Beaching it is often the best thing to do during the summer. What makes the beach life that much better is an ideal pairing of summery music to go along with it. While at the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk last weekend, beachers and music fans were granted a treat of perfect tunes from none other than the legendary 311 with help from the ever cool Matisyahu. Listeners old and new had the most sublime night for some stellar tunes.
That evening was pleasantly cool and relaxed thanks to the early departure of rain that afternoon. However, arriving at Coney Island is always a struggle. Not only is it a long trek on the subways to the far edge of Brooklyn, but even upon arrival, the effort continues. Meandering off the platform with the sweltering heat hitting guests in the face, sweat begins to flow. Heading over to the boardwalk, amidst the strange and ever populous homeless crowd, guests watch their steps from the filthy streets. It is hard not to walk into something questionable under the soles of sandals. Finally, after dodging speeding cars and funneling through staring crowds by the roller coasters, the freedom of the boardwalk is welcomed. It was the best time to arrive to the beach as most of the families were dissipating to head home.
The Ford Amphitheater is a decent sized space and is located right on the boardwalk which is both appealing and unique. Despite the renovations taking place, the scene was organized and energetic. Hardcore 311 fans were all lingering in the VIP entrance and were extremely anxious. After being directed to and fro from the box office, the 311 fans were getting worried about their admittance. It was a wide ranging collection of 30 somethings who proudly wore 311 tattoos, socks, jerseys and t-shirts. They were walking billboards for 311. Luckily, the hippy-like crew were allowed in and immediately claimed their spots at the front, right against the barricades to the stage. Walking past the general admission section gives way to an impressive row of comfortable white cushioned seats all covered by a pale canopy. Bars and vendors lined both sides of the space and were never empty from the thirsty listeners that would later fill the seats. A large American flag hung in the middle of the venue. Funnily enough, fans of the space began to cheer for all of the men operating the lights from above as they climbed the treacherous rope ladder to the top. It was kind of nerve-wracking.
Matisyahu was the first man out to a slowly growing crowd. His crew came out with drinks in hand and a leisurely demeanor followed. Matisyahu had a special guest with him as well, Mihali Savoulidis of Twiddle, who took things off with some mellow tunes. Once Mihali finished his preaching, Matisyahu took control and unleashed some trippy madness. The music had a great thump and shake in the mix compared to his studio recordings. Matisyahu had his greying hair in a bun and wore a dashing sportcoat. Obviously the man was setting the bar high for Coney Island attire. It was a cool blend of unusually relaxed musicians. Drummer, Stu Brooks, wore a hip t-shirt that had the inside of a heart spread across the front. I guess that’s why the drummer is the heartbeat of the band.
Matisyahu made sure to stick to his original brand of musical storytelling while often setting up great bellows of shouts. He cradled the mic with one arm out and the other up top. His singing was enhanced by the low wailing guitars as they lifted the spirits of all in that space. Matisyahu loved to bounce and dance up there which was often imitated with fans in the standing zone. Eventually, his bun loosened the hair began to flow along with his gradually intense music. Together, Matisyahu and his band were supremely comfortable up there. All Matisyahu had sometimes when he was singing was a slow knee jerk action that led him away with his reggae-like lyrics. At times, the drum and bass were a bit overwhelming. During a live show, Matisyahu and crew make sure to extend their songs into elaborate psychedelic trips. In these moments the man kept his eyes closed with a relaxed sway. He had a message and was using every inch of his being to tell it. He was sharing something. As his set came to a close, the droning synths became long and endless with his silent whispers into the microphone. It felt like a prayer session, Stu even used metal chains on the drums to convey the unusual sound. As the epic journey finally accelerated, Kosha Dillz joined Matisyahu and an epic battle began. It was wonderful.
After a brief interlude, the men of 311 were set to begin. All of the lights dimmed and the music began to play. The only lights on stage to be seen were a set of Chad’s four drum set beacons and P-Nut’s bass, which had a line of lights along the neck that received cheers from the crowd upon his arrival. 311 started with some slow tuning. Once that tuning was complete, the music turned into a great bass-jam, full of power. SA and Nick began their classic duo rap groove. 311 has that unique touch with their rap vibes that prompts listeners and fans alike to get bouncing. It is always funky and enjoyable. P-Nut gave fans his signature tongue sticking out of his mouth as he moved rhythmically to the tunes, often lifting his left leg up to tap to the beat. As Nick and SA continued to work their rap banter, it was worth noting the appeal of the awesome contrast between them both. SA had an energetic and happy demeanor while Nick kept it calm and relaxed.
The distortion effect worked for 311. Very few bands can actually pull that off. Chad was probably the man who was totally calm with his beats as Tim made sure to let that wild hair flow with his loud guitar. All of their harmonies went along nicely into the raps that followed. 311, after all these years, still have a ton of spirit. It was easily shared with the crowd with screams of appreciation. Almost every member of the crowd was totally into it, singing along with unbridled passion. Of course, joints were everywhere with puffs of smoke appearing in every corner of the space. By the end of the night, a good percent of the audience would have some mild contact high. 311’s hip-hop and rock mix were perfect. Whether they were on beat or off, it prompted dancing and smiles.
As a whole, 311 is not only entertaining in their music, but their stage presence was visually striking. There was so much energy between each member, it was hard not to share their enthusiasm that night. Nick often sang on a mini podium surrounding his microphone. Poor SA was moving so much that warm evening, that he was dripping with sweat. He made light of it though by wiping of the sweat in an proud robotic dance. He never stopped bustling with energy. If anyone was tired at the start of the night they were full on ready now for a summer bash. When the song Champagne began to play, everyone closed their eyes and lived in that mellow tune. However, that was not the best part of their show. As the intermission came, P-Nut remained and gave fans the most epically long bass solo. It was only him on stage as he transitioned between slow, fast, complex and simple bass licks. That was another part of 311’s appeal with the introduction of the bass being the centerpiece of the solo magic. At this point, a mosh pit even started, which distracted listeners from the action on stage. That and dodging beer cups being thrown throughout. Once the rest of the band came back, a dueling music show began between Nick and P-Nut on their knees. Matisyahu joined them and just added onto the flair of it all. As the night came to a close, fans nearby were amused with one elderly attendant who was obviously having a ball to the music at hand. It could not have been a better musical adventure for the summer.
311 are going to be around for a while. There is no doubt about that. They still make tons of music every year and tour constantly. Their effort and dedication to music is obviously shown in their original medium. Fans who are seeking some escape from the summer drama should see the men live. Better yet, catch them with Matisyahu for the full experience. It will be a memorable occasion.