Flashing a Bit of the Past: The Mars Volta, NYC

People in the blogosphere:

I have this little gig with Fuel (TV) where I write reviews on music, mostly of the live variety. In addition, and more as of late, I research new stuff and share it with their 'music man' D. Recently, D and I have discussed my kick-starting the Fall off with another round of reviews, firing away with Mogwai at the Wilbur Theater here in Boston; however, and most unfortunately, Mogwai's drummer has been having heart difficulties since only moments after their ATP set when his pacemaker started scratching the surface (literally) and he was sent home to Glasgow to recover; leaving the tour in the state of cancelation*

*For more on this click here .

Since I was still hanging out over at Myspace at the time I started doing this particular blog, I have never posted a review here. I had been stoked over the last week about displaying my words here, but instead the fresh ones will have to wait a week or so. For now, I am posting an oldie on The Mars Volta, just to give you a taste of one of my favorite live experiences.


New York, NY---Winter was planting its legs firmly into the ground of New York City while myself and 3,000+ others planted ours into the sold-out floor of NYC's Terminal 5 waiting to be catapulted into an exploratory "Evening with The Mars Volta"; One that would take us through a 2 ½ hour gale of fearless and monolithic proportions. 

Keeping with tradition, the title theme to the film A Fistful of Dollars came over the speakers around 8:15, as the guy behind me pressed his girlfriend into my back asking her "Can you see the hair? Cause if you can see the hair, that's all that really matters." And with that, 8 unstoppable shadows, two being the marshmallow-topped driving forces behind The Mars Volta (Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez), took their places beneath a psychedelic, Lynchian backdrop, featuring a naked woman, a snake and a multi-armed Indian god. 

Within the roar of the crowd, TMV's newest drummer, the rhythmic beast Thomas Pridgen, slammed the drums and with a Latin-infused sway of his suited-hip, Cedric Bixler grabbed hold of the crowd with an injection of his signature wale, laced over the speedy, illusory track "Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)."

TMV also spewed out tracks including: Cygnus-Vismund Cyngnus, Viscera and Vermicide showcasing their perfection of Miles Davis' reflective theory of tension and release- which they hurl onto an epic level that feeds the audience through the delivery of a visceral punch in the head. And I do not mean this literally (as the crowd at T5 was one of the mellower I have seen at a Volta show) but within this powerful, string-driven climax that never bothers to bottom out, let alone come back down, the sound stays aloft in a spiral of guitar arpeggios and powerful textures, while Cedric haunts. 

Rodriguez-Lopez's compositions were seductive and more fluid as he moved more frequently than usual, and seemed to be exorcising the operatic demons from Bixler-Zavala. This seems appropriate as their newest addition; The Bedlam in Goliath (which comprised most of the set list) was conceptualized around a believed-to-be haunted, archaic Ouija-board type game, the Soothsayer, which Rodriguez-Lopez found at a curio shop in Jerusalem. 

In rare gaps between Bixler's piercing falsettos, his climbing on amps, through Omar's legs, or up on the rails and then samba-ing across the floor, he made a couple of dedications. The one most remembered (for me anyway) was a prelude to "Drunkship of Lanterns" off their first release De-Loused in the Comatorium. Bixler waxed confidently "This next song is for all the people who DON'T want us to keep writing the same two albums over and over…If you like those albums you can go buy them, and **** them, and keep them under your pillow, and maybe you'll win a prize." Reminding the audience that they are indeed a "progressive" rock band.

Vocally, Bixler-Zavala was top notch. Even post side-stage spastic fills, he emerged with barely detectable breath twirled in another polysyllabic verse of hallucinatory imagery to be interpreted however you wished. There where other voices echoing with indefinable sounds that whirled with synthesizer swoops, thick layers of electric saxophone and the pulse of various percussion. Throughout the set, it also seemed as if Lopez and Zavala were talking to themselves; visibly beaming and giggling with eyes to the ground, or at the ceiling, between lyrics knee-deep in monotheistic and extraterrestrial references. 

The oeuvre of The Mars Volta is constantly evolving-as it should. Their sound is that which [if you can imagine] a Salvator Dali or William Blake painting would make if shaken with influential bits from artists like King Crimson, Yes, Rush and Tito Puente , topped off with traditional Latin and blues sounds and served up with their own unique sonic transmissions that make the experience an utmost fantastical voyage at the dream theater (for that moment anyway) of your choice.

And while at almost 3 hours of post-punk-progressive rock jamming at intrepid levels of intensity can be a lot for some, for me, and most that held a ticket, this trip was worth riding out until the very end. When the show concluded we (including the supremely talented, former TMV drummer Deantoni Parks) looked down at our hands implying that we felt ours should have been blistered from just watching them play. 

The Mars Volta are an almost super-human musical force, and when listened is going to take you somewhere else-- maybe you will even learn something.

Explore their latest The Bedlam in Goliath, out January 29, on Stummer/Universal, followed by a new live DVD this spring.