Words by: David Basteri | Images from: www.myspace.com/themarsvolta
The Mars Volta :: 04.15.08 :: Cain's Ballroom :: Tulsa, OK
A collective fever of anticipation, quiet, reserved desperation and a distinct lack of eye contact spread through Tulsa's legendary Cain's Ballroom like nothing I have ever witnessed at the famed venue. The show hadn't even started, yet The Mars Volta had "spiked the punch," so to speak, and colored the crowd with its own version of psychedelic giddy-up well before they even took the stage.
While not completely sold out, the old Ballroom was teeming with a cheery cross-section of fans, politely and respectfully chomping at the bit for their own private psychedelic reel to begin. Perhaps by cosmic coincidence, the crowd's chants of "Volta, Volta, Volta" brought our heroes out, arriving to piped-in theme music (like any good superhero), and our "Evening with The Mars Volta" began...
The Mars Volta has done a fine job of cultivating its rabid, hyper attentive fanbase, drawn in by the passion and technical wizardry the Volta bring to the table, album after album, show after show. The fervor and acute, discerning ears and minds of the band's audience were tuned in, hard, but so too were The Mars Volta.
Tuned into what? The voices in their heads? In your head? The Soothsayer? Yeah, Oujia boards be damned and all that mumbo jumbo that's been permeating much of the press on The Mars Volta lately with tales of mental duress, floods, disappearing studio tracks while recording their latest record (The Bedlam In Goliath) and communicating with multiple dead personalities. The point is The Mars Volta listens, intently. And when artists like Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitar/producer) and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals) really listen, well, you get what we had here in sunny Oklahoma on a splendid Green Country evening – acid rock for the soul.
The Mars Volta Group - as they refer to the collective who perform live and in the studio - took the stage to a raucous ovation, good vibrations and ear-to-ear smiles. Waving as they strolled and bounced, almost skipping, to their respective instruments on the jam-packed stage, the band looked and acted as if they truly relished the moment, grinning about the aural explosions and auditory tricks and treats they would seconds later unleash on the audience like raw meat to a pack of hungry wolves. Formalities aside, the band chose their weapons, looked around for a moment that seemed like a year, smiled and proceeded with its patented shamanic onslaught. Reaching back to their first album, 2003's De-Loused In The Comatorium, they unleashed "Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)," whose first ten seconds belied the fury and fire that lay within, exploding in furious tempo changes then plummeting back down to sweet ballad-like urgency the next moment. At almost ten minutes, the crowd pleaser had everyone singing and bobbing along amoeba-style, rubbing exoskeletons together in some sort of ecstatic group groove/freakout, a post-traumatic, psychedelic cleanse.
Cedric Bixler-Zavala :: The Mars Volta
This was not my first rodeo with The Mars Volta, having had the brief pleasure of their company a few years back opening for A Perfect Circle, and it must be noted that the band has indeed grown better with time. Maybe it was the opening slot for a very famous band, but that first encounter was rife with frantic stage energy and an almost obligatory "rush" through their songs. Please, do not misunderstand me. It rocked! Bixler-Zavala channeled all the weirdness and energy of every dead and undead frontman ever, whilst whistling his tunes and swoon dancing. He treated his microphone and mic stand like a redheaded stepchild, twirling and twisting like a really gifted but wholly demented psychopath. He even kept apologizing (after almost every single song!) and promising Maynard and A Perfect Circle would be on soon. That was then, and this night as the headliner required no apologies.
"That night I remember what you slipped in my glass," sang Bixler-Zavala. The band followed the opener with a rousing version of "Viscera Eyes" before getting to the meat of the show - the new songs from The Bedlam In Goliath. Ripping into the first (and only?) radio single from Bedlam, "Wax Simulacra," The Volta seemed to swagger even more than before with the joy and exuberance of a five-year old's sense of wonder as they broke it down and unleashed "Goliath" in album sequence. "All the days of my life/ Ever since I've been born/ Never heard a man speak like this man before."
The Mars Volta
Smiles abounded and spread like wild fire, from the band to the crowd, as fast and as furious as the newest member, extraterrestrial drummer Thomas Pridgen, pummeled his skins. Kinetic time-changes were both inherently felt by the musicians and issued through hand signals that Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala used to conduct and communicate with their close-knit group of hired guns. The quiet subtlety the band played with for the first three songs was gone in the blink of a wizard's eye, and they molested and assaulted what followed with serious vigor, hanging from the rafters, performing demented calisthenics and generally daring you, the listener, to go further and ride their deliciously twisted spiral.
A spirited, delirious 15-plus minute "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" from Frances The Mute and a shocking "Aberinkula" closed the show nicely after they played for almost THREE hours, with no break and, true to form, no encore. No fancy visuals, no pretentious bullshit, just a balls-out, freaked-out rock 'n' roll evening with The Mars Volta.
04.15.08 :: Cain's Ballroom :: Tulsa, OK
Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of), Viscera Eyes, Wax Simulacra, Goliath, Ouroborous, Tetragrammaton, Agadaz, Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus, Aberinkula
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