311, the rock band out of Nebraska who, oddly enough, get their name from the Omaha police code for indecent exposure, came to Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk on Saturday, July 16th, to perform all their hits on this year’s incarnation of the band’s long-running Unity Tour. This particular show was a first for me in two regards; it was my first time seeing 311 live, and also my first time at the newly-opened Coney Island Amphitheater, an open-air venue on Coney Island’s boardwalk, next to the famed Steeplechase Pier, that most people don’t know about yet. While the venue left much to be desired, 311 did not.
Now I’ve been familiar with 311 for a good long while. Who isn’t, after all, when the band has its own “holiday” in 311 Day. I never really thought about seeing them live until I got into the business of live music photojournalism and media, and it just so happened that they were performing right in my own backyard (I live about 3 minutes from the venue), so I thought what better opportunity than this summer to get a chance to see them? Last week, we previewed their tour, which you can read about here if you want to familiarize yourself with the band, though I suspect if you’re reading this, you already know.
311 brought their largely rock-based antics out on stage Saturday night before a crowd that mostly appeared to be sold out, and put on an almost two hour, 24-song performance that included a killer bass solo, complete with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, for a setlist that included some of their best songs and a couple of my favorites. Early on, the band rocked out to Come Original and Sunset in July (there’s a bit of irony in there somewhere, as the sun just happened to be setting over Coney Island…in July) before kickin’ it with the aforementioned bad ass bass solo, which was followed immediately by another of the band’s more popular songs, Beautiful Disaster.
Lead singer Nick Hexum is phenomenal live, while his accompanying rap/reggae partner Doug Martinez provides a solid contrast on virtually all of the band’s songs. It’s worth nothing that at one point, I believe it was during Applied Science, multiple drum sets were brought to the stage and the entire band played in unison what was one of the best drum “solos”, for lack of a better term, I’ve ever seen. I knew Chad Sexton was a hell of a drummer, but I was not aware the rest of the band could play like that. Hats off for the drum effort alone, but the fun didn’t stop there.
After rattling off a few more songs, including Feels So Good, the band departed from the stage for a few brief moments before coming out for their encore, playing three more songs including Omaha Stylee and Amber before closing the nearly two hour show with their biggest hit, Down, which was always a good song but sounded even better live, despite the overall poor sound in the venue. At this point, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Matisyahu, who opened the show. That would be because, upon entering the photo pit, we were presented with a release from the band’s tour photographer that asked the 3 media photographers who came out to see him to sign over all copyrights and ownership to him (and not Matisyahu’s management, as is standard) and were very rudely and unprofessionally told that we had “two minutes to sign or get out” – given the language of the release, I elected to “get out” and was forced to listen to the band’s “performance” from outside. Given what I was able to hear, however, Matisyahu (real name Matthew Miller) has absolutely no business performing in front of any type of large crowd. He’s a low-level Jewish reggae “artist” with zero talent who should be performing for stoners in a warehouse in Williamsburg, as I imagine stoners are the only people who could possibly find his “music” pleasing (maybe that’s why the venue reeked of pot after his set?) – the irony here is that “Matisyahu” means “Gift of God” in Hebrew; the only gift is when his set ends and he leaves the stage.
But I digress, and I should really get back to the important part of the show and the only actual musicians in the building on this night: 311, who were absolutely amazing. You should definitely go see them, even if you’re not a fan, because they’re very good entertainers and the drum show alone is worth the price of admission, not to mention the two-hour set that absolutely gives you your money’s worth. 311 put on a very good show, and if they’re coming to a venue near you, I urge you to go see them. I also urge you to arrive AFTER Matisyahu’s set. Your ears will thank you. Check out 311’s setlist from Coney Island Amphitheater after the gallery, as well as their remaining tour dates to find out if they’re coming to your area.
311 setlist July 16, 2016:
Strong All Along
Large in the Margin
Sunset in July
Bass Solo (including Daft Punk’s Get Lucky)
Lovesong (The Cure cover) (with Matisyahu)
Beyond the Gray Sky
Feels So Good