Monsoon Mosh Pits and a Bunch of Weirdos

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Arriving an hour late to a sold-out Mars Volta show is a mesmerizing experience. Terminal 5, the huge new three-floor venue on West 56th St., was packed wall-to-wall with euphoric 20-somethings and the musty smell of marijuana and sweat. There were a few mohawks here and there, but it was mostly a sea of head-banging-friendly curly mops attempting to match vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s own crazy mane.

With seven people on stage, the Mars Volta looked like a mini orchestra with noisy static guitars led by Omar Rodríguez-López, four keyboards humming gothic-melodic tunes, a screechy saxophone, and a crazy drummer flailing his dreadlocks like a member of Afro-punk band Bad Brains. Long-time fan Steven Cordova, 32, was amazed by a much more sophisticated setup than back in the day; “I remember seeing them in El Paso playing with cheap guitars and pawn shop amps. They have gone through a lot, but it’s finally paying off,” he said after the show. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the Mexican flags covering their monitors on stage. But now they’ve added a huge exotic backdrop of a naked female warrior and giant snake, which later on mysteriously changed into a ginormous Ouija board-like eye and two skull-headed women in green, holding bloody daggers.

Dressed in a skinny black suit (with bell-bottom pants), black patent leather sneakers, and a polyester polka dot collared shirt, Cedric danced around on stage with James Brown-like foot moves while running his fingers through his hair. He read his lyrics from a binder filled with white words on black paper, presumably including songs from their soon-to-be released album The Bedlam in Goliath (Universal; Drops Jan 29). The new album was supposedly influenced by the band’s transitions from everyday tour fun to a psycho-spiritual force that almost tore the band apart (all because of a gift of an archaic Ouija-type talking board given to Cedric that made outrageous speculations). Reviews so far haven’t been too hot, but the crowd remained hypnotized as Cedric sang through a big white mic with a never-ending white cord, convulsing his pelvis as if having an epileptic seizure. The music alternated between chaotic energy and mellow moments of meditation, converting the front rows into mind-scrambling mosh pits.

Towards the end, merengue-tinged bongo beats and maracas were mixed into the music with metal guitar riffs by Omar. I waited all night to hear Cedric’s opera-like vocals change from English to Spanish, but he never sang ni una palabra en español (Well….unless it happened during the first hour that I missed, but a darn shame because songs like “L’via L’viaquez” and “Asilos Magdalena,” from 2005’s Frances the Mute and 2006’s Amputechture, are incredible!).To wrap it up, Cedric told the crowd of ecstatic New Yorkers, “We’re going to end with ’Jack Hammers Outside My Window’ because I woke up to jack hammers outside my window today.” The show ended with a solo beat session on the bongos, followed by the rest of the band and a monsoon mosh pit flooding the first floor. When the song was through, Cedric preached again, “Thanks for caring about a bunch of weirdos like us,” and walked off stage…leaving Omar alone to blow kisses to the fans.

Favorite Moment: The fat kid in an adidas sweatshirt and a black beenie covering his eyes going crazy to the music alone in a dark corner.

Favorite Find: Empanadas con salsa for $6 a pop at Empanada Mama bar on the third floor!

Unusual Celebrity Spotting: Max Weinberg (drummer for Bruce Springsteen and the Conan O’Brian show) standing outside of the concert. Either he was leaving the show…or waiting for his kids to exit.