They have me on a short leash here," Cedric Bixler says as he tugs on his microphone cord for extra slack. The Mars Volta has just finished "Roulette Dares," the explosive opening to their set. This will be one of the few pauses in the two-hour set, a monstrous armada of pulsating bliss. Omar Rodriguez's wailing guitar blends perfectly with Cedric's squelching voice, as he rants mindlessly about exoskeletons and nooses. Bixler treats his microphone like a wand, as it magically loops and wiggles to and from his hands. He glides around stage as though he is prog-rock's Michael Jackson. Rodriguez has a swagger of his own, a move reminiscent of Randal's waddle in Clerks.

The only other break in Mars Volta's set comes when Bixler chastises a lone crowd-surfer. "You didn't learn that at a Volta show," he says. "Do you know why they won't lift you up? Because it hurts other people! You are the same MTV Road Rules jock that picked on me in high school. Now you're gonna come to my show and do that? Fuck you!"

Bixler appears near-suicidal the whole night, and it's a wonder if his high school demons still haunt him. He constantly wraps the microphone cord around his neck, pulling to a suffocating degree. He grabs at the roots of his hair and then at his cheeks, as if his mouth isn't wide enough to release the anguish from inside. If Adam Duritz believes we all have different reasons for wanting to be big stars, Cedric's reason is to save himself. The audience is Bixler's therapy.


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