The Mars Volta | 04.17.08

mars-volta.jpgThe important thing to realize from this show was that the band didn’t just play for nearly three hours straight, but that they played well for three hours straight.





The Pageant, St. Louis

Two hours and fifty minutes. That is a good chunk of a day. A lot can be done in just under three hours. The top athletes of the Boston Marathon run the event in well under two hours and fifty minutes. Many MLB games can be played inside that time period. The average flight from St. Louis to New York City can be flown inside of two hours and fifty minutes. Hell, even the third Lord of the Rings movie wasn’t that long. All of these things could have been done inside the time that The Mars Volta played at the Pageant.

The idea of playing for two-hours and fifty minutes most likely scares the crap of most touring acts out there. Many current headliners probably don’t even have enough material to play for that long. So, what made The Mars Volta’s outing even more spectacular is that they did it without ever stopping, no breaks, no intermissions, and no senseless banter with the audience. Just two hours and fifty minutes of explosive, intense, controlled chaos.

With no opening band to warm up the crowd, The Mars Volta’s eight members walked on to the stage to the sound of blaring Mariachi horns over the PA system at 8:15 p.m. The sound of the horns was much like one might hear as a popular bullfighter enters his home stadium. They declared victory before the show ever began. Immediately, the members of the band took their proper positions on the stage and began their assault on the audience with their modern style of Prog Rock. However, after experiencing just one song fromThe Mars Volta, one quickly realizes trying to put them under a specific genre is just another shortcoming of us humans to try and explain ourselves to others. The Mars Volta are more or less without a genre other than just rock. They blend together blues, psychedelic, metal, jazz, and Latin sounds, just to name a few, with unforgiving delight.  

The band started off with a fury on the song "Roulette Dares," a song as epic and full bodied as they come and filled with fluid drums and percussion, soaring guitar riffs and solos, and cryptic lyrics. The Mars Volta started off like they were already fully warmed up and somewhere in the middle of their set. Every song after would be played with the same passion and conviction with many breakdowns and jams that kept the crowd moving all night. One highlight was when, during the popular song "Goliath," guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and saxophonist Adrián Terrazas-González did a classic duel, matching each others’ notes and trying to top each other. This episode built and built until exploding into another jam by the whole band that had a sound reminiscent of classic Santana. 

Rodriguez-Lopez is the featured musician of the group. His guitar playing is fast and furious with deep throaty tones and high-pitched squeals. He churned out riff after riff. Plus, in an age that looks down on the guitar solo, he launched them from his guitar without any apology, driving the crowd to frenzy every time and especially during the breakdown in the middle of"Cygnus."

Though the band had no problem keeping the audience entertained with their music, singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s on stage antics only further riled the crowd. Heconstantly shook and twisted in the most unusual ways and frequently danced a bizarre jig that often slipped into a shamanistic ritual dance. He would turn and flail his hands towards certain band members to give them direction as if he were a mad orchestra conductor. Sometimes he would just belly flop onto thestage and do hand plants then slither around the stage like a snake. At one point, he cracked his microphone stand into the stage with a psychotic rage, breaking it into two pieces, then threw the two halves into the crowd. He was able to follow this up by jumping off the side of the stage into the audience area where he found a large industrial strength trash can that he dragged back onstage with him. Bixler-Zavala dragged it all the way from stage right to stage left and then threw the whole thing into the audience where the trash can began to crowd surf. The best part was none of this insanity was forced. Therewas a sense that he was genuinely driven mad by his band’s music.

If Rodriguez-Lopez and his guitars are the genius of The MarsVolta and Bixler-Zavala and his vocals are the spirit, then the heart was truly the prodigy drummer, Thomas Armon Pridgen. His drums kept the riot of a performance together through the whole night. With miraculous speed and timinghe laid out the platform for the rest of the band to lay their jams over.Throughout the night, most of the band members were turned towards Pridgen and his drum set for guidance and inspiration in their own playing. Some members of the audience commented that he could hold his own against John Bonham or Danny Carey and they were most likely right.

The important thing to realize from this show was that the band didn’t just play for nearly three hours straight, but that they played well for three hours straight. They kept the audience entertained the whole time. Most audience members never left their spot on the floor unless it was to move closer to the stage. About one hour and twenty-six minutes into the show, something seemed to snap in the band. At the point when many bands would start saying their good byes to the crowd, The Mars Volta actually turned the energy up higher. Way higher. They would never slow down for the rest of the night. Though the audience was made up of many seasoned concert goers, three words could be heard often and with sincerity at the endof the night, "Best show ever." |Ryan Parker


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