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Are you ready for SunFest 2009?
After 21 years together, 311 can hardly be called new.
Yet the Omaha, Neb., reggae/punk/hip-hop/alternative band, which headlines SunFest's opening New Music Night on Wednesday, is very much an influence on the fusion-friendly style heard at festivals across the country.
And it's very much in the spirit of a lot of the younger bands appearing at SunFest. Here are five things you need to know about them, courtesy of bassist Aaron Wills, also known as P-Nut.
1. They're aware that Nebraska doesn't scream "hotbed of reggae": "On paper, it comes off, 'Here are these five guys from Omaha, mostly European guys, genetically speaking.' But what was cool was that our touring crowd was generally a college crowd, getting their first taste of freedom, staying out late and seeing what this band was about. Those people are in a place of freedom, and more ready to accept a multifaceted band faster than the general public. We can draw 10,000 people a night in the larger cities, but we still have yet to hit the ball out of the park, make it a slam dunk. We still have room to grow."
2. Most bands would love growth just like 311: They've had several albums in the Top 15 of Billboard's Hot 200 chart, and five Top 5 hits on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart, including Down, All Mixed Up and their cover of The Cure's Love Song.
3. Their new album, Uplifter, is their first in four years: It follows 2005's Don't Tread On Me and was recorded at Burbank, Calif.'s Ocean Studio, where the band recorded its first album. "It was great coming back to it after 18 years of success," P-Nut says. "When we were first there, we were hoping the experiment would work. We were happy to come back."
4. They're about to embark on yet another of their summer "Unity" tours, featuring bands that have influenced them, as well as those they've influenced: "We really love the opportunity of having such a long career, and we have the fan base (that makes it possible) to play around with these bands and this attitude. It's always gonna feel really good."
5. Their next goal is international domination: "We see this as a worldwide market. We want to reach out to more people in general, more Canadians, more Argentinians, more Asians. And I want a plaque from another country," P-Nut says. "A Canadian gold record would be so cool."