Music News & Reviews

311 stays close to Midwestern roots

311 will perform in Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre's largest outdoor concert to date at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
311 will perform in Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre's largest outdoor concert to date at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Courtesy photo

It’s not difficult to figure out why 311 has been going strong for more than 20 years. The group, which formed in 1990 in Omaha, works relentlessly on diverse pop-rock music that includes touches of rap, reggae and even metallic guitar tones.

“I think part of the reason we’re still happening is because of our Midwest roots,” vocalist-DJ SA Martinez said while calling from his Los Angeles home.

“There is a Midwestern humbleness about each of us. There’s no rock star attitudes in this band. You work hard in the Midwest. We’re very grounded, and I think you can thank Nebraska for that.”

There’s always been an openness to take sonic chances in 311.

“Each of us has different musical tastes,” Martinez said. “We’ve always been up for anything sonically. We’ll take chances and, not to get too Midwestern on you, but I think our risk-taking has something to with the openness of the Midwest. We’re being true to where we’re from.”

The members of 311 all live in the Los Angeles area now.

“But we have long memories,” Martinez said. “We go back to our roots.” 311, which also includes vocalist-guitarist Nick Hexum, guitarist Tim Mahoney, bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills and drummer Chad Sexton, will perform Wednesday outside Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre.

The 311 Block Party starts at 8 p.m. The stage will be at First and Topeka streets, said Adam Hartke, Orpheum operations and promotions manager. The concert will accommodate up to 2,200 people, he said, and is the theater’s largest outdoor concert to date.

The theater also will be open for sales of food and drinks, including alcohol — and for patrons to use restrooms.

The band will preview tracks from its upcoming album, “Universal Pulse,” which drops in mid-July.

“If you’re really into 311, you’ll dig this album,” Martinez said. “It’s a culmination of all of our sounds. It’s more focused since it’s just eight songs, but I think that’s a really good thing. I think this album is signature 311 since it touches on all of our sounds.”

The group will mix the new with such hits as “Down” and “Mixed Up,” which were ubiquitous back in the mid-’90s.

“We’re all for playing the songs that established us,” Martinez said. “We’re thankful that those songs launched us. We love flashing back to that period. For some reason, fans jumped all over those songs.”

The ’90s and the early part of the last decade were good to 311. The group has a pair of platinum albums and two gold records.

“Success is a good thing,” Martinez said. “We have a fan base that never let go of us. Because of that, we can continue to make music. That’s all that we want to do. It’s been a great existence. I thought about this when we hit the 20-year mark last year. I want to keep doing this for another 20 and more with this band. We haven’t had a lineup change in ages (since 1992), and that’s a special thing.”

If you go:

311 Block Party

What: Outdoor 311 concert

Where: Outside Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway. Ticketholders can enter through a fence at the southeast corner of First and Broadway. Visit the Orpheum box office to buy or pick up tickets at will call.

When: Doors open at 7 p.m., concert starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday

How much: All tickets general admission for $36, available at Select-A-Seat, 316-755-7328 or www.selectaseat.com.

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