The Mars Volta
with Le Butcherettes
Hangar 11, Tel-Aviv, Isreal June 11, 2012
My first thought as I was entering the venue was "what a diverse crowd!" People of all ages, genders, and sizes, hard-rockers, metal-lovers, hippies, and geeks all sharing one common goal: the quest for good live music!
I rushed in to catch my very first glimpse of Le Butcherettes -- a Mexican-American punk band with the most frantic and phenomenal frontwoman I've ever seen, Teri Gender Bender. With Lia Braswell on drums and Omar Rodríguez-López (who will later return with The Mars Volta) on bass, they dove into "Tainted in Sin" and Teri became a blur on which to fixate. She was all over the stage, playing the keyboard, the guitar and then jumping into the excited and sweaty arms of the people in the crowd.
Unfortunately, the set list wasn't long (for a moment there, I forgot that they were actually the opening act). They played a few songs off of their first album (Sin Sin Sin, which was released in 2011) and off of their EP (out in 2008), but it wasn't enough. The crowd (and I) wanted more. They ended their part of the evening with "Gold Notebook," an unreleased song, probably from their soon-to-be released album. From beginning to end, Le Butcherettes gave a hell of a show. They didn't compromise, they were present and willing, and the crowd was impressed.
After a short while, the theme song of the film A Fistful of Dollars was played and The Mars Volta appeared on stage, starting off with "The Whip Hand," from their most recent album Noctourniquet. I had no idea that the Texas-based band was so well-known here in Israel until I sensed the amount of anticipation among the crowd. The lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala stepped on stage with his unique curls, shining black suit, and a certain attitude. Everything seemed promising at that point. Then he told a story about his flight to Israel, where he was asked if he wanted an omelet or pancakes. "Pancakes!" was the answer and the crowd cheered. Every song was a different story, and a long one. They went on with some more songs from the new album ("Aegis," "Trinkets Pale of Moon," and "Dyslexicon").
Omar seemed like he was taming his crazy guitar, while Deantoni Parks was almost killing the drums. Cedric was climbing on the speakers and throwing his microphone cable all over the place, not really communicating with the crowd, but giving them an entertaining sight to see. Cedric's voice, unlike anything else I've heard before, got a little lost due to the sound quality of the venue. His screeches, screams, and howls became noise that it was sometimes hard to zero in on. Lack of communication and sound issues aside, their performance was brilliant.
Towards the end of the night, they sang perhaps one of their best songs, "The Widow" (from their second album, Frances the Mute, 2005), much to the elation of the crowd. Then came almost 15 minutes of "Goliath," with the band members jamming and jamming into the night. What a disappointment it was to realize that it was actually the last song! The crowd did everything in its power to bring The Mars Volta back to the stage but they never came back, leaving the fans with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Maybe the best progressive-rock band of the decade, The Mars Volta was entertaining to watch live. There was never a dull moment, but they didn't quite live up to the local crowd's expectations. People were expecting more old songs, more communication, and above all, an encore. Luckily, Le Butcherettes compensated for all of that. The Mars Volta have their very special kind of thunder, there's no doubt about that, but -- this time -- Le Butcherettes stole it from them.