The Mars Volta: Frances the Mute Tour

My good friend Steve (notice the lack of link... he is not to be confused with Steve Shepard of Last things Last fame) gave me the greatest birthday gift ever: An invite to see The Mars Volta live with him at the Riviera. It was the best concert I have seen in my life (Sorry Blues Traveler, there's no shame in second place)

The band is like a prog-rock rebuttal to jazz-rock. Where Jazz-Rock was always heavy on the jazz, and the rock was rarely if ever taken for a walk, These guys take the improvisational nature of jazz, as well as a few of its instruments (the percussions, the sax, the bass clarinet, and the keyboards were decidedly jazzish) and applies it to hard rock.

but we're getting ahead of ourselves

First: The venue. (the following is the gist of a conversation whose exact words I don't remember)

Me: Ooooohhh...
Steve: Yeah, this is a really nice venue
Me: looks like an opera house, acts like a rock club. We need to play this house.
Steve: How? We're actors! You can't have a bar and a mosh pit and do theater!
Me: hold on... Yes, that's it!!! We'll both stop saying, "I'm going to pick up the guitar" and actually learn. Then we'll recruit the rest of the band and perform Hamlet the Rock Opera.
Steve: no.... yes!

(noted once again, you have my garuntee that that is not how the conversation went, but that was the gist of it)

We notice the speakers. The enormous, taller than me with another me on my shoulders speakers. I can't speak for him, but my ears at that point simultaneously climaxed and recoiled in shock.

Ok, so cut forward to the curtain rising. The Volta take the stage.


the concert began with a drum solo.


What followed was two hours of pure awesome. Onstage were seven dudes. I'd look up their names, but I'm exhausted from the concert, the observance of which I poured much of my energy into as well as a rather long but enjoyable walk afterwards in search for food (yes this was late but we'd both left for the show soon following afternoon classes and had yet to eat, so we stopped for some Thai food) as well as a longish walk to the nearest station, so I'll put them in when I'm more awake.

On Keyboards was a dude whose piano-playing manner could only be described as this. Imagine that Ray Charles' piano-playing body motion was caused rather than merely accentuated by heroin use. He rocked harder than any other keyboards guy I've ever seen.

the Percussionist: (not to be confused with the drummer) The only honest way of describing this guy is that he was basically a one man percussion ensemble and not in a goofy Dick Van Dyke way, but in an awesome way.

The Drummer: The man who started the show (WITH A DRUM SOLO... I'm never going to get over this) Enormous energy from this guy. The Volta in many if their songs tend to change volume and tempo rapidly and dramatically, and it is this guy's combination of finesse and power that allows for it. He managed to in the course of a song remove his shirt without breaking rythim. I have no clue how he managed it Also, on the bass drum was half-red, half-blue rectangle bearing the words liberte ou le mort in white letters. Don't know why I noticed that in particular.

The Bass Guitarist: Easily the least interesting of the group, which says nothing for his skill, but he pretty much stayed in his place on the stage, with his back to the audience. Doesn't mean he didn't jam something feirce

The Lead Guitarist: Dude once again has a high energy level. Odd thing is that he plays the lead guitar, but he dresses and moves like the bass guitarist from The Band. In any case, he was, as they all are, incredible.

The Other Guy: Not intended as a belittling. Let me explain. This guy was responsible for smokin' sax solos, bass clarinet riffs that melded incredibly well with the bass guitar, and beautful jazzish flute solos. Once again, he rocked hard

Cedric, the lead singer: I will do my best to properly describe him. When he isn't singing in a way I defy any living being on this planet to replicate (incredible range, and when he screams he doesn't lose pitch; in fact he has easily the most melodic scream I've ever heard) he dances across the stage in an exuberant manner that causes me to accuse him of crimes. A lot of times it looked like he'd tripped, but in actuallity it was just him dancing. (I couldn't see his feet due to the crowd) I know that it doesn't sound too great, but the way he danced was truly amazing. Also, way he twirls the mic by the cord (its not quite as simple as that but there are no words to describe what he does) suggests at least an hour of practice daily. Its too bad for him that rythimitic gymnastics is no longer an Olympic sport, because they'd almost have to create a Microphone event for him. As for his voice, it goes higher than I knew a male voice could, yet still doesn't neglect the lower register. I don't possess the words to describe how awesome he sounds.

These seven dudes rocked my socks (quite literally in fact. I could actually feel them vibrating) for two hours. Let me clarify this. there was no silence. Ever. It was two hours of solid rocking. The guys caught their breaths in turn while the others were playing. If you look at the Volta's albums, you'll notice a lot of points in which it calms down for a while. It is my theory that the reason they do this is so that they don't have to stop playing at their shows, which I find brilliant.

So for two hours Steve and I were grooving on some amazing music. It is worth mentioning that we are both eccentric headbangers. He kinda bobs head furiously as opposed to actual banging (though the feriocity is equivalent) whereas I in an attempt to lessen the strain on my kneck drove from the knees and midsection. So instead of a stiff kneck I wound up with an aching back and aching knees. I guess it was a failed experiment. But I'm not complaining

I've said this before, but youse guys need to check out the Mars Volta. You will not be dissapointed.

In summation: they rocked.

They rocked so hard


  1. For those who do not know, I feel it prudent to point out that the first man to take a mic and swing it by the chord was a Mister Roger Daltry of The Who, that being one of his trademarks. I'm sure from this retelling of the tale that Cedric did not let down the high stadards of The Legend Daltry

  2. Cedric was clearly schooled by Daltry in this, but I belive that in this case the student exceeded the teacher.

  3. Sounds like one hell of a show...they left no stone unturned.

    I think the only missing ingredient was a miniaturized model of Stonehenge and some dancing dwarves.

  4. so did you like the band?

  5. I can't remember if Beaky really wanted me to tell you this, or really didn't want me to tell you this, but anyway, due to your interest in guitar playing you've become her hero and god and she will worship you forever.

    Also, we're working on a scheme to meet up in Providence. Or perhaps NYC. Not sure yet.

  6. Saije: heh. did I forget to mention that? The Volta vastly exceeded my very high expectations for what I live show of theirs should be based on having heard both of their albums

    Kate: I notice that you have a tendancy to speak for Beaky. As well as one to misjudge whether she want's you to. Just making an observation. Not accusing you of anything.

    Keep me posted on the scheming. I can probably swing NYC easier than Providence, oddly enough, but whatever works for you two,

  7. i want to go to ny, i want to go to ny!!!! no offense to providence, but i want to go to ny. but if we do i want to go to a show. doesn't even have to be a good one.

  8. The thing with Beaky is that she tells me to say a lot of things, and she tells me not to say a lot things and in between she says a lot of things she doesn't specify. It doesn't always make sense in a strictly logical sense, but everything she says is quite amusing and I'm beginning to think I should carry around a tape recorder. It's quite adorable in an ADD-on-crack sort of way. You'll understand when you meet her.

  9. i'm afraid that kate's assessment of me as having ADD and being on crack may be mostly true. not that i really am either of these things, at least it hasn’t been clinically proven, but it prolly seems true at any rate. and we do talk way too much for her to keep straight what she is allowed and not allowed to speak of to anyone else, so i don’t really blame her for any of that. although i will try to be more clear in the future.
    a tape recorder could prove interesting.

    essy, if you are learning to play the guitar, you will, as kate stated, be in the running for a god-like status with me. but seeing as i already think very highly of you, you needn’t worry about such things. but you should learn and then teach me, hehe ;0)

  10. oh and i'm also very glad you enjoyed your concert :0)

  11. you know, Virgil didn't say anything about the guitar when he talked about the path to becoming a god... was he holding out on me?

  12. You forgot to metnion the lead singer sounds like Rush!

  13. I didn't know that he sounds like anyone. I'll have to check Rush out. Were you at the show?