Written by Dave Clements
Jul 15, 2012 at 05:00 PM
ImageIt was a Sunday night in The Woodlands, Texas. A crowd of 6,000 or so slowly filtered into the Pavilion just as the sun was setting over the rain soaked lawn.

First up was the mainly reggae Aggrolites. All five members from Los Angeles, came out dressed in black, LA flag in hand. Their job was to warm up the crowd and they gave it their best. Lead singer Jesse Wagner used every technique he had, short of stripping, to try and stir things up.

Sadly, even if he had resorted to this he could not have succeeded because there weren’t enough people in their seats to react. The reality was that there were more people in line to buy 311 and Slightly Stoopid  (SS) merch than there were inside the pavilion. Regardless, they had a nice groove and plenty of energy all designed to entertain their audience no matter how small. I’m sure it must have been tough to keep the energy up when they could clearly see that so few people were watching or listening.

But the crowd grew quickly as Slightly Stoopid was announced. These guys, from the San Diego area, came out and jumped right into their music with very little fan fair. I concluded after listening for a few minutes that the band’s name…and their banner, hanging in all it’s glory behind them, MADE ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE TO ME! This group needed to have the word BEACH or SURF or OCEAN in their name. These guys should have been opening for Jimmy Buffett.

ImageAs it turns out, according to Wiki, they have opened for The Marley Brothers, so six of one. My first impression of this band’s sound was quickly validated as I took my seat and noticed a guy dancing down the aisle. He had beer in hand, ball cap on backwards, shirtless with a major, beautifully inscribed tattoo across his shoulder blades that said SURFER! He was right where he needed to be.

SS brought two sax players and one trumpet player with them which added a fullness to their music.  My mind wandered off to the islands for a pina colada and a little beach time until I startled and remembered I had to get ready to photograph 311 and figure out what they were all about.

Before moving on to 311 I’d like to note that the internet described SS as ‘a fusion of acoustic rock and blues with reggae and hip-hop’…now why didn’t I say that?  Also, the two front men for the group did something I’ve never seen before. One would play bass while the other played lead guitar and then they’d switch guitars and start playing the other instrument…all this with no roadie in sight!

ImageThe band three eleven or 311 came out after darkness had arrived making for a more dramatic entrance as they took the stage.  As you view my photos you’ll see that they brought a terrific light show, along with abundant talent, making for a very entertaining set.  I can only image how good they might have been if I’d had a little buzz going on?  Based on the aroma in the air some got the band’s FULL IMPACT during the show. Sadly, no one offered.  I kind of think they thought I was a narc.

Nick Hexum, a founding member of the group since 1988, was quite the showman. I would characterize him as a cross between Freddie Mercury of Queen and Chris Martin of Coldplay.  Nick, if you’re listening (reading?), that was a compliment man.  Hexum brought it and fans responded nicely.  I tried to capture his energy on film.  Please let me know how I did!

And as good as he was he just might have been upstaged by the group’s drummer Chad Sexton, also an original band member. Sexton was sitting on a rotating stool that would go 360 degrees and it needed to as he was surrounded by this massive, and I mean massive drum kit. I lost track of the number of drums when I got to 20 or so.

In the middle of the show this boy started on the bass drum and for 5 or more minutes went around the circle of sound with his two sticks well in hand and kicked ass! I’ve only seen one better and that was Phil Collins and one of his band mates on dueling drums many years ago at The Summit (am I dating myself?).

ImageAnd speaking of drums and band mates all 311 came back out after Chad’s solo and continued the action with each having their own drum to help create , in total, quite a musical experience. I was impressed and based on the noise level I was not alone.

Style wise, the band covers several genres. I can’t tell you for sure the order of rotation from one number to the next.  Throughout the set they made a  couple or three revolutions musically and, other than some of the ‘metal’, I was impressed.  Proof to me was when some time during the evening I found myself wishing I had come in contact with their music before my ‘awakening to 311’ on this night!

Until next time I hope you keep it between the navigational beacons.