It is my pleasure to introduce you all to Gus Chavez in this edition of ALL ACCESS PASS! Gus is a familiar face within the 311 community, with a reputation for being perhaps the most internationally well-traveled 311 fan of all time! I have been lucky enough to get to know Gus over the past few years, having first met him in Wichita in the spring of 2009. Since then, we have met up for shows in too many places to count–SoCal, Las Vegas, Denver, Omaha, Wichita, Milwaukee, out on the Caribbean Sea–the list goes on and on! You may see Gus around on Twitter and Facebook, but this in-depth look at his journey as a 311 fan is sure to open your eyes to the behind-the-scenes story and adventures of the one and only Gus!
Gus first became aware of 311 back in 1993 when he heard the song “Do You Right” during his sophomore year of high school. He remembers wondering at the time if the band was comprised of Latino kids due to the elements of “Paso Doble” in the rhythm and style of the song.
“Down” and “All Mixed Up” were played regularly on L.A.’s KROQ (FM 106.7) throughout his senior year of high school, and Gus went out and bought 311 in 1995 at a Sam Goody store in Monterey Park, CA. It was the second CD he ever bought, shortly after obtaining Spacehog’s Resident Alien (nice choice…I LOVE that album!).
In a unique way, Gus partially credits his mother with helping to develop his passion for 311. At a time when alternative rock bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden were on the scene, Gus’ mother, a hardcore Catholic, shunned most of this music and destroyed nearly all of his tapes and CDs – with the exception of a few mixed tapes and 311. Even though the CD survived mostly by accident, 311 was, by default, on nearly constant rotation; thus, a deep relationship with 311’s music evolved.
Although he was a 311 fan for many years, it wasn’t until 2006 that Gus was able to see his first live show. After 11 long years of obliging to other commitments, including school, work, financial obligations, and eventually marriage and the birth of his children, Gus finally saw the band live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 28, 2006. Thanks to his younger sister who came out to visit and surprised him with tickets, Gus was able to not only see his first live 311 show – but his very first concert, EVER! Needless to say, the show was a life-changing experience (he was even in the front row!), and he was hooked. Gus has not missed a 311 show at Red Rocks since that summer of 2006.
Since then, Gus has made up for lost time by traveling to as many 311 shows as possible, throughout the United States and beyond. He has had the unique experience of traveling even further than the average fan to see the band – he has already seen 311 in a total of seven countries! Since 2010, Gus has seen 311 in Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, and Panama. Other destinations have included Alaska, Hawaii, and 311 Caribbean Cruise spots Grand Turk Island, the Bahamas, and Great Stirrup Cay.
You may be wondering…how does one manage to travel to so many international shows?! Gus has a few tricks up his sleeve, including the fact that he works three jobs in order to afford the travel. He has also worked in the airline industry for 16 years, which provides him with some considerable travel discounts.
The song “Visit” has truly inspired Gus to travel internationally to see 311. When the band announced a tour stop in Indonesia in 2010, he remembers thinking, “How cool would it be to see that?!” The show would mark 311′s first time performing in Indonesia, and Gus decided he wanted to be a part of it, too. “I wanted to Visit the world and see my favorite band play,” he said. Gus completed his goal and continued this trend as he joined 311 for their very first shows in Brazil, Mexico, Panama, and Peru.
I asked Gus to describe his three most memorable international trips to see 311. He recounts:
1. Jakarta, Indonesia was indeed the loudest! The crowd was singing all the songs at the top of their lungs! My wife and I were by the sound board, so we had a good view of the band, the fans, and the venue. What gave me chills was how loud the fans sang along to “Livin’ & Rockin’” – I was surprised they knew all the lyrics. When the song ended, I said to my wife, “Oh, shit! That was fucking amazing!”
2. Mexico City, Mexico had a good vibe. The band played on 11/11/11! They took it up a notch and even hit the stage right around 11:11 p.m. I’m not sure if they did that on purpose, but it was really cool. I was with some good fellow 311 fans – Carlitos and another Gustavo – which made it extra special, hanging with them in the pit!
3. Panama City, Panama was an awesome show. I met the band prior to the show, and got to watch the concert from both side stage and the pit. I also got to chat with Tim and P-nut backstage and shake all of their hands. At first, I wasn’t sure if I freaked them out a bit since I looked familiar to them in an all-Latin American country…but I think they realized who I was and were just wondering what the hell I was doing in Central America!
Gus has met the band numerous times over the past several years, but has fond memories of meeting Nick and Chad for the very first time in 2008. After his son Cameron’s first 311 show on March 31, 2008, at the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Gus and Cameron rushed to the buses after the show to try and meet the band. Nick passed by briefly, but said he was going to quickly freshen up and come back out. It was a cold and rainy night, and after two hours of waiting, the Chavez’s almost gave up.
Just as they were about to leave the bus area, Chad came out of his bus to walk his dog. He ended up chatting with Gus and Cameron for a long time, and even signed autographs and took pictures! Gus and Cameron were star struck, satisfied, and ready to head home when Nick suddenly came out of his bus and yelled, “Hey guys!” Stunned and excited, Gus and Cameron enjoyed some quality one-on-one time with Nick, as all the other fans that had been waiting were long gone. It was truly a night to remember for both Gus and Cameron, and Gus still jokes to this day that Cameron got to meet the band after his very first show – a feat that took Gus 13 years as a fan to accomplish!
The following year, Gus and Cameron were able to experience another special 311 moment together. The two had the opportunity to serve as extras in the “Hey You” music video that was shot in Los Angeles. Although Gus and Cameron have just a quick cameo appearance, Gus said that “just being there to witness the making of a music video was surreal!”
Finally, it is not possible to interview, much less talk to, a 311 fan without asking them that one important question: “What is your all-time favorite 311 song?” For those of us that know Gus, this is a no-brainer; but, I was interested to learn the specifics behind Gus’ major love for the song “Strong All Along:”
It always felt like a feel-good song to me. I would always listen to it while cruising down the barrio streets of Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles. The song always reminds me of surviving the gang-infested rough neighborhood I used to live in, where drive-by shootings and gang-related deaths were the norm. Every time I’m feeling low, this is my “go-to” song to improve my mood and reassure me that everything will be fine. It truly has a special place in my heart.
What’s next for Gus? You can catch him at 311 Day 2014 in New Orleans, and surely at a handful of other shows next spring and summer. You never know when or where he will pop up – he may be in So Cal on a Monday, Detroit on Tuesday, and somewhere overseas by Wednesday! His ultimate goal? “Reach a total of 311 shows before I die!”
GUS’ 311 STATS:
Total # of 311 shows: 89
Greatest # of shows seen on a single tour: 19 (Summer 2011)
Greatest # of shows seen consecutively: 13 (Summer 2011)
Total # of states where he has seen 311: 29
Total # of countries where he has seen 311: 7
Top five 311 songs: “Strong All Along,” “Hostile Apostle,” “Prisoner,” “T&P Combo,” and “Misdirected Hostility”
Favorite 311 album: Soundsystem
Favorite/most unique 311 merch item(s): 311 Music t-shirt from the 2010 Halloween show (had a small fan contribution to it)
And finally, Gus’ message to the band: “Thanks for the music and amazing friends made across the country and around the world, which have become extended family. You have changed and inspired my life like no other band has. After 18 years as a fan, 89 total shows in 29 states, 54 cities, 7 countries, 3 cruises and 3 311 Days, I have only just begun. Please never stop making the music which is our life force.”
Til next time… =D