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Mosh Among Us

There's an anecdote in Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life about the time only two people came out to a Black Flag show on the Tulsa stop of the band's 1982 tour. The band literally outnumbered the audience, and fairly new lead singer Henry Rollins was upset, thinking, "What's the point?" But bassist Chuck Dukowski set him straight: it wasn't the audience's fault that more people didn't come out--they came to see Black Flag, and the band was going to play their guts out no matter how many people were there. Rollins obliged.

Also in the band at that gig was guitarist Dez Cadena, who just happened to be part of the crew at the Misfits' Catalyst show last Tuesday night, as well, along with original Misfits bassist Jerry Only and--rounding out a fairly legendary triad--Marky Ramone on drums. Cadena was carrying on the Black Flag ethos (and looking appropriately freaky in all-too-real ghoul makeup); the place was maybe half full, but the guy was sweatin' blood to give the kids their money's worth, along with his band mates. Clearly the Ramones and the original Misfits had a similar attitude toward delivering the goods.

I only bring this up to compare it to Courtney Love's incessant onstage whining about how sad it was for her to be playing the Catalyst to a similarly half-empty house a few nights later. I always kind of liked Hole, but Love has finally become the talentless train wreck that everyone always wanted her to be. Personally, I'd rather chew my arm off than go near within earshot of her again.

Back to the Misfits show, briefly. They frontloaded the original band's greatest songs ("Hybrid Moments, "Skulls," "Astro Zombies," etc.), played almost a dozen Ramones classics (and one Black Flag song, "Rise Above") and got the biggest mosh pit in recent memory going when they launched into "Last Caress." In general, it was way more fun than anyone (like me) who rolled their eyes at the idea of a Danzig-less reunion had the right to expect. And the weirdest thing? They were all so damn nice, even Jerry with his big ol' biceps and death's-head bass guitar. I should have known; after all, for a scary band, it always seemed kind of sweet the way they begged for our skulls.

Steve Palopoli

Mission to Mars

A lot of people have never even heard of The Mars Volta, a progressive, space-rock spinoff of At The Drive-In, El Paso's hyperkinetic descendants of Fugazi. But that didn't stop fans from paying upward of $60 for tickets outside of the Catalyst a couple Thursdays ago, when TMV played their first (and only, so far) show in the United States after a recent European tour opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They played the Cruz as a warm-up gig before heading out on a South American tour with PJ Harvey, and tickets were a freakishly low $15, so it's no surprise to some that the show sold out the day tickets went on sale, leaving fans at the mercy of greedy scalpers.

Fortunately, the hype around them dissolved into so much meaningless drivel in the face of the audio onslaught they dealt to the fans lucky enough to get into the show. With no opening act, TMV exploded Afros-first into a two-hour set of songs from their full-length debut, De-Loused in the Comatorium, a concept-album detailing the fictionalized life of a friend of lead singer Cedric Zavala's, Julio Venegas, who committed suicide in 1996.

It isn't just the tight clothes, bell bottoms and rock-star aura that are earning comparisons to Led Zeppelin, nor is it the style of music, which takes more from hardcore and free jazz than it does from psychedelic rock (but they've got that, too). What TMV has is a lineup of musicians all worthy of worship--the incredible work on the drums by Jon Theordore; the keyboard-slaying antics of Ikey Owens (formerly of Long Beach Dub All-Stars); the mathematical genius of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's guitar-playing, and of course the primal wailing of Zavala, pitched high enough to cut through the sonic maelstrom like a vocal scalpel. If it could only have cut out the scalpers, all in the world of TMV would be right and good.

Mike Connor

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From the November 3-10, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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