Leaving UCSB’s Events Center on Tuesday night, it dawned on me that I had just experienced a mass catharsis. Perhaps a slightly dramatic way to describe a smallish Tuesday – night concert. Still, the Associated Students – sponsored “From Chaos” tour – opened by Alien Ant Farm and headlined by 311 – was a heaven-sent purgation from the festering ulcer that midterms week had become.
I really had no business being at that concert. Never being much of a 311 or Alien Ant Farm junkie, I attempted to cleverly camouflage myself amid a small throng of boys wearing bright 311 t-shirts and gratuitously spiked hair. Maybe no one would notice that I had never purchased a single 311 CD but still had the gall to attend its concert.
There was no mistaking the “intense amounts of herb” infiltrating the venue as we made our way to a central spot only five yards from the stage. Never having been to a show in the Events Center before, I was secretly smug about my proximity to the makeshift stage.
Oh … if only I had known the price I was to pay for that closeness.
As the venue filled up, the faces merged into a homogenous sea of people: young, white boys and even younger looking white girls, all showered in a rainbow of name brand skater/snowboard clothing. Except, that is, for one young woman wearing a mesh black “T-shirt” that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Thank God for the strategically placed Band-Aids. The pre-concert commotion came to a veritable halt as she sauntered her way to the front.
Before I could begin dry-heaving at the sight of the strings from her shirt being tied to her back piercings, the lights dimmed and on came the eerie, extra-galactic music signaling the opening act – the kings of pop-covers, Alien Ant Farm.
While their initial tidal wave of “Smooth Criminal” success has quelled slightly, the AAF boys have managed to stay afloat with their second single, “Movies.” They took the stage with little fanfare and hurdled immediately into their show.
Initially, I was unimpressed with AAF’s lack of ability to rock a crowd. I had heard nothing but rave reviews of their live performances but could see only a few die-hard fans thrashing about like dying fish in the front row as AAF ripped through with up-tempo guitar crunches. That’s when it happened.
I found my semi-fragile body being pumelled as though some concert deity had heard my nagging doubts, lifted the audience up and into a giant Cuisinart and then pressed “Whip.” I tried in vain to retain some proprietorship over my extremities as I told myself, “This was what being a music lover was really all about.”
“Anyone who appreciates the energy of live performance would just let go and enjoy this!”
” I think I just punctured my gallbladder…again.”
I hacked my way through a jungle of throbbing bodies to find a clearing where I could get a better view. Lead singer Dryden Mitchell appeared a bit Billy Corgan-esque with his trademark “notch” shaven off. He stamped and fluttered about the stage, smacking his face and forearms as he entangled with his bandmates. Bassist Tye Zamora stole the show. Colossal and cartoonish, Zamora’s facial expressions, tongue wagging, and pantomiming were enough to rev the engine of all in attendance. The crowd seemed to find no displeasure in this and giddily jumped about as Mitchell proclaimed, “This is a jumping song!” before “Sticks and Stones.”
The crowd, apparently as unfamiliar with the set list as myself, was given a chance to join in when they performed “Movies,” the highpoint of AAF’s performance. Knowing it was the secret weapon of their arsenal, they held back “Smooth Criminal” until the last song when the crowd was practically begging for it. But there was a definite staleness to the performance, as though you could feel just how sick these boys were of being pigeonholed by the damn cover song that took them to number one.
If this crowd hadn’t already begun to sweat out every index card of memorization and caffeine pill of the last week with AAF, they did with 311. Stunning platinum-blond lead singer Nick Hexum took the stage wearing a collared shirt that remained on for only a fraction of the show (thank-you concert deity), and they jumped right into a few of their old-skool hits, including “All Mixed Up.” It took only a few moments for their bouncing guitars and tight, CD-quality vocals to entice young girls onto their boyfriends’ shoulders, as the rest of us swayed below and admired the now visible g-strings.
311’s Second-in-Command, S.A. Martinez, spewed his helium-induced sounding raps, jumped behind the turntables for some quality scratching and jutted about the stage, while pumping his arms in Nordic-Track fashion.
On “Applied Science,” drummer Chad Sexton was given a good four-minute spotlight to dazzle us with a pounding drum solo, while his mates went off-stage before reappearing with their own drums and drumsticks. A crowd-charging drum circle commenced between the boys – reminiscent of Japanese “Taiko” drumming. A strange Chili Pepper vibe emanated as their mohawked guitarist hopped about and Hexum belted name-makers “Come Original” and “Down,” which he dedicated to “all the Old Skool 311 fans out there.”
All bowls in the house were cashed during the bouncy “Who’s Got the Herb?” Half-shut eyes gleefully admired the drifting, melodic lows and raging, body-slamming highs. But the real turning point for me had to be their performance of an unfamiliar song, “Champagne.” The boys gyrated amid a torrent of tiny bubbles coming from the sides of the stage. Maybe it was the pleasure of seeing Hexum – now wearing only a beater – in a flurry of glittery globules, but I could finally feel myself slowly releasing along with the crowd.
Finally, rallying all remaining energy, the band came to a climax during the encore finale, “Fuck the Bullshit.” Hexum screamed his parting words and stage-dove into an embracing crowd as the Events Center spewed forth copious amounts of colored confetti.
It was, as sophomore business/ economics major Nick Bontrager said after the show, “Utterly musically orgasmic.”
Ahhhh … Has anyone got a cigarette?
Having entered as a 311 novice, I left feeling entranced by its ability to ignite a crowd through a positive reggae and punk mixture.
The oh-too-drunk couple trying to enjoy a tender suck-face moment on top of me was a mere distraction.
Some may feel as though 311 has passed its mid-90s prime, but one would barely guess it after surviving this crowd. Bubbles, confetti and chiseled abs certainly added to the experience, but the showcase of raw talent is what leaves a lasting impression.
Though I was far from racing to the closest record store to stockpile my 311 CD collection, I did feel thoroughly satisfied with my musical outing, although my gallbladder may never forgive me.