The Mars Volta : Birmingham Academy

The Mars Volta : Birmingham Academy

Another impressive groundswell of noise...

During the last two years, only a live televised reincarnation of John

Bonham could have done more to raise the profile of prog-rock than
The Mars Volta. Latest album ‘Frances The Mute’ has again

shown that Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez are

very much alone in their quest to reach music’s outer-territories, but how

many people are genuinely interested in watching them get there? NME

calculates the level of endurance required to get through a Mars

Volta gig…

8pm Most support bands are still sound-checking this early and as

a result, the queue outside is still massive when The Mars Volta go

on. It’s a mind-blowing start, though: Bixler spins the mic around

his head as if he were preparing to lasso a member of a front row as a noise

a lot like Led Zeppelin playing inside a black hole erupts. There’s

not a single person in the whole room who doesn’t look transfixed with

excitement and/or terror.

Number Of People At The Bar: 0

8.40pm After a quieter interlude of noodling, they finally come

to a definite stop for the first time. One song, three segments, 40 minutes

– yep, we’re at a Mars Volta gig alright. Bixler begins
‘Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)’ and instead of just standing

open-mouthed with awe, the crowd sing along with arms aloft. For the

briefest of moments, everyone looks like they’re having… fun. Surely not?

Number Of People At The Bar :14

9.15pm Time for a spot of free jazz. As the extravagant

improvising goes on and on (and on) NME can’t help wondering what the
Arsenalscore is. Then suddenly, Bixler talks to the audience

for the first time and issues some kind of defiant anti-media statement.

Trouble is, he speaks too quietly for anyone to hear him properly and is met

with confused mumbles from the punters.

Number Of People At The Bar: 25

9.55pm The stage has gone dark and the only thing audible are

random noises that sound like farmyard animals being molested. Christ only

knows what they’re doing up there. This is starting to feel more like an

exam than a concert.

Number Of People At The Bar: Too many to count.

10.10pm Another impressive groundswell of noise and excited

squealing from Bixler and then, after over two long hours, they

finally call it quits. Time to go home very quickly and listen to

Jet repeatedly until the equilibrium is restored. Note to masses:

everyone should leave a Mars Volta gig after 90 minutes – tops.

Number Of People At The Bar: 0

Hardeep Phull