Fighting your way into the center of the pit at a Mars Volta show is no easy task. Hoards of O.C. hipsters and prog-rock junkies found that out the hard way as the L.A.-based eight piece thrashed and howled on a stage erected atop a basketball court (of all places) at the UCI Bren Events Center on Wednesday night.
The energy in the crowd and in the stands was primed for an explosive two and half hours as every inch of the indoor stadium was quickly over run with clamoring shouts, fidgety clusters of mop-headed fans, pulsing house music and a gathering storm of chronic mist.
The band took the stage, horns blaring to their "Fist Full of Dollars" and there was a massive buffalo rush toward the stage. The black curtain that backed the stage dropped like a skirt, revealing a twenty foot tall naked woman bound at the wrists, a snake dressed as little red ridding hood and something that looked like a devilish muppet with a huge corn cob stuffed up its ass. . .yeah, that's what you call a real stage show. All told, there were four backdrop changes throughout the show, each backlight acid trip more insane-looking than the last.
Seconds after strapping on his guitar, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitar, musical composer) fired the first chords of "Roulette Dares (The Haunt of)" from their first album De-Loused in the Comatorium (2001).
With the crowd sparked and lit with frenzy, vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala did his nastiest as the closest thing to a long-haired Latino James Brown you will probably ever find.
In the midst of the thundering mix of keyboards, bass, saxophone, guitar and percussion, new drummer Thomas Pridgen silenced all questions of his place in the band with a whirlwind performance that blazed through every song. Half the time he just looked like a tornado of dreds and drumsticks behind his kit.
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There were several notable drum solos on songs like "Llyena and Metatron" from Bedlam in Goliath (released Jan.29,2008), the bands latest studio album whose release came the day before the show at UCI.
At times, some of TMV's more rambunctious followers welled up with a little too much testosterone, which caused some notable violent thrashing in the crowd, the kind of occurrence that never slips by Zavala on stage. He stopped what he was doing a couple of times to wag his finger at the crowd, saying something to the effect of "Easy on the testosterone, this ain't a fucking football game."
Zavala managed to do his share of damage later in the show during an improvised romp after the song "Drunkship of Lanterns," wherein he gave the audience love from side to side running up the stands and taking souvenirs back on stage with him...treasures like a random security guard's jacket and an emergency exit sign.
When all was said and done it was a great mix of songs that gave the audience a shoveled spoonful of all four of The Mars Volta's groundbreaking albums, leaving every fan with his or her fare share and probably a little extra.