The Mars Volta at Club 101
by Lisa Y. Garibay
Posted on September 30, 2008
Just a few hours after the official announcement that The Mars Volta would be performing a surprise show at Club 101, advance online tickets were sold out and excited fans had already begun lining up outside the venue. Mind you, that announcement had come around 9:00 am via email blast, MySpace and the KLAQ morning show, meaning that word got around in a shockingly short time period. By the time doors opened at 8:30 pm, an line of hundreds of will-call ticketholders snaked around the building, with an almost equally long queue of walk-up hopefulls waiting in another line around the other side of the shopping center where 101 makes its home. All told, close to 1000 lucky patrons crammed into the club for a rare treat from a remarkable band, who finally hit the stage to satiate the hyped-up crowd just after 10:30 pm.
For those familiar with The Mars Volta, the following set list will make sense (despite the seemingly incoherent titles) as well as excite you for its jaw-dropping variety: Drunkship of Lanterns, Ilyena, Wax Simulacra, Viscera Eyes, Ouroboros, The Widow, Meccamputechture, Goliath. The tracks - none of which were less than five minutes in length - span the band's four albums. So for those not so familiar with The Mars Volta's work, witnessing their 90-minute performance tonight was a perfect encapsulation of what this group is all about: expert instrumentation, sonic daring and memorable showmanship.
As usual, the group's co-founders, vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - both of whom grew up in El Paso, along with the band's guitarist and sound manipulator Paul Hinojos - took center stage and compelled most of the crowd's attention with their performances, while Hinojos and keyboardist Ikey Owens, bassist Juan Alderete, drummer Thomas Pridgen, percussionist Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez (yep, Omar's little brother), and flute/sax/clarinet player Adrian Terrazas-Gonzalez provided a solid, precise wall of sound behind them. While Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have been considerably more kinetic during shows in the past, they were still wonders to behold; in fact, not having them go so physically crazy made it easier to appreciate the talent evident in their vocals and guitarwork, not to mention the oft-overlooked skills possessed by the rest of the band.
Bixler-Zavala's comments to the crowd included a request that the crowd (especially those smashed against the barricade up front) "be cool with each other" so as to not to crush anyone; announcing that this show was part of a birthday celebration for Marcel; and schooling the kids about skateboarding history, making it easy to believe that he was feeling good about being home. After launching into the quintessentially bombastic Mars Volta piece "Goliath", with Bixler-Zavala throwing himself about like a rag doll in time with Pridgen's hammering beats as Rodriguez-Lopes let the riffs fly and the rest of his comrades let loose with their instruments, the show came to a smashing conclusion. And over the deafining cheers, Bixler-Zavala thanked everyone there, suggesting, "Now go home and take a shower" before heading offstage with his mates. From the stunned yet smiling faces that were evident as the lights came up inside the club, not many are ever going to want to be washed of this experience.
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