Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy 311 Day

I’ve noticed the underlying theme to my posts this week concerns the dynamics of the fan-artist relationship: Lloyd Cole superserving his audience with his actions and products; Camper Van Beethoven finding a creative way to solve a budget issue so that they could play SXSW; Stone Temple Pilots’ “Set Builder,” etc.

Many artists have further developed the interaction by creating special events, some annually and, others, more frequently. In addition to holding their own multi-day festivals, Phish used to play special Halloween shows where they would cover an album by another artist in its entirety; The Alarm hold an annual 3-day event called “The Gathering”; Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker hold an annual “Campout” – all of these, and others, are an effort to explore and take the relationship to another level.

In 2000, Omaha, Nebraska’s 311 began celebrating March 11 as “311 Day”, a biennial event at which the band plays extended…and I mean ex-ten-ded…concerts, and hardcore fans travel from all over to be there. The 2000 show featured 47 songs; 59 in ’02 over 4 hours; 68 tracks in ’04 over the course of 5 hours; 65 in ’06 (show ended early due to the arena’s curfew); and 63 songs in ’08. A 2-hr version of the 2006 show appears regularly on HDNet.

While all 311 Days have been held in the party city of New Orleans (with the exception of the ’06 gig in Memphis), the band notified fans six months ago that the show would have a new home this year because a medical convention in N.O. this week had made hotel rooms scarce (and, likely, overpriced). The economic impact of 311 Day on the city was important enough for the band to have discussions with the New Orleans Board Of Tourism to see if their fans could be accommodated, but things just weren’t going to work out this time around.

So…the 2010 edition of 311 Day is taking place at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, with the band arranging for special airfare and hotel packages for their fans. Things kicked off last night with the 311 Fan Party, and crank into high gear today when the band hits the stage at 7pm local time for, what should be, a minimum of 5 hours; Friday night wraps things up at the 311 Beach Party with a live performance by The Wailers.

For fans who can’t make it to Vegas, tonight’s concert is available via HD webcast for $12 US as it happens (feed starts at 6:30p local time in Vegas), and then available on-demand afterwards; pre-ordering the show enters fans into prize draws and gets you the live feed plus one on-demand, so it’s $6 per viewing.

Even more deals and prizes are available for fans who buy online today from the 311 Store, where prices have been reduced to mark the big occasion.

Each of the components, listed above, make up part of the 311 fan experience these days, but it's the longevity of the series that speaks to its success. One of my good friends is in Vegas for the event, but I have no idea how he’ll survive the experience: I caught a 311 gig with him here in Toronto a few years back and he was bouncing in the pit for the whole show, coming out soaked, drained and…completely exhilarated. I can’t picture him after a 5+hour concert…

311 - 311 - Down311 - 311 - Down

311 – Down (1995)