The Mars Volta

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author TL date 22/02/08 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Thanks to the obligatory 40 minute delay that apparently only follows the biggest and hottest of bands (Fall Out Boy for instance), my interview with Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and effectively my dinner plans had been pushed severely towards not only the time for the opening of the doors, but also towards the scheduled starting point of the set itself. Long story short, when I get back to Vega I have avoided standing still for the better part of an hour waiting for the band to go on. The downside is that I have to settle for a spot waaay back in the venue that by now is crammed with a crowd more mixed that I'm used to seeing it these days. Emos and punks and indies and nerds and even a few metallers can be spotted tonight as well as numerous oddballs falling wide outside of categorisation (I'm part of the emos I guess, so it's merely ironic of me to point out the stereotypes). That's not the point though. The point is that Vega is STUFFED to the point of bursting. I don't think I even saw so many people when Motörhead played here in December and frankly I'm wondering how the hell The Mars Volta got so many fans here, having not played here since before the release of their debut album. Fortunately my time for speculation is short, as the delay has apparently been shaved down to five minutes and the band comes on stage around 8.35 PM.

In case you're wondering how many people actually play in The Mars Volta's liveshow, I'm counting a drummer, bassist, rhythm guitarist, horn player, percussionist (bongo drums) and a keyboard player before I recognize Cedric and Omar appearing on stage - and I'm not quite sure I got everyone. In any event the band kick things off with the recognizable sound of the well known "Roulette Dares (Haunt Of)" and this of course gets everyone right up on their toes and beyond. The front sees frantic action while people even far in the back are dancing in a manner weird enough to match the jazzy rhythms that fill the air. The volume is cranked way up in the red field and Cedric assaults our ears with his piercing vocals calling out the familiar words "EXOSKELETAL JUNCTION AT THE RAILROAD DELAYED!" while dancing manicly around the stage, overturning his mic stand and throwing it into the air, displaying exactly what kind of behaviour is his standard for tonight. The song draws towards its usual end and then Omar kicks in with one of those guitar solos which make you wonder if Hendrix ever really died. Lights are flashing, illuminating the giant banner displaying Ouija-board artwork behind the band, and from here on out, it takes a more dedicated Volta-fan than me to recognize exactly what parts are where during the set. One song progresses seamlessly into the next, complete with long spastic solos added everywhere, and Cedric stomps around the stage, impressively maintaining both his high level of energy as well as his sky-high volume. Noone knows what's up or down anymore but everyone lets The Mars Volta steal away their senses as half an hour turns to a whole one and any sign of an ending to the show eludes us.

The banner is dropped, revealing an even more.. I'm tempted to say psychotic illustration with forms and colours that twist and change like a kaleidoscope of optical illusion. Still the band presses on and one audial oddity takes the place of the last one until suddenly the band takes a break for Cedric to address the crowd with words, which according to my memory were something like: "Now please don't come up here guys (in response to a lonesome stagediver), this is my dancefloor, yours is down there! And you down there, stop throwing beer up here, we got equipment that can't be replaced!" - Answered with booing from the crowd that's most likely directed at the culprit, Cedric seemingly misunderstands and takes it personally, continuing "Don't get mad, I'm just saying we don't want you to break our equipment! Who the hell throws beer on equipment anyway?".

Then The Volta kicks into more stuff I recognize from "De-Loused In The Comatorium", and soon enough the crowd is back in a trance, having forgotten the reprimande they just received. The show now transcends the two-hour mark and I'm starting to wonder how much more the band has energy for, but this contemplation I am however given more time for, as the band does not stop till they go off stage to thunderous applaud after a breathtaking 2 hour and 35 minute performance.Now sitting by my laptop and writing this up, I'm thinking back and wondering exactly how to judge a performance like this. The proverbial razor's edge between brilliance and insanity comes to mind when thinking of the strangeness of the set I witnessed that night in Vega. 2½ hours of play time is of course impressive, but I'm wondering if it wouldn't ,have been more effective to pack the best moments of the show into a more concentrated and energetic punch, sparing me and I'm guessing a bunch of other crowdmembers the moments where we wondered if our backs would've killed us before the show was over. Be that as it may, in terms of both stamina, talent, originality and sheer musical talent The Mars Volta is still in a league soaring stratospherically high over pretty much 98% of all contemporary bands, and the display they put on at Vega was of the kind you won't really ever see on any occasion, so I would be downright insulting them if I gave them less than

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