311 at Red Rocks, with Slightly Stoopid, 8/19/12

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When 311 made its long-awaited entrance, frontman Nick Hexum told the crowd, "We're going to start this off like sex: nice and slow, so it lasts long" -- and slow and mellow it was. As undoubtedly devoted as the fans were, the first few songs of the set were something of a come-down, especially after the spirited Slightly Stoopid set and unofficial dance party.

Although the audience was still committed and encouraging, side conversations among friends started to pick up, and it was clear that the vibrant energy from the earlier part of the night was starting to dwindle -- that is, until 311 moved into "Come Original." The song, from 1999's Soundsystem, quickly and effectively woke up the fans, and the momentum kept going with "You Wouldn't Believe," from 1998's From Chaos, as did a drum solo from Chad Sexton.

In the dreamy, feel-good "Stealing Happy Hours," the audience finally got a song off of 2001's Transistor -- and although it seemed like fans' desire to stay and show their support was there, the exits started seeing some traffic halfway through the set.

Overall, the members of 311 were spot-on with the band choreography. All stage gear was set up toward the back of the stage, allowing for a sprawling space that Hexum, SA Martinez, Tim Mahoney, and P-Nut used to their advantage, walking the stage to address different parts of the audience and showing off some crowd-inspiring dance moves.

Before 311's set, Slightly Stoopid got things going to the sheer delight of a crowd that seemed to be enthused about whatever the band brought to the table. Moving through the mellow reggae ballad "Runnin' With a Gun" and crowd favorite "Till It Gets Wet" with a special appearance and saxophone solo from Karl Denson, dual frontmen Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald kept the beginning of their set steeped in songs from some of their first albums. On "Way You Move," the first track played off their newest album, Top of the World, the vibrancy of their horn section, played by C-Money and Dela, was showcased perfectly through the acoustics of the rock walls.

When they surprised fans with a beached-out, reggae-influenced cover of John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane," the crowd roared in recognition. John Denver may not be from Denver, but fans took it as an ode to their city and gleefully sang along. Slightly Stoopid ended its set with a funky, ska version of Charles Wright's "Express Yourself," an unexpected but vastly welcomed ending.

Joining forces on the Unity Tour was a no-brainer for 311 and Slightly Stoopid: The music is complementary, and the following of people, especially last night, seemed to be interchangeable, even for those who were there to see one band over the other. The parking lots were virtually empty of stragglers when the show started, void of the usual few groups of people waiting for the next act, and both bands had a packed audience.

Although the start of the night seemed to have the most energy, it's only natural that a crowd would start to die down on a Sunday night, and the crowd was consistently enthusiastic and receptive, if just a little tired.


Personal Bias: It's been a while since I've listened to either band -- but I have a special place for 311 in my heart, something I almost forgot about until yesterday. A year before I moved out here, 311 was my first show at Red Rocks. "Champagne" reminds me of my first year of college, and "Love Song" still gets me every time.

Random Detail: During the break between sets, an emcee kept the buzzed crowd ready for the arrival of 311 with a dance party in celebration of some of the best artists who have come out of Southern California, as well as some old-school hip-hop tracks and a dedication to Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who died this past spring.

By the Way: I was totally intrigued by the diversity of the fans who came out for this show. The crowd ranged from teenagers, beach-bum wannabes and something resembling an STS9 fan, to the original fans in their thirties, some with kids in tow. Definitely some good people-watching.

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