From the moment they jumped onto the stage at Rams Head Live in Baltimore last week, The Mars Volta radiated energy. For those who aren’t familiar with the band, The Mars Volta became largely popular from their single “The Widow” off of their album “Frances the Mute” (Umvd Labels) in 2005, and have a new album being released next week, “The Bedlam in Gliath.”
The band has its roots in another band, named At the Drive-In, which included current Mars Volta members Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. At the Drive-In broke up in 2001 due to a combination of excessive drug use, artistic differences and exhausting tour schedules. After their break-up, Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez created the band that we know and love today – The Mars Volta.
The anticipation at Rams Head Live was intense until the band came onstage. Thankfully for some, the venue offered two bars upstairs and downstairs as a temporary distraction from the over-an-hour wait for the show to start. After the eager fans got nice and liquored up, the strobe lights began to flash and the distinct smell of a hidden fog machine somewhere on stage became obvious in the air. Almost as soon as the hint of fog became visible, lights were cued upon the entrances of all eight members of The Mars Volta.
First out was shirtless drummer Thomas Pridgen. Following him was Cedric Bixler-Zavala, lead singer and crowd-pleaser. His hair looked like a crazy artist’s weave of some sort, but he rocked it like Jim Morrison. In fact, much of his on-stage performance was very classic rock (i.e. Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin). He truly took command of the stage, weaving his body into different shapes and jumping from one end of the stage to the other, making the crowd go wild.
He seemed to enjoy spinning the microphone on its cord like a lasso in as many ways as possible, once he even wrapped it around his neck in a noose-like position. Every song that they played had the same dynamic energy and the transitions between songs were short-lived, allowing for more bang for the ticket-holders’ buck. Standing next to Cedric (while he wasn’t bouncing around on stage or jumping towards fans) was Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, lead guitarist.
Although they were somewhat handicapped in movement by their instruments, something should be said for the other members of the band and their ability to deliver performances that live up to that of their lead singer. Towards the beginning of the performance, we encountered the first, small speed bump: Cedric Bixler-Zavala, in all his craziness, requested that all of the fans (presumably those in the first few standing rows) discontinue smoking. Apparently the smoke was making it difficult for him to sing. No one listened, though, and later on in the show someone even threw a glow stick onto the stage resulting in a backlash and an early finish to the concert without encore. Nevertheless, the tickets were priced at only $32, and the show that we received was worth much more.