Despite the stunning open-air surroundings, a thick fug of weed smoke hangs in the air. Beards, skaters and scenesters cluster to the front of the stage and thins out to the back. This is not a packed house. Being a fan of The Mars Volta’s first album, the proggy masterpiece De-loused at the Crematorium, public interest in them has faded over the years as each successive album has disappeared further and further up someone’s arse - theirs presumably. As the six-strong band strode onto the stage and key members guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala took centre stage, it seemed for a brief minute that they would rock the house so to speak. Bixler-Zavala oozed alpha male confidence.
And then they started playing. And Bixler-Zavala began convulsing, gyrating, spitting, body popping and mic kicking, thrashing around like a dying eel, wailing over guitar wanks and staccato drums to unimpressive effect. Was this a parody? If it was, it wasn’t funny.
Perhaps judgement is unfair, unfamiliar with the band’s more recent work, but the muddy, confused and startingly dull riffage that ensued was wearisome. Gone were the intricate songscapes of De-loused, replaced by middle of the road cock rock, diffused by the sounds of six guys, seemingly playing in different rooms. The crowd were more impressed than me, nodding along (out of beat), and puffing the aforementioned ‘erb. Clearly we were missing something, but the louder and more frantically they played the duller the music got. Only when they pitched in an instrumental half way through was there any semblance of a song being played.
Words by Adam Richmond. Photo from lwestcoat's photostream under the Creative Commons Licence.