311: A Pot-Smoker Convention?

The doors to the 311/Matisyahu concert didn’t open until six, but that wasn’t soon enough for some fanatics who had been drinking and drugging in the parking garages since probably around…3:11. Everyone was crowding and pushing, trying to get to the front of the line, chanting, “Three-eleven, three-eleven.”
The doors opened, and everyone went through a security checkpoint. They were confiscating cameras, weapons, drugsÂ…the usual. Apparently, they werenÂ’t searching very hard, because everyone inside the show was lighting up a joint or a bowl while dropping acid and gobbling up XTC.
Security was drifting through the crowd, but I only saw one guy get busted. He was toking-up on a one-hitter when the security guy grabbed him on the shoulder, saying, “Put that out. This is your warning.”
Ooo! Look out! Not a warning; anything but that!

The guard neglected to see the group of kids behind him, laughing it up as they puffed on a joint, then blew the smoke at him. The guard also failed to see the guy lying on the ground next to me with his eyes rolling to the back of his skull, or the girl in front of me vomiting into a plastic cup.

There were so many people on the floor in front of the stageÂ… The floor area was plenty big enough for everyone down there, but everyone wanted to get closer. Eventually, I was sandwiched between two, big, sweaty ParkviewBaptistHigh School offensive linemen. A pair of breasts was pressed up against my back. The guy in front of me wore a backwards Saints cap that would hit me in the face every time the crowd moved.

Then this other guy next to me looked like he was about to die. He was pale-faced and oozing sweat at an alarming rate. His face was blank, and his half-open eyes stayed focused forward. He was standing when the concert started, but thirty minutes into 311Â’s set, he was down on the floor, sitting Indian-style in a puddle of beer and cigarette butts, rocking back and forth with his head in his hands. Eventually, some of his friends escorted him out of the crowd.

As soon as the lights went down in the arena to start the show, a cloud of marijuana smoke enveloped the crowd. It was like someone threw smoke bombs right into the audience. Looking up at the balcony, you could see flickers of lighters lighting up around the arena – tiny orange flares, only lasting a second or two, just long enough to light up a spliff or a bowl. It was truly a remarkable scene: 1500-2500 people, all smoking illegal drugs in unison.

Particle was the first act to go on. They played some space-age, rock-type music. If I was going to fight someone to the death on the moon, this music would probably be playing in my head. It was about 20 or 30 minutes of intense, crazy, space music. The keyboardist was going nuts. He was bouncing up and down, throwing his long hair and beard around, never missing a note.

The band was interesting and entertaining, but they only sang for one song. The rest of their set was just an instrumental jam session in outer space. At one point, Matisyahu, the true opening act for 311, came out onstage and did a song with Particle.

I had never heard of Matisyahu until earlier that day, but everyone who had heard or seen him had nothing but good things to say. I was talking to a friend at the bar earlier that day. “No, I’m not going to the concert. I’ve seen 311 three hundred and eleven times. I might just go see Matisyahu beat-box and leave after that,” he said.

Matisyahu took the stage in front of a big curtain reading “MATISYAHU.” The style of this Hasidic Jewish performer can only be described as fast, funky, reggae, jam music. He would reggae-skip around the stage. Some random guy ran out from backstage during one song to join in on the funky dancing that was happening on the stage. Overall, Matisyahu put on a great show. His style is original and captivating.

From the balcony, you could see everyone in the floor section bobbing their heads to the beat. The lights from the stage passed over the crowd below like waves of blue and orange. The bass was hitting so hard that my chest was rattling.

At one point in the performance, he started beat-boxing. This was probably the highlight of the show. Matisyahu is a true master of vocal percussion. If I would’ve closed my eyes, it would’ve sounded like a five-minute drum solo – and not just a mediocre drum solo, but a sweet one.

After a brief intermission, the “MATISYAHU” curtain dropped to reveal a much larger stage. Smoke from the fog machines clouded the stage as members of 311 took their positions.

The show was short and sweet compared to 311’s performance on 311 day in 2004. Back then, it was about five hours worth of music and circus attractions, like a guy riding a tricycle while juggling bowling pins and spitting fire. But this time, they only played for about an hour and a half, and they played exactly what the audience wanted to hear. Their performances included: “Come Original,” “Amber,” “Transistor,” and their version of The Cure’s “Love Song.”

After 311 left the stage, the crowd started chanting, “Who’s got the herb? Who’s got the herb? Who’s got the herb?”

The fog machines began to pour smoke onto the stage and the crowd. Then the audience erupted, as the stage lit up with green lights and lead singer Nick Hexum’s voice echoed through the auditorium, “Who’s got the herb?”

Lighters started to flicker and joints began circulating through the pit. After about two minutes, the fog machines were obsolete. The auditorium was filled with the smoke of about 2000 joints.

“This last one is for the true 311 fans from back in the day,” said Hexum. “This one’s called ‘Down.’”

Music exploded from the speakers, and everyone in the crowd began to jump and bounce and sing along: “…You know that we have always been down, down…”

It was a suitable ending, but the overall production was lacking. I didn’t think the music was loud enough. I was thirty feet from the stage, and I was able to hold an “inside voice” conversation with the guy next to me. I should have had to scream for him to hear me. Also, the attendance was lacking. The arena wasn’t even half-full, but that had nothing to do with 311. The show was good, but not great.