How I Discovered 311…

How I Discovered 311…

The Pier recently held a contest asking fans to email their stories of how they first discovered 311. The best two stories received a pair of FREE tickets to 311 Day 2016 on March 11th & 12th in New Orleans, LA. Since so many great stories were told, we decided to share some of the top ones we received from that contest…

The winners of that contest were Alisha of Maine and Symphony of Connecticut. You can read each of their stories from our 311 Day 2016 contest by clicking HERE!

Thank you for those that sent in your story of discovering 311. Below, you can enjoy some other stories we received by email from that contest. If your email was chosen below then check your mail because we have already sent you out some FREE Pier Stickers and Guitar Picks!

If you yourself have a story of how you first came to discover 311, include it in the comments below!

How I Discovered 311…


By Mike Patti of The Pier:
Like a lot of 311 fans, the song “Down”, and it’s music video, was my first impression to the group back in 96-97 when I was around 13-14 years-old — But that’s not when I discovered 311. At the time, I was an incredibly biased Sublime/LBDA fan, and as a result, I was not a fan of 311 at all. This was mainly due to watching the Sublime documentary Stories, Tales, Lies & Exaggerations where it was well documented that Sublime was not a fan of 311, or Sugar Ray; So I decided not to be either.

My cousin Phil, who is a year-and-a-half older than me, was my main resource for music. In the late 90’s, there was zero social media — no Youtube or Facebook to be spammed with new music to check out. So if I wanted to discover new music, my cousin was my main resource, and after all, he basically introduced me to Sublime, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and the whole mid-late 90’s punk and ska movement. Regardless of how much I revered Sublime, and my cousins music collection, I was not sold on him trying to sell me 311 — That all changed on December 26th, 1999 when I first truly discovered 311.

For Christmas that year, I was gifted 311’s new album Soundsystem, along with concert tickets to go see Red Hot Chili Peppers, 311 and Incubus at the Cox Arena in San Diego, CA with my cousin. It was that night that I recall actually discovering 311.

After watching them perform live, everything that I thought I knew about 311, up to that point, instantly changed. That live performance was one of the best live shows I had ever experienced and that rings true today. The energy on stage, paired with an eclectic catalog of songs touching on every genre, simply blew my mind beyond comprehension. It was a bitter-sweet moment for me to tell my cousin how right he was. About 2 weeks later, I got my drivers license and the first album I ever listened to while legally being able to drive, was 311’s Soundsystem. It wasn’t long before I went out and bought the rest of 311’s available catalog. 16 years later and I’m still celebrating their music and using The Pier as a platform to continue spreading their awareness.


By Shawn Roby:

Dear The Pier,

When I was about 14, my dad was flying from AZ to St. Louis for business. Being the outgoing guy he is, he struck up a conversation with a younger gentleman sitting next to him on the plane. As an Army aeronautical engineer, certainly my dad wasn’t hip to the new music scene. Though in his defense, at the time, not many outside of Nebraska knew the young man’s name or band.

The young man explained that he and a couple members of his band were on their way to meet with a record label to try to get a deal. At the end of the flight, he gave my father a copy of their demo CD. The three band mates on the flight signed the demo CD to my sister, who was the only member of our family that had a CD player at the time.

The CD had the song “Do you right” in three different versions, including an instrumental. That young man my father chatted up on the flight was Nick Hexum. Nick, P-Nut and Chad signed the CD without knowing the extent of their future success.

While developing a documentary about Steve Ewing, from St. Louis’ own “The Urge”, I had the opportunity to interview Nick, P-Nut and Steve backstage before a 311 show at Riverport Amphitheater in St. Louis. It was a very surreal experience to walk out onstage, while shooting b-roll performance footage for the documentary, with the band that I had grown up listening to! Nearly 20 years later, I was able to get Tim & SA’ signatures on that original demo CD.


By Perry Sharafsaleh:

Dear The Pier,

I’m almost 31 years old now and I personally discovered 311 when I was 14 when I heard “Down” on the radio in the car. I would rather share a brief, but amazing/crazy story of how introducing 311 to my college roommate changed my life forever.

My freshman year at Oklahoma State University was in 2006, I roomed with a friend that I was already previously acquainted with. I was already a diehard 311 fan. After a few months of living with my new roommate he eventually asked me what band I was listening to all the time and I told him “311.” He claimed to never have heard of them but I assured him he had probably heard at least a few songs without knowing it. I quickly played a few of my favorites at the time (Lot’s of Blue Album stuff- “Color” was my jam) and almost instantly he was hooked. Story sounds simple enough? Here’s where it get’s a little more fun:

At Oklahoma State University, we once had an annual event called “Orange Peel” in which the football stadium became a makeshift concert venue for one Friday and Saturday night in the spring semester. We often had famous comedians (i.e. Jim Brewer) and at least one headlining band (Incubus). Well, unfortunately, the tradition of “Orange Peel” was cancelled indefinitely after my freshman year, although an “Orange Peel Committee” made up of students, was organized to try and bring it back.

Remember my roommate? He happened to be on that committee. He was also an investment banking major (this will make sense soon). So he suggested “Why don’t we try and get 311 FOR ORANGE PEEL?” We giggled with excitement and knowing it was a long shot, we were still happy to dream. My roommate, Kevin, managed to work with university boosters and got a fairly hefty budget of around $250,000 to propose to 311’s management. And he did just that. Unfortunately, 311’s management kindly declined our offer but they were quite impressed with our efforts, and told Kevin that if ever in the future there was something 311 management could help with, they would be pleased to do so.

As that spring semester came to a close, Kevin, his wife, and I were excited to see 311 perform in Tulsa at our favorite local venue “Cain’s Ballroom.” The day of the concert was maybe one day away from my birthday of May 23rd. The day of the show, Kevin told me he had a big surprise for me. I had no idea what it was, being that nothing would be able to excite me any more than I already was for the 311 show… and here’s the grand finale:

The day of the show, Kevin tells me “For your birthday, I’m going to have you meet 311…” I was FLOORED. He went on to tell me that he had reached out to 311’s management specifically to ask if they could help him surprise me with a meet and greet pass for my birthday, and thanks to their relationship from the Orange Peel Committee, 311 obliged. That day, I got to meet my idols, chat, take pictures, get autographs, and had the best day of my life! There was no contest to win, or VIP packages to purchase, I was simply a friend of someone whom I had introduced to 311, and my friend saw my passion for this band. That was many years ago, and I still have my signed Uplifter poster framed in my office. I hope you enjoyed this true story of love and positivity. I enjoy telling it every time.


By Brandon Smith:

Dear The Pier,

I was a shitty college student attending The Ohio State University in the early 90’s, pretty much burning through my parents hard earned cash on a quest for the next party, the next girl and anything that would distract me from attending class and becoming a positive contributor to society. Tons of weed, dive bars and awful music highlighted my early 20’s and fueled my misdirection. I found myself in a resulting spot of having to explain to my parents how I could fuck up such an opportunity, not to mention the embarrassment of being, not only the first in my family to attend college, but also the first to fail out.

Knowing I needed to get my act together, I figured my failure was fate waking me up to the possibility of a lifetime of self inflicted bullshit and subsequent mediocrity. I took a job as retail manager of a ski and board shop as a means of earning a buck in an industry I was passionate about, as well as quite possibly the start of a long career in retail…That’s when I met a dude named Mark.

Mark was a complete asshole…being an asshole myself, we kinda smell our own. He walked into the shop like he owned the place and asked for an application. Something about this guy didn’t jive and looking back, it was because we were too much alike…with one major difference: he didn’t fail out of school and was a year away from having the world by the balls. To my dismay, he got hired on and was pretty much forced on me as my understudy of sorts. Fanfuckin’tastic. He comes into the shop one day with his walkman (hah, no shit) playing something I hadn’t heard before.

Considering I had done anything in my power to avoid him, it was a huge step for me to ask him what that straight from heaven stuff was that he was listening to. He ejected the disc, told me “here check this out” and it was 311: Music. It was sick. Everything I needed, everything I missed…yet it came from the hands of a guy I couldn’t stand. That tore down my social wall with the guy and I found myself wondering if it was ME that was the asshole, not him. For someone to like that 311 sound, appreciate that vibe…hell they can’t be all bad.

A few months into our bromance, 311 played in Columbus, OH. I’ll never forget that show…it was in the parking lot of Nationwide Arena. The venue they were supposed to play at across the street wasn’t completed yet so they fenced off a part of the lot, setup a less than up-to-code stage, and let the band have at it. Reflecting back on this now, I’ll NEVER forget how they blew us away.

From that point forward, Mark and I have been like brothers. When he graduated and I was left back at the ski shop, I was so happy/jealous that it lit a fire under my ass to get back into school and finish my degree. We’ve been in each others weddings and have remained close over the past 20+ years as we’ve changed careers, started families, and basically dealt with all the trials and tribulations life has to offer. Although we don’t get to see each other as often as we used to, I can proudly say we’ve been to thirteen 311 shows together over time.

Had he been listening to WHAM! that day…well…he’d still be an asshole to me.


By: Jess Rosswog Troiano

Dear The Pier,

The year was 1996. I was in 8th grade in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA and looking forward to our class trip to Washington D.C. for which all of my friends and I had signed up. The previous year, we had had a blast on our trip to Williamsburg, VA, and we were looking forward to repeating the escapade. However, a few days before the trip, the school discovered that they had overbooked, and they asked for volunteers to give up their spaces for the trip. When no one stepped up, the school announced that they would hold a drawing to pull six names of people who would not be able to participate. Of course, my name ended up being one of those selected. I was devastated; while all of my friends got to have their adventure, I got stuck going on a 3 day field trip to the Carnegie Science Center.

On the bus, I ended up sitting next to a girl, Kristine, with whom I was acquainted but did not know all too well. On the first day, she handed me her Discman and said, “here, listen to this, have you ever heard of 311?” I had heard “All Mixed Up” on the radio and liked it, but I had not sought out any of the band’s albums. As I progressed from song to song on the Blue Album, my excitement grew. It was the first time a band had really caught my attention. I made my parents take me to the mall that night so I could buy the album. For the next two days on our consolation field trip, Kristine and I grew closer and closer as we studied the CD insert and raced to learn every lyric to every song. I was officially hooked, both on the band and on our friendship. To this day, we remain best friends and have seen 311 together in concert countless times. We live several thousand miles apart now, but 311 creates a bond that has us forever linked. When my name was selected to not participate in my 8th grade class field trip, I thought I was the unluckiest person in the world. Turns out, it was the exact opposite. Now isn’t that random?!?


By: Stefanie Jillian Barkholz

Dear The Pier,

I can remember it exactly, the first time I heard 311. It is a memory I will always cherish. My brother, my dear, sweet, loving, late brother Paul was the one who helped me discover my first love, 311! We were on family camping trip in Vermont, it was 1995. Paul had a CD (walkman) player. He was listening to what is now my favorite album Music as in “Music’s what I need to keep my sanity.”

We were in the camper, I was laying on the pull out couch, Paul slipped his head phones on my head so sweetly and said something which, in my distorted memory, sounded something like “You have to hear this, it will change your life.” It was the song “Welcome”: “You could never get me interested in dreams of wealth…” Then there was “Paradise”: “What you did as devil or what you did as an angel the favor returns itself somehow.” Seems fitting now in my life as a yoga instructor, the philosophy of karma.

Over the years we talked about going on the 311 cruise together and sadly that will never happen. In 2012, the day after Thanksgiving, Paul died. I miss him everyday. I still have the memories though, the memory of laying on that bed in the camper, headphones bumping with the beautiful unique positive spiritual vibrations of 311! The memories of all the amazing albums and videos and good times that followed while listening to 311!

Thank you Nick, SA, Chad, P-nut, and Tim for making the most influential music of my life. Our parents weren’t always there for us and sometimes I feel like 311’s music is what raised us, and why I am so positive in life. Paul, “I can’t forget you and our version of Paradise!” — Namaste.


By Mari L.:

Dear The Pier,

I was living in a very small unincorporated town in Nebraska my senior year of High School in 1993. One morning, in April, I was getting ready for school while listening to the radio and the DJ began to introduce the next song: “A great group of guys…been around a while…from Omaha…really good sound…local music…they’re going to be big…’Do You Right’…”

I was so excited to hear they were a band from Nebraska, I stopped and listened. I stopped. I listened. It was so different, so unique, so damn catchy. I thought to scramble for a cassette tape to record what I could, but I didn’t want to move. I wanted to absorb every word, every note, every second. “Wow” I kept saying. I may have even seen colors. The world had washed away. For those few minutes it was me and my boombox and my first taste of 311.

I had always been treated as an outcast growing up. I wasn’t popular or pretty. I was weird and fit in nowhere. I was discouraged by everyone fromn leaving the state, saying “You’re a girl from rural Nebraska, you’ll never survive in a big city.” But then came 311 saying: “No, no! It’s okay to be different. We are too & look what we’re doing with it.”

Being born in Nebraska didn’t mean I had to stay. If they can move on & become something then so can I. I don’t have to settle. I can dream big and go for it. That first listen was the first time I saw life beyond the state line and felt encouraged to chase it. Two years later I moved to Denver, Colorado, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. 311 literally changed my life.


By Aaron Vlasnik:

Dear The Pier,

So there I was, summer of 1995, I was 11 and all I wanted was the self-titled album by 311 for my 12th birthday in August. I didn’t have a CD player, but I wanted this on CD, I was tired of cassettes, and I was ready to take my music knowledge to another level. After growing up in a house with a step-dad in a country cover band, I wanted to have a soundtrack to my own life, not someone else. 311 was that outlet. In Nebraska, I’ve heard of them before, but I was ‘too young’ to listen to that kind of music. But now I was 12, I was in middle school, I had a desire to find myself, to find my own voice.

When I got this album for my 12th birthday, I also got a CD player. Best. Birthday. Ever. I listened this this CD non-stop for the next year. I knew this album inside and out. From the high pitched squeak in ‘Down’ to knowing exactly what the T & P stood for in ‘T & P Combo.’ There was nothing that got past me on this album. I memorized the lyrics, I studied the booklet. This album was everything to me in 1995. I had found my holy grail of albums. This was me at 12 years old: 311’s biggest fan. Too young to drive, so I stayed in my room and listened to 311 every night. Such a wonderful time in my life.

This album also was a launching point for introducing me to different types music. With this album fusing rock, rap, reggae, funk, and pop, I was introduced to a much broader spectrum of music. It was this album that got me into hip-hop. It was this album that got me into metal. It was this album that got me into reggae. You get my point.

To say 311 has had a huge impact on my life/upbringing would be an understatement. No other band/person/event/thing has had in influence on me like 311 has with their music. I don’t know (and don’t want to know) what my life would have been without this band. More than 20 years later, my love for this band has never faded. They continue to impress me with their musical styles and commitment to their friends, family, and fans. 311 Day and their Cruises are perfect examples.

Stay Positive And Love Your Life!


By Lisa Gardner:

Dear The Pier,

It was my junior year in college, while studying architecture at the University of Colorado in 1995. I was living in this ramshackle house with a total of 5 people, 3 dogs, 1 cat, 1 rabbit (mine!) and I think there was even a fish for a while. It was that wonderful time in a young adult life when I was discovering who I was, what I believed in and of course, what kind of music I really connected with. It was pure blissful collegiate chaos. I had this hippy roommate Nick, who was one of those transient people that flowed in and out of my life that introduced me to 311. I was walking through the living room, he was rocking the Blue Album and I was immediately struck by how cool the sound of the band was. From that moment on, I started playing that album over and over, quickly buying Grassroots and Music with whatever money I could scrounge up.

As a CU Buffalo, there was no more passionate rivalry during my college years than the one between Colorado and Nebraska. As I learned more about the 5 members of the band, I discovered that they were from Omaha. I had to come to terms with the fact that they were born and bred Huskers, even if they didn’t go to school there. The first time I saw 311 was at a local radio station festival in the summer of 1995. I remember SA sauntering on stage in a Husker jersey and I am not afraid to say, it would have been just the teensiest bit cooler of a show had he been wearing a different shirt.

Growing up in southern Colorado, I never really discovered a band on my own during my childhood. I learned about music from my friends or my brother. It wasn’t until 311 that I felt that this band was truly my own. It wasn’t so much the song lyrics that I connected with; it was more about the unique mix of rap and rock and the balance between the words and music. I just wanted to crank it up as loud as possible and dance my heart out. To this day, that is what I still love about 311 and why after over 20 years, they are still my favorite band.


By Jason Maynard:

Dear The Pier,

I discovered 311 when I was a sophomore in college back in 1993. MTV, back when they played music, on Sunday night used to have an alternative rock show. I was studying one Sunday night when I heard the coolest song ever. It was 311. The next day I went to the Sound Shop in Cookeville, TN. I bought Music and I have been a 311 fan ever since. I still have the purchase sticker on the inside of the CD jewel case. Oct. 1993. I have seen them in concert 9 times. Incredible band. Incredible people.


From Jennifer Blankenship:

Dear The Pier,

I was a freshman in high school, 2000, and my mom was a big garage sale junkie. One day, my mom hands me a CD she bought from some girls at one of her sales. I was big into music, and these girls seemed to like what I liked, and she thought, ‘why not?’

When I started to listen to this CD, I could not stop. I remember walking to my neighborhood blasting this unknown music from my CD Walk-Man. I played every song over and over again. It was my new drug; I couldn’t get enough. Only there was one hitch, this album had no title on it and I had no idea who I was falling in love with. With no jewel case, just a big yellow cartoon mouth on it, this compact disc had no band name. One day, in my mom’s SUV, I heard “Down” on the radio, a song from this magical mystery treasure and FINALLY, heard the band’s name, 311. This album that appeared out of nowhere, was 311’s LIVE! album. Ever since, I proudly exclaim, 311 is my favorite band! There is no better way of falling in love with music, than to have it hit you, UNADULTERATED; no tainted suggestions from friends, or jumping on any bandwagon. 311 fell in my lap, and I couldn’t thank the Universe enough.


From Jake Stingley:

Dear The Pier,

Where it all started was Sioux City, IA early/mid 90’s. I was knee high, maybe older, perhaps 7 years old. I looked up to my uncle who is 9 year older than I, and thought the dude was the coolest. He always hung out with good lookin’ babes and him and his buddies seemed pretty rad. They rocked shaggy hair, rode skateboards, laughed a lot, and my uncle drove a sick old Jeep Wrangler with no top or doors which blew my young mind that a vehicle like that even existed. Anywho, I’d snoop around junk drawers at my grandmas place and one day, walla, there was a copy of 311’s self-titled album. The enjoyment my ears heard was not biased and based on the fact that my uncle bought this music so I should be like him and do the same — it is impossible for anyone to listen to that album and not appreciate it. Back then, there was no Youtube so if you heard a song you liked, you bought the album; and most of the time you’d buy an album with 2 good songs and the rest caused migraines or induced vomiting. But not 311. One thing I’ve been comfortable with over the years is supporting the band, and buying the albums because it’s always good, original content; I rock the merch, not just to represent, but to spread the knowledge of new, quality music, and best of all, the goddamn live shows.

By chance this makes it to any band members, I didn’t even know Universal Pulse had dropped and I was actually in a tiny little store full of random shit with a TINY selection of music in Southern Afghanistan (deployed with army). As I stood in maybe one of the shittiest corners of this earth, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I looked at a funky album cover, thought “What’s this?” and turned to read the spine that said 311. The one and only copy that they had, yeah you know what I did!


From Craig Schweitzer:

Dear The Pier, 311 Tattoo

How I discovered 311 is actually a very simple story. In 1995, I heard my local radio station play from the Blue Album. In 1996, I saw them perform on the Warped Tour in Jacksonville, FL and saw them perform again in 1997. The real story is how I rediscovered them and fell in love with their music.

Skip forward 14 years and I hadn’t seen them again. I really wasn’t going to concerts. All of that changed one hot and sticky Florida weekend when I decided as an early birthday gift to myself to buy a ticket to 311 Pow Wow Festival. I saw a love I had only heard about. The scene, the community, the music. Then I realized those things have nothing in comparison to the people I have met since then. “The Familia”, as we call ourselves, became my family. Because of them I began to listen to 311 and understand the lyrics and now understand why the Familia is such a loving, caring, happy, and positive group of people. They are everywhere and always there when you need them. Since that concert, I have been to California, North Carolina, NOLA, Vegas, Ohio, Georgia, Caribbean, and Jamaica to see them along with my home state of Florida. In fact, here is a picture of my first and only tattoo so far from last 311 Day.


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