Photo by William Ratel
The odd-ball guitar rock of opener Le Butcherettes prepared the crowd for a quirky night. Vocalist Terri Genderbender caused a mix of violent energy and calm boredom as her intense stage manners during songs were spliced with Spanish conversations that seemingly no one in the Brooklyn audience actually understood. The mixed reactions stopped the second Antemasque hit the stage at 10:30 p.m. – about half an hour past their announced set time.
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala thrashed and rattled their bodies around with the music like they meant it, like it meant something to them. Despite their age, the group tossed themselves around effortlessly and with no regard for what they would run into; at one point, Bixler fell into a stool while singing, causing him to throw the stool backstage and kick over the mic stand without missing a note.
Drummer Dave Elitch’s playing, clear as a bell and impressive as ever on record, sounds even brighter live, as each individual hit of the hi-hat shines brightly. For any of the improvisational moments, Elitch can be seen sitting on his throne, his eyes glued to Rodriguez’s hands, waiting for the cues of when to change the groove. After an exhausting performance of “4AM”, Bixler brought his attention to the venue. Brooklyn Bowl has a bowling alley next to it, and the vocalist tried to converse.
“We were told the bowling lanes were right in front of the stage, so I was prepared to buy three lanes so everyone could see us,” Bixler said. “Then we got here, and they’re all to the side, so I whooped these three at bowling.”
“Yeah, right,” Rodriguez said back.
While “Latin-Danzig” didn’t go all-out in stage banter, it was the first time in years the two leaders of both The Mars Volta and At The Drive-In seemed to be into the same performance. The call-and-response vocals would catch them smiling at each other, and Rodriguez often seemed to playing his guitar directly at Bixler. They’d lean on each other, look at each other, smile for each other; during a particularly intense solo, Rodriguez looked down at his fingerboard, up at Bixler, then back down to his fingerboard, as if he were a child saying “look what I can do” to a parent.
In studio, Antemasque sounds like a modernized Rush, Lopez copping his best Alex Lifeson and Rodriguez doing a mean Geddy Lee imitation. Live, their songs remained the same, but the performance thrived with punk energy like a bull in a china shop playing 70s prog. In studio, the 10 songs take 35 minutes; live, the set lasted over an hour. While Brooklyn Bowl is known as a jam-band venue, Antemasque didn’t quite jam until the final two. The penultimate song turned into a 23-minute guitar solo that was tight but lost steam as time wore on.
Set closer “People Forget” caused the crowd to unite in fist pumping, providing one of the few moments where everyone sang along. The band may struggle to find a cohesive place – are they prog? Are they punk? Is it classic rock? – but for at least a few hundred people on Saturday night, they had a definitive place. So long as the on-again off-again collaborators stay as excited for each other as they were, Antemasque will reward any show-goer.