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311's Pow Wow Festival is What the Spirit of Suwannee is All About

Over the weekend, a colleague posted less than a shining endorsement of the recently announced 311 Pow Wow Festival slated for August 4-6 in the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. And readers had reactions that ranged from sadness to contempt to an occasional hateful outburst that somewhat played into her argument.

I respect the opinion, and my tendency towards talking shit that this very outlet frequently publishes pretty much demands it. But I must respectfully disagree with the assessment. And from the looks, I'm not even going to get flamed for it. Score!

First and foremost, 311 can kick serious ass. But it's important not to lose sight of the prevalent message in the Nebraska band's music from track to track and album to album over the course of the 20-plus years since they first debuted (and a good five years before "Down" made them an MTV darling back in '95). Namely: positivity, unity and acceptance.

It's like vocalist S.A. Martinez told me in an interview

on the release of Uplifter a couple of years ago: "Music is something

very special that makes everything seem all right. You can't hold it;

it's just vibrations. But it touches our core, and that's important.

Music is that charge to our life." And that's not something they cam up

with as part of the marketing for an album with an upbeat title. It's

something you can see as a recurring theme, and the basis for their

message, throughout their career.

Sure, as I readily admit, that

message is often firmly entrenched in hard-rocking, thumping basslines

and heavy distortion. Still, I haven't

seen their fans stomping each other's heads in in an aggressive display

of appreciation. And there's a reason for it. They're too busy drinking

beer and singing along at the top of their lungs. Also, that underlying

message is what's most important to the band, and that manifests itself

both to the fans and through the fans.

And, let's not forget

that for all the punk influence, 311 draw heavily on reggae too. Can you

think of a more laid back song to toke a well-rolled spliff to in

hippified harmony than "Amber"? I think not.

As for the rest of

the lineup, it really doesn't consist of all that many grinders either,

outside of Deftones, who will unquestionably rock, and rock hard. But

Sublime With Rome, Dirty Heads, Reel Big Fish and G. Love are all a lot

more likely to induce man-made cloud cover than seismic activity, and

the only stampedes likely to occur won't be on the wildlife, but to the

concession stands, as concertgoers with the munchies race to fill up

before all the cheese-covered food stuffs run out.

Hell, I'd

argue that we 311 fans are hippies in our own right. Not all hippies go

barefoot, eat granola and want to hear "Sweet Melissa" (I do love that song, personally). And sure, I'll bet some leftover

hippies huddle together, barefoot and deodorant-free, mirroring this

concern about the pierced and tattooed masses congregating on their

hallowed campground for three straight days in August. But what about

the neo-hippies? What about this generation's legion of faithful

followers, the modern-day version of Dead Heads?

In an age when

that sort of loyal following is extinct, 311 still puts on a 311 Day

celebration every year on March 11 -- some massive spectacle to show

appreciation for the fans who support them year round. It may be a

weekend in Vegas or New Orleans featuring marathon 60-plus song sets.

This year it was a cruise out of Fort Laudy with the band meeting and

greeting, taking photos and rocking stages all over the boat from bow to


And through it all, their fans don't just manage to get

along, they come together. They help each other out. They carpool with

strangers to get to shows, and let dudes who seem like cool cats because

they have 311 tattooed on their arm crash on their couch for an

out-of-town show. Perhaps because that's the message the band works to

convey. Perhaps because 311 take it to heart. Or maybe there's something

to paying it forward, and the good vibes they put out get passed along.

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Christopher Lopez

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