Fans of the band 311 call themselves “Excitables”. Fans of the band Full Service call themselves “Circus Freaks”. Some anthropologists actually claim that there is a species out there in the wild called “Excitable Freaks”, and in fact several small tribes fitting this description were spotted about a week ago at an event in New Orleans celebrating March 11th, or—311 Day.
Our job was simple: On the night before 311 played their big concert at Smoothie King Arena, we were to appear at a place called “The Swamp” and perform a few sets during the official “Fan Party”, hopefully hyping up the crowd into a frenzy and getting them psyched that they were here in town and about to party and celebrate 311’s annual holiday.
I love that it was called “The Offical FAN PARTY”. Damn right it was a fan party! Do other bands have fans like this? Do Vampire Weekend or Foster the People fans all high-five each other at fan parties and rent weekend houses together and make custom t-shirts and necklaces? No disrespect to those bands of course, but there’s obviously something different about 311’s fans, and—now I suppose we can say—Full Service’s fans.
Maybe it’s because our two bands exist outside popular consciousness. While the cool boys and girls gossip on the recess blacktop over a game of tag, we run around in the periphery, out in the crabgrass field around the side of the building, blissfully apart from the whispering masses, playing a game of our own devising. Nobody wins or loses our game. It’s a game of inclusion, not elimination. Of cooperation, not competition.
It’s a very fun game, and all of us played a great round a week ago in New Orleans, Louisiana, where friends from all over the country gathered to celebrate “311 Day” (March 11th). 311’s been growing this community for over 20 years and somewhere along the line they picked us up on the side of the road (quite literally, see our documentary film: “Takeover”) and asked us to join the ride. I mean, I guess we sort of forced the issue (again, see “Takeover”), but the point is, we knocked and they let us in. Club shows, three Caribbean cruises, Pow-Wow festival, and now 311 Day 2014.
After we set up our gear inside The Swamp on Bourbon, we unpacked and organized our merchandise out in the courtyard. As many of you waited outside and around the corner (and around the other corner) to get in, the Full Service and 311 teams hustled and troubleshot (troubleshooted?) for several hours inside. You guys often don’t get to see this type of behind-the-scenes work, so let me invite you in for a second.
One of the things I love about 311’s style is that their whole operation, like ours, is very small and homespun. No bloated over-management, no excess. The people in their crew are their friends, and these friends often take on responsibilities in several (very different) areas. Adam and Peter Raspler manage 311 and organized this entire event, and even though they possess a certain level of “rockstar” status amongst the fans, there they were in the grind behind the merch booth, setting up and selling posters and CDs and shirts. I had to laugh when— after Bonesaw hoisted me on his shoulders to hang Full Service T-shirts in the bamboo for display— I saw the 311 team scratching out hand-written signs and devising a makeshift system for hanging their merch that involved duct-taping a couple zip ties around two large metal poles. Not pretty, but effective. FS knows the feeling.
As you all poured in at around 4:30pm, the hugs and back-slapping commenced. There’s John Dawkins! What’s up Adams, how’s Chicago dude? Lauren and Greg, did you bring a Canadian flag? It really was a family reunion for us. We’ve seen so many of you in your cities on our club tours, your homes on our “20-Tours”, and OUR home during the Circus. To convene on such a beautiful day in New Orleans was simply perfect.
The day was definitely long. A lot of time on our feet, but who cared? It was difficult refraining from too many beers, because with all of you around it was tempting to jump all the way into the revelry, but alas, we had to stay sharp for our two sets later in the evening.
The first set—the Full Service set—was rowdy, and we thank you dearly for making it that way. Also, many thanks to Ron Henegaur for making our setlist, and to his wife Stacy for manning the merch booth. (PS—we set a sales record, so thanks to you all for that as well).
But back to the set. I have to admit it was strange for me playing on such a small stage, because it meant I had to set up my drums behind the rest of the band. Usually, as you know, we bring the drums out in front, in line with the rest of the guys. Not only did this make me feel sort of apart from the chemistry, but it made it extremely difficult to communicate things to the guys during the set. For instance, we had rehearsed a little surprise during “Hi-Ho” where we’d transition into “Transistor Intro”, and for some reason—maybe fraternal telepathy—I just knew that Bonesaw was going to forget. For the first three minutes of the song I was trying to get his attention to remind him, but because the drums were directly behind him I was not succeeding. Finally he turned around to hype the fans outside in the courtyard and that’s when I was able to send the signal. It’s captured in James Venes’ video:
Debuted our tribute track to 311 (“Crunch Dip”) this night also. Not gonna lie, I love the song, but there is a section that is really hard to sing while playing drums and it’s eating me up. But I suppose the day will come when it becomes easy. Overall though I think the tune was pretty slammin’. A shame that the place was too packed for anybody to try the accompanying dance. Actually, that’s not a shame at all, that kicks much ass.
So thanks for the energy you guys. And Labella…get the f*** onstage next time! Kidding dude, love ya.
After a brief intermission we returned to the stage for what was destined to be the main event of the evening: “FS plays 311”. Three tracks from the Blue album, three tracks from Transistor, three tracks from Soundsystem, and one from Grassroots. My favorite track to play was “Eons”, that was a blast to play and sing at the same time. Great flow between drums and vocals on that one for some reason. Rapping Nick’s parts on “Silver”—all while playing Chad’s drums parts–was challenging but I’m glad I did it. Next time I run into those two I’m definitely gonna brag that I can be BOTH of them at ONCE, so WHATCHU GOT?? Ha! Here’s us doing “Freeze Time“. (Check out Smell at the end just crushing!)
Major, major propers to Smell for nailing not only SA’s lyrics, but his delivery as well. I can’t express how diligent Smell was with his homework on this. Well done dude. And the other guys, too! Sean on “Can’t Fade Me”, and of course Bonesaw handling some tricky cross-rhythms with Nick’s raps and Tim’s syncopated riffage. It was an honor and a true pleasure to play these in front of such hardcore Full Service and 311 fans. You are the best fans a band could ask for and if we ever take you for granted do us a favor and slap us in the damn face, ok?
So let’s keep doing our thing over here in the crabgrass, guys. In the words of myself on “Oddball Memories”…I never wanna be the best. I’ll take my friends and you can take the rest.
And before I end this entry, I wanna thank Dan, Matt, and Heather for hosting great 20-Tour shows leading up to 311 Day. Dan, you have a great living room amphitheater set-up. Matt, as block parties go that was pretty top-notch. And Heather…backyard Sunday afternoons don’t get much better than that. Also, your kids are hilarious. You should buy them a drum-set.
Thanks guys! Here are some of our favorite photos from the 20-Tour shows and 311 Day in New Orleans