The Mars Volta has broken up, let’s look back at their troubled Seattle shows

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Cedric of The Mars Volta throwing stage lighting at the crowd during Sasquatch! 2008.

Cedric of The Mars Volta throwing stage lighting at the crowd during Sasquatch! 2008.

The Mars Volta broke up last night.

That’s pretty sad news for the rock landscape because they made some really excellent, challenging and explosive music. I’m sure I’m not the only rock critic who has labeled them “the closest thing to a modern day Pink Floyd.

But as exciting as the music was that the Mars Volta created was, their live shows were 10 times more energetic, intense and, at times, challenging. I was lucky enough to see the Volta live four times, all of which were great in their own ways. The first time was when they opened for A Perfect Circle at the Tacoma Dome in 2003 and their stage presence and energy upstaged APC’s entire set. The second time happened when they opened for System of a Down at KeyArena (read my review here) and I remember being blown away by their amazing flair and bombast again.

Aside from those two shows, the group has a somewhat rocky history with Seattle (they haven’t performed in Washington state since 2008). That history began with a radio show in 2006 and continued with a sketchy set at Sasquatch! a few years later. It involves onstage tantrums, urine-tossing and the endangerment of fans. Here’s a look at the band’s troubled past in Seattle.

Aug. 12, 2006 – Throwing piss at Endfest at White River Amphiteater

This show happened when the band was touring with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their set, along with RHCP’s, was a part of the now defunct Endfest summer festival. The band preemptively ended their set after someone allegedly threw bottles of urine at the band. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez got angry at his guitar and Cedric Bixler-Zavala put a bounty on the head of the piss-throwing fan after saying White River Apmphitheatre was built on an ancient Indian burial ground. The comments come at the end of the clip above.

“I will pay $100 to $1,000 to somebody to find the person that’s throwing urine up here. I will give you free merchandise and a lifetime supply [of passes] to Mars Volta shows. Find that person and kick his ass for me. Bring me his head and we’ll be friends.”

May 28, 2008 – Throwing a tantrum, and cymbal, at Sasquatch! at the Gorge Amphitheatre

The other show of note happened during 2008’s Sasquatch! when Cedric threw an unexpected tantrum onstage. He  tosses a cymbal into the crowd (1:30-ish mark), attempts to grab a cameraman’s camera (4:30-ish mark), and takes a stage light and throws it into the crowd (6:20-ish mark). Sure it’s all rock and roll fun, but what if that cymbal hit someone who wasn’t paying attention, or somebody got brained by that stage light? Not only would it be a pretty big lawsuit, but someone could have been seriously injured. Fans go to rock shows to enjoy themselves, not be assaulted by projectiles. I’m guessing this is the reason the band hasn’t played a show in this state since.

Hopefully The Mars Volta will reunite some time down the road and will return to Seattle (without the dangerous tantrums please), but from the looks of things, the breakup wasn’t amicable so don’t hold your breath on that one. On the plus side, the fallout of TMV’s demise brings us Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s new group Bosnian Rainbows, and I can tell with authority, having seen them at the Triple Door last year, that they are a very promising group.




Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.