311 is a very special band for me. Ever since I was a little fifth grader in 2009, when their ninth studio album, Uplifter, released, they have been my absolute favorite band. I have been a fan since I can ever remember though, with my pops playing their hits in the house all the time. Since 2009, I have seen them a total of eight times, including this show. However, this show was important to me due to the cause that they were playing for.
In July 2011, my mother was diagnosed with leukemia and seeked treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. This was a hard time for my family, but the staff and medicine at Moffitt kept my mother going and the music of 311 kept me going with their message of positivity. Fast forward to 2017 - my mother survived her battle against cancer and is doing better than ever. We were absolutely ecstatic when 311 announced that they were coming back to Tampa in November and even more so when they said that it would be a benefit show for Moffitt Cancer Center to help raise money for cancer research. They announced all benefits from tickets and food/drink sales would be donated to Moffitt. My mother declared she had to go to this concert, especially since she knew just how much 311 meant to me and how their music helped me out during the difficult times. But mostly because of the cause that they were supporting.
The show was about a week away, and I found myself with a ticket and a press pass. I absolutely couldn’t wait to be in the photo pit for my favorite band of all time. Show day came, and I was anxious to get to the venue for the show to start.
At around 9:30, the stage went dark, and an ominous blue light shone down on the stage. I could hear the crowd chant behind me in rhythm and unison “3-11, 3-3-11”. Their silhouettes appeared on the stage and the opening guitar riff of their 1993 single, “Do You Right”, rang out. As the song blasts in, the band and the crowd jumped together. The energy was on point, as it always is.
Lead singer Nick Hexum addressed the audience, expressing how thankful they were to participate in the benefit. They immediately moved into crowd favorites, Soundsystem’s “Come Original” and Mosaic’s “Perfect Mistake”, which kept the energy flowing throughout the venue. All this time, I’m trying to snap some photos, but I find myself getting lost in the music, belting out every word.
I leave the photo pit to join my family in the crowd, who are having just as much fun as I am. They play one amazing track after another, including fan favorites such as the classic From Chaos album track “Full Ride” and the popular, “Beautiful Disaster”, which was dedicated to their beer of the same name, which was released that same day. The crowd is energetic and smiling as guitarist Tim Mahoney and Nick Hexum perform their dueling guitar riff.
The show continues to emit good vibes and positivity throughout the venue as they perform “Applied Science”, a staple of theirs which they play at nearly every show. Drummer Chad Sexton shows off his impeccable skills as he starts out the drum solo. Soon enough, the entire band comes out and joins him on their own drums as they pound away, doing stick tricks and everything. You would think that after eight shows, I would grow tired of the drum solo they do. However, they change up the drum solo almost every tour, they are always searching for ways to bring something new to the table.
The concert continues it’s high energy with fire starters “Random” and “Homebrew”, which gets the crowd jumping and moshing, but with a sense of pure unity and love. The show “ends” with a performance of their 2003 hit “Creatures (For A While)” and they exit the stage.
The blue light stays shining down however and the crowd begins chanting once again, mirroring the beginning of the show. After about 2 or 3 minutes, they come back out to begin their encore with the emotional “Beyond The Gray Sky”. The entire crowd has a light in the air as the chorus chords ring out with fierceness. The crowd applauds after Tim’s incredible guitar solo and 311 transitions into their banger, “Unity”, which pumps its way through the speakers as they are jumping to the rhythm. They relentlessly channel all of their energy into their performance as they close the show out with their biggest and arguably most well-known hit, “Down”, which lights the crowd up. Nick Hexum ends the show as he always does, reminding the crowd: “Stay positive and love your life.”
The energy lingers after the band leaves the stage, and the show leaves you with great feelings. My mother had the time of her life at the show, as did I and the nearly-packed venue as well. 311 always knows how to bring a good time.
-Photos and Words by Austin Peet