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Blowing smoke 

50 tour dates? No new album? No worries. This is 311

click to enlarge Tim Mahoney (left) and 311 bring their unique sound - (and two pairs of sunglasses) to Red Rocks on - Wednesday.
  • Tim Mahoney (left) and 311 bring their unique sound (and two pairs of sunglasses) to Red Rocks on Wednesday.

Denny's treats are invaluable to any road-weary, touring band. They help relieve stress and work out sore muscles.

Seriously.

Oh, you thought I meant the restaurant.

No, I'm talking about the body worker named Denny who the guys from 311 haul around the country.

Let guitarist Tim Mahoney explain: "It takes like a week [at the beginning of a tour] before "gig neck' goes away."

Gig neck? Like from staring down at your guitar?

"No," Mahoney says. "From head-banging. You get a sore neck, kinda like whiplash.

"Thank God we have our friend Denny."

Everybody loves a masseur. And to hear Mahoney tell it, every rock band of means should travel with one. Creature comforts mean a lot on a 50-stop summer tour. Massage, healthy food, reflected crowd energy it all helps.

In the case of 311, so does lots of pot.

Now in its 17th year, the dual vocalist, hip-hop/reggae rock band that's synonymous with pot culture is still doing things the way it used to mellowly.

Or, at least, most of it is. There is the "non-smoking bus" for the band members who want to play it straight for a while. Remember: This is the band that sang on its blow-up, self-titled album: "In 1989 I was cocaine and Jim Beam / But now it's '95 and I'm ginseng."

"It's nice," says Mahoney. "Everyone travels in an environment that's enjoyable and relaxed."

When asked if 311's ever thought about abandoning the stoner image, Mahoney says no. In fact, he adds, "As time goes on, we love it more." During encores, the band continues to find joints tossed on stage when it plays old crowd-pleasers like "Who's Got the Herb?"

But with eight studio albums and a handful of live and B-sides, and a combined 7 million copies sold, the Omaha-born, L.A.-based group clearly isn't just about getting high and goofing off. The guys actually seem to like working hard and making music.

Mahoney, whose signature heavy guitar riffs encapsulate much of 311's style, acknowledges that the band's sound has evolved, but presently, he says he's "inspired by simplicity" in his approach to the band's collaborative music writing. They still like recording on tape, Mahoney says, as well as trying to use "as much analog as we can."

From Bad Brains to Willie Nelson, Phish and Tool, a hodgepodge of influences comes to the studio with the five members. Everyone writes music, says Mahoney, but only vocalists Nick Hexum and SA Martinez lay down lyrics.

After Mahoney says 311 plans to begin work on another record. But first, it has to finish this Summer Unity Tour.

And though its upcoming Red Rocks Amphitheatre stop is No. 40 for the band, Mahoney says that getting amped for the performance with or without nagging gig neck concerns won't be a problem.

"I love Colorado," he says. "It's always one of the highlights for us to play there."

matthew@csindy.com

311 with Matisyahu
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
Wednesday, Aug. 15, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $42.50; visit ticketmaster.com.

  • 50 tour dates? No new album? No worries. This is 311

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