August 3, 2016 311 Unite Coney Island, NY 7-16-16 w/ Matisyahu
If there was ever a band that deserved a tour dubbed “The Unity Tour,” it would be for Nebraska’s own 311. Celebrating their fourteenth year under the moniker in the summer of 2016, unity is more than the name of their tour, it is engraved so deep in the band’s DNA that it would be impossible to think of the five members apart. That unity also reaches out to their fans, many of them whom have religiously followed 311 over the course of eleven studio albums, including their most recent, 2014’s STER3OL1TH1C. For long-time friends and bandmates Nick Hexum (vocals,guitar), Aaron “P-Nut” Willis (bass), Chad Sexton (drums), Tim Mahoney (guitar), and Doug “SA” Martinez (vocals), not much has changed in the sense that they still enjoy going out there each and every night to put on an uplifting exciting concert experience like no other.
With countless hits from their back catalogue at their disposal, 311 is still able to surprise even long time fans after all these years, and this summer’s tour with support from Matisyahu promised to break out some hidden treasures, and of course, those beloved hits. With summer in full swing, the tour, kicking off back on June 29th, found its way to a seemingly fitting location on Saturday, July 16th, Coney Island. A historical entertainment capital of New York City, and America in general, the spot has games, rides, and most importantly, the beach. Add to that the brand new Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk and a 311 show, it was going to be an evening like no other.
On paper, the idea of blending Reggae, Rock, and Hip Hop genres with an Orthodox Jewish theme seems like an an impossible feat. Although, somehow Matthew Paul Miller, the man better known for his Hebrew stage name, Matisyahu, has not only pulled it off, but done so perfectly. That being said, the care and level of detail that goes into each of his tracks is immediately notable. Now on the scene fifteen plus years, Matisyahu is a veteran of his craft, and he was ready to bring his stylings to the stage of Ford Amphitheater.
Each set of Matisyahu’s is different, a fact that entices fans to want to see him perform more than once. Joining Matisyahu to start the set, Mihali Savoulidis of the band Twiddle added an extra layer on guitar and vocals. From there, each song of the setlist came together perfectly knit with a clear level of passion as well as thought with every beat and move. As the band played on stage, Matisyahu danced and sang, entrancing fans to do the same, especially during the colorful “Surrender.” Playing on with songs like “King Without a Crown,” later in the set, Kosha Dillz joined Matisyahu, and the rapper’s lyrics and flow were the perfect complement. By the time the group finished their set, the arena was nearly full with fans cheering in approval over the performance.
With Matisyahu having warmed up the crowd, it was time for 311 to take the stage. As anticipation ran high, fans began chanting “Three Eleven, Three Three Eleven!” Then, the lights began glowing blue as the men took to their spots on the platform to a loud ovation. Ready to deliver a lengthy set, one that would have even the most demanding fan smiling ear-to-ear, 311 opened with “Welcome,” immediately inviting everyone to dance and sing along. Continuing on with “Sick Tight” and “Strong All Along,” soon after fans sang even more loudly for “Come Original” before the segue into “Large In The Margin.”
Like a CD changer on random, they mixed it up with other deep tracks such “Sunset In July,” “Showdown,” and “Champagne.” Best of all, the evening’s end was nowhere in sight as everyone continued to dance around and participate with 311 through every song. Taking advantage of the sizable stage, SA paced its length, taking time to be as close to all the fans as possible. Moving forward with “Time Bomb” and early cut “Lucky,” soon P-Nut had a chance to shine in the spotlight for an extensive bass solo that included some sprinkling in of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
As they approached the halfway point of the show with “Beautiful Disaster,” Matisyahu reappeared on stage with 311 to join them in a delightful cover of The Cure’s ever-famous “Lovesong.” Adding a unique dynamic to 311’s take on the classic summertime tune, Matisyahu took a bow to depart from the stage once more before the band jumped into “Rock On” and then the tranquil “Get Down.” As the latter track concluded, everyone, with the exception of Sexton, left the stage, ushering in a chance for a time in the spotlight behind the drum kit. With the stage all to himself, the talented drummer played to the masses as stage crews set up an assortment of other drums before the rest of 311 soon rejoined, each with drum sticks, and they all began playing in unison. Quite a different addition to a live Rock show, each member even threw drumsticks to each other mid beat of the drum-off to wow the crowd.
With the multi-man drum experience coming to an end, the band moved into “Applied Science” before hitting hard with “Hive,” then the Reggae tingling “Purpose” and “Beyond the Gray Sky.” Much like a roller coaster, with loops and high dips, 311 kept shifting gears, and when they blasted out “Freak Out,” many fans did just that as P-Nut came out close enough for many to touch. Appearing to wrap up the show with “Feels so Good,” educated fans knew better, and as the band left the stage, all once more began the 311 chant, egging on an encore. Not to disappoint, the band soon rejoined, taking a moment to take in the thunderous cheer of the New York crowd. Then, in true 311 fashion, they treated the devoted to “Omaha Stylee,” and fan-favorite “Amber” before closing out with the signature “Down.”
Going with the continued theme of unity, that is just what was felt throughout 311’s entire show; a unity between fans and band. That being said, there is simply no other experience quite like a 311 concert. The fourteenth annual Unity Tour continues to roll through mid-August, with a couple of festivals lined up soon afterwards. Fans looking to take to the waters with 311 can look toward March of 2017 as the band joins others such as Ballyhoo and Reel Big Fish for a Caribbean Cruise. In addition, P-Nut himself reported the band has a new album in the works, so be sure to keep up with the 411 on 311.