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The Mars Volta


The Mars Volta

May 10th, 2005 @ Avalon. Boston MA.

Although not as commercially well known as Moby, Weezer, Coldplay or Ben Folds, The Mars Volta shook Lansdowne Street Tuesday night, showing why they belong among the list of Avalonís other spring headliners. A powerful display of raw energy transformed the crisp night air into a sweaty spectacle inside the Avalon. The ambient lighting effects, cluttered stage and retro-looking equipment brought to mind an acid-induced Pink Floyd show from the days of Sid Barrett and Roger Waters. With no introduction, no chit chat, no covers and no encore, the crowd filed out exhausted but fulfilled. These guys were born to rock.

In 2000, the mainstream band At the Drive-In split into Sparta and The Mars Volta. Although neither band has achieved the commercial success of ATDI, both carry cult followings. The Mars Volta quickly created an experimental blend of early punk rock with psychedelic jazz riffs. It is difficult to appreciate the level of talent from their albums alone, but audiences are entranced when this experimental music is played live.

Besides a pair of good-looking afros, the front man and his gifted lead guitarist and have great musical potential. Singer Cedric Bixler Zavala oozed with energy, slithering and twirling his microphone across the stage, sometimes using his voice to accentuate the percussion with surprising effect. Zavalaís melodic voice shined during the slow jazz progressions, and then sliced through the audience minutes later with his screams in a style reminiscent of Axl Rose. The stylish, Omar Rodriguez Lopez squeezed raw acoustical feedback out of his guitar, resembling a slimmer Lenny Kravitz but one who has not sold out. The bassist, Juan Alderete, anchored the band but seemed overshadowed by Lopez. But the show was not perfect. Several songs use very similar base lines and drum progressions. At times the drummer, Jon Theodore, seemed to play uselessly, drowning out other band members and hammering the crash symbol on every downbeat. The young band showed dynamic musical range, however, with sax, percussion, flute, and keyboard (provided Ikey Owens), but their songs seem to converge by the end the show.

Hopefully the bandís experiences on this tour will broaden their range for the next album. In the Downloadable Music Age, this band still manages to sell out each show on word of mouth, rumbling the underground music scene to play at larger venues. In this era of digitized, radio-friendly hits, itís nice to see a band that thrives in live performances.

Pratik R. Patel



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