Written by Samuel Barker
Aug 13, 2005 at 08:00 PM
ImageIt seemed only fitting as System of a Down’s guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian stood in a cool white spotlight and strummed out the opening chords and sang the opening lines of Neil Young’s My, My…Hey, Hey. With so many people declaring rock n’ roll dead or drained of inspiration, two bands on one bill have created their own sound and unique nature within the format. One being Malakian’s System of a Down and the other being The Mars Volta. “My, My..Hey, Hey..Rock n’ roll is here to stay” indeed.System of a Down created the most important album of the last 10 years when it released Toxicity in 2001. The lyrics conveyed a message without holding back the musical exploits of the band. The music itself was a mixture of tempos and moods that gave the feeling of whimsical discomfort that one experiences on a rollercoaster. At first it’s frightening and makes your heart pound, but after a while, it’s a welcome treat that you find happiness in.

Finally, after a long wait, the experience had come to the Houston area. As Malakian stood behind a curtain featuring the cover of their new album, with his silhouette cast from behind playing Soldier Side, the audience cheered and the energy in the air was intoxicating. Then, as the curtain fell, the band went right into B.Y.O.B. and the energy quickly sent the audience into a frenzy of screaming along and dancing.

Vocalist Serj Tankian patrolled the stage with the tale of frat boy partying while the poor are off fighting a meaningless war. Occasionally through the night Tankian would take the time to play guitar and keyboards giving Malakian a chance to take lead vocals. The mixture of new songs with those from Toxicity and their self-titled debut smoothly ran together in a way few bands are capable of.

With nearly no breaks between songs, except for Malakian strumming out a few chords with intros to the songs, System of a Down tore through 27 songs in a little over 90 minutes. The flow of the show was never broken and the audience responded by singing and dancing nearly nonstop the entire night. Only a few moments of quiet were given by the audience as songs from the upcoming second half of their new double album Mezmerize/Hypnotize were interjected into the set.

Old classic like Prison Song sent the audience into a frenzy while quieter songs like Aerials saw lighters and cell phones fill the air. It was the ability to make these transitions and the tightness of Malakian with bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan that kept the flow of the set perfect.

With Hypnotize on the horizon for a late Fall release, we can only sit and wait for the album to hit so everyone will be ready when System of a Down hits town again.

ImageOpening was The Mars Volta. Having disliked Deloused in the Comatorium a great deal, I never gave Frances the Mute a listen. I can honestly say I feel silly for not giving the new material a chance. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has tightened his skills up and lost a lot of the excess garbage he used during Deloused and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala has brought his voice to new highs capturing the vocal feel of classic spacey rock.

With the music on Deloused, it felt like the band was extending their repetitions of the riffs to make the songs longer, the material from Frances The Mute felt like the songs had to be long to fit in all the musical ideas the band had. It was this maturity that makes their set more enjoyable now than ever.

While you can hear touches of old bands like Queen and Rush in their sound, the Mars Volta injects their own brand of insanity into the mix creating something very much their own. The noisy interludes and various movements within songs makes for an interesting sound that few people are able to pull off today. It’s great to see it come from two young men from El Paso, Texas.

With a firm hold on what they are and where they’re going, it’s not unreasonable to believe this band will be around for quite a while.

The Mars Volta’s Set List:
L’Via L’Vasquez
The Widow
Drunkship of Lanterns

System of a Down’s Set List:
Soldiers side
Deer dance
Chop suey
Kill rock n roll
Sad statue
Violent porn*
Mr. jack*
Lost in Hollywood*
Prison Song
Suite pee