I headed over to Berkeley last night to see The Mars Volta in concert. I hereby renounce all claim to knowing what is hip. The Greek Theater was packed, probably 12,000 people. Who would have predicted that a heavy experimental psychedelic freakout en Español would be commercially viable? Not me. It was an interesting crowd, a mix of college indie kids, metalheads (a surprising number of metalheads), and aging audiophiles. The hairstyles were spectacular. When I was in college it was decidedly uncool to spend that kind of time, effort and money on your hair, but I guess we still had the shadow of grunge hanging over us more than we suspected.
The band was spectacular. They played for two and a half hours, no breaks, no encore, no between song chatter. This stands in stark contrast to the Lou Barlow and Low shows I saw a month or so ago, neither of which had a set list and so about half the show was spent listening to the musicians try to figure out what to play next. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed both of those shows a lot but they were very low key shows that emphasized how just-like-us the musicians were. These guys are Rock Stars. Cedric has Prince-like stage presence, and I don’t say that lightly.
Go see them.