On Sunday night, October 20th, the Quintet took to the intimate Hotel Cafe stage for the final of three Sunday shows in October. Opening the night was Franchot Tone, a talented singer/songwriter that has made a name for himself as one half of the Culver City Dub Collective. Hailing from Southern California, Tone's music is as familiar as it is pleasant, which makes sense when you consider the fact that he's worked alongside heavy hitters such as Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Goldfinger, and more.
In addition to performing some songs from his newest solo album Thanks for This, he even ran through an impressive take on the Beastie Boys' 1990s classic 'Sabotage'. The warm, upbeat arrangement of the otherwise dissonant and abrasive 'Sabotage' was great, as was Tone's set as a whole.
The songs on Hexum's My Shadow Pages mostly branch away from the reggae/rock of 311, save for a few compositions - but the depth of the album's songs (jazzy, keyboard and saxophone-driven rock/pop numbers) really showed at the Hotel Cafe gig. Hexum and his backing band - drummer Gary Novak, bassist Andres Rebellon, keyboardist Luke Miller and guitarist/saxophonist/pianist Zack Hexum - sounded so crisp together that you'd be amazed to find out it was only their third public gig to date.
Working through just about every song on My Shadow Pages, the Quintet dazzled the crowd, most of which were there ostensibly to catch the singer in a venue much smaller than 311 has played in decades. As was the case with the album itself, it was evident while watching the show that Nick really enjoyed writing and playing these songs.
At a 311 gig, Nick usually lets guitarist Tim Mahoney lead the way with his lead guitar work, but a gig such as the one on Sunday night really let him show his proverbial muscle. It's a testament to the musicians, however, that he was able to show off his chops with the show retaining an organic, full-band feel (rather than a group of musicians supporting the 'star'). They have a real cohesive sound as a unit, and it's great to see and hear.
Other highlights of the set included a 'Dice Jam' (after former American Idol contestant and noted 311 fan Blake Lewis tossed a die, the band made up a song on the spot) and a segue into the Beatles' 'With a Little Help from My Friends'.
311 fans lucky enough to catch one of the three Hotel Cafe gigs were treated to a delightful evening. Nick expressed thanks to the crowd that they were so willing to let him 'detour' from his 311 activities for this project (those 'activities' being a new 311 album and big 311 Day concert next March).
Hopefully, during some future downtime, Hexum is able to re-visit this project and bring the excellent live show to more people.
For more about the Nick Hexum Quintet and the album, click here.