311 Take Their Unique Alt-Rock Approach To Mohegan Sun Arena

311 (Photo: Kalie Tomlinson)

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When it comes to putting on a live show, few bands are as engaging and as energetic as 311. The alt-rock band from Omaha, Nebraska has a unique dynamic that comes from co-vocalists Nick Hexum and Doug “SA” Martinez with Hexum having a more melodic approach while Martinez spits rhymes like a hip hop MC. This trait is conveyed in hits such as “All Mixed Up”, “Down”, “Beautiful Disaster,” “Come Original” and “Creatures (For A While)” among others with Hexum on rhythm guitar, Tim Mahoney on lead guitar, Chad Sexton on drums and Aaron “P-Nut” Wills on bass rounding out the instrumentation. On February 15, folks around Connecticut and Southern New England will be able to see what these guys can do at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. with the Southern California alt-punk act Sitting On Stacy kicking the night off. 

Hexum and I had a talk ahead of the performance about how the band originally started with a different name, how 311 created their sound, a special occasion that’s going to be happening in a few weeks and plans to release a new album. 

Rob Duguay: 311 started out in a pretty interesting way with the band originally going by the name Fish Hippos before playing a gig with the punk legends Fugazi during the early 1990s. How did the name change come about, was it a spur of the moment thing? 

Nick Hexum: We had a band called Unity before that which was me, Chad and Tim. Chad and I were in L.A., we were playing with some different people and it kind of felt apart. Then I went to Germany for a couple months to just bum around and Chad had been playing with P-Nut, our bass player, and they formed a band called Fish Hippos. They got this gig opening for Fugazi, I called Chad and he asked me to come back to be in the band and I said, “I’d love to, but we got to change that name.” P-Nut mentioned how he performed at a talent show and we called it 311 and I said, “Great, I love it.”

Other than being a number, it’s a bit mysterious and it was a very Gen X aesthetic of the time to be that way. P-Nut also noted that it’s the police code for indecent exposure and I said, “Great, I still love it. Let’s do that”, so that’s how it started. 

RD: What would you say was the initial main catalyst for the band’s fusion of alternative rock and hip hop when you guys were crafting your sound?

NH: I think we each had very eclectic and random listening tastes and we loved punk rock, hip hop, reggae, funk, jazz and metal. We just had an attitude where anything goes, whatever we liked we would put it in our music. It was a mindset of not having a lot of boundaries. 

RD: Ok, I get that from listening to your music. Ever since the year 2000, 311 has been celebrating their own unofficial holiday called “311 Day” that takes place around March 11th of every year. Who first had the idea for this and when it comes to organizing this particular celebration, is it more planned and thought out than your other shows?

NH: At first, we didn’t tell people the backstory about how the name started so some people suggested that we’re named after the date March 11th. Then we realized that there’s an opportunity here and we had a gig scheduled just kind of by chance on that date back in the year 2000, so we decided to call it “311 Day” and we played for three hours and eleven minutes. That was the very first one, then we started planning it and it really grew and grew and evolved to where it’s turned into a convention. People come from all over the world to be at “311 Day” and it takes place on even numbered years so we’re going to be doing it again in 2024. This is the one show that requires the most planning because we really dig deep and play a lot of rarities that we don’t normally play because it’s our most hardcore fans who want us to play stuff that we haven’t played before. 

We always do some surprise cover songs that we unveil at the show, so this is the show that takes the most preparation. It’s kind of like a marathon, it requires a lot of training and rehearsal. Then we just have a great feeling of satisfaction while also having some emotionally poignant moments with things that mean a lot. During the last “311 Day”, we covered John Lennon’s “Imagine” as sort of a statement of hope, so we’re working on different surprises that we’ll have for the next one that’s coming up in Vegas. 

RD: That’s awesome. 311 has played over 2,000 shows all over the world and you guys just played a string of shows in Japan, so what was the experience like going over there to perform? How different are the audiences in Japan and how different are the overall shows there versus in the other parts of the world?

NH: In Japan, I can’t think of another place where the crowd is more responsive. As far as any prompting, if you have them put their hands in the air, clap to the beat, chant or anything like that, every person in the audience does it. It’s so cool to see that level of crowd participation. Here in the United States, it kind of varies. In L.A, when you say “Wave your hands in the air!” you might get a few people to do it. 

There’s more jadedness where in Japan they’re ready to do it all so it’s pretty cool.

RD: You have to appreciate an excited and attentive audience. After the show at the Mohegan Sun Arena, what are 311’s plans for the coming months? Are there any plans to work on a new album? I know it’s been a few years since your last one. 

NH: We’re just putting the finishing touches on a new album, which is our 14th studio album, and it’s almost done. We’re getting it ready for the mixing process so we’re going to be putting that out at some point this year. We’re also going to be doing a summer tour and we’re going to Europe for the first time in a long time. We’ve kind of neglected our European fans, so we’re finally getting back over there to play some festivals and some different shows. It’s going to be a busy year and we’re just grateful for a chance to go out and do it all again as we approach our 34th anniversary as a band.

Who: 311

When: Feb. 15, 2024 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, CT 06382


Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of the Connecticut Examiner, he also writes for DigBoston, The Aquarian Weekly, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.