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Last Night: The Mars Volta at the Fillmore Miami Beach

The Mars Volta

April 2, 2008

The Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theatre

Better Than: Being cooked in a cauldron of chaos.

If it is true, as some rabid fan boys might believe, that you haven’t lived till you’ve been nearly kicked in the kisser by Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s vintage black patent leather Gucci loafer, then last night I lived three lives. For it was that many times that the manic Mars Volta frontman’s foot just missed my face, and that many times that I thanked my lucky stars I’m still smart enough to lean back – especially when the full-frontal assault is on.

And The Mars Volta do nothing if not assault – each and every core that we consider sacred or profane. They assault one’s sense of space, assault one’s sense of time, hell, they assault all of one's senses.

Which is exactly the daggered point of it all. We hit TMV because they hit back harder, louder, faster – and a whole helluva lot loonier.

Last night the hard, loud lunatics hit like bricks shot out of a Gatlin gun. Rat-a-tat-tat, take that. Now take that again, sucker. An eight-member no nation army of guerilla warriors who know both the jungle and the alley a whole lot better than we do.

And they’re not afraid to take us deep into the recesses – theirs and ours. Axeman Omar Rodríguez-López, of course, leads the brigade of brigands, slashing, slicing, and splicing ear-shattering sounds not of this or any world. I’m talkin’ well past intergalactic, and well deeper than anyone has a right to dig. And lest you think the fleet-fingered lad is nothing but a fret boy, each rapid-fire chop came coincident with a convulsion of grace and flurry.

But as convulsively graceful as is the six-string sound-slinger, even he couldn’t beat the blustering flurry of singer Bixler-Zavala, who only stayed in one position long enough to allow his voice to reach an unheard of register, and even then he was about as stationary as a blink. In fact, as fast as the cat propelled himself across the stage and back, had you blinked you would’ve missed him, not to mention missed catching the possessed tag-team of he and Rodriquez-Lopez coming off like the cholo equivalent of a post-psych Plant and Page.

The songs, you ask? Well, when each one either melts into the mouth of another and/or lasts longer than a sitcom, there’s no sense in trying to keep track of ‘em. I know they walked out to Sergio Leone, and I know that they opened with “Roulette Dares.” I believe I even heard Bixler-Zavala drop a dab of Amral's Trinidad Cavaliers into the free jazz-soul groove of “Goliath.” But when the cacophony kicks with such furor beyond that becomes hard to say. Of course, 99.9 out of 100 of those rabid fan boys in the audience would disagree, and that’s their prerogative. But for this fogy of a fan, knowing which song was which was a lot less important than knowing that you just got knocked on your ass. -- John Hood

Personal Bias: I’ve always wondered what Bunuel’s Mexican Bus Ride would sound like had it been scored by Throbbing Gristle after they tripped with Zappa and nodded out alongside Ornette Coleman. Now I know.

Random Detail: Of the six million, six hundred thousand and six notes Rodriquez-Lopez played in just the first song, he didn’t miss one of ‘em. The man is positively possessed.

By the Way: It looks like the lads have gone Zoso.

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John Hood

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