical quality or poor sound mixing. And that’s all that matters.
SETLIST: Down, Large In The Margin, Sunset In July, Purpose, You Wouldn’t Believe, Freeze Time, Lose, Who’s Got The Herb?, From Chaos, Applied Science, Flowing, Rock On, India Ink, Amber, Bass Solo, Nutsymtom, Rub A Dub, Crack The Code, Leaving Babylon, Jackpot, Beautiful Disaster ENCORE: Outside, Hydroponic, Creatures (For A While)