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311 explores Unity through music

for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

311 has released 10 studio albums during the past 19 years -- two of them platinum, four others gold and seven that landed in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart.

But frontman Nick Hexum says the best part of that success is that it lets the Nebraska-formed, California-based reggae rockers play live.

"Concerts are just like a little musical vacation -- everybody gets carried away and lost in a music, and that's a privilege to get to do that as a career," explains Hexum, 42. But he notes that in recent years he and his bandmates have also been spending a little more time off the road, taking a necessary vacation from the music.

"That's really important," he says. "For the first few years of the band, everyone's just like tour, tour, tour, record!~ But then you have to develop a life outside of the band or it's too much of a pressure cooker.

"So we needed to take a little time to put roots down and live a little bit. There's been a total of five 311 babies born in the past three years. There's definitely a lot of home life and stuff that's being developed, and it's important to take to do that...even if some fans might get a little impatient between albums."

311's last album, "Universal Pulse," came out in 2011, and Hexum says the group is working on new material as well as combing its concert archives to start putting out recordings of past gigs. One thing that's remained constant, however, is 311's summer Unity Tour, which began in 2006 and over the years has featured groups such as the Wailers, Matisyahu, the English Beat, Ziggy Marley and this year's Slightly Stoopid, among others.

"The Unity Tour has been all about bringing people together through music," Hexum says. "United has always been this buzzword from us -- and it was actually the name of the prior incarnation of 311. We've always sought to find bands that embrace that philosophy of sort of the bonding power of music. Sometimes we hit mark perfectly and sometimes the bands that we have are...not exactly what we're looking for.

"Now it's turned into an event. Last year, when we had Sublime with Rome, Rome was telling us, 'I would come as a teenager to every year's Unity Tour, no matter what, to see who was on it. That's a really cool thing. I'm really glad we branded it that way, and it's just an honor to be able to keep doing that for so long."

The 2012 Unity Tour with 311 and Slightly Stoopid, takes place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $29.50-$49.50 pavilion, $20 lawn with a $50 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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