Volta Do Mar – Rochester – The Bug Jar, NY – 2001-10-13

Volta Do Mar
Where: Rochester – The Bug Jar, NY.

When: 2001-10-13

Ordinarily, the touring band with the brand new album would get the headlining spot, but for some reason Volta Do Mar, the mostly instrumental math-rock band from Chicago, went on first tonight. And maybe that was a good thing, because they played so well and won over the crowd that diminished as the night wore on. Pushing their latest effort, At the Speed of Light or Day, they completely wowed the crowd that seemed completely unaware of this talented band.

I can’t think of much more challenging than playing the incredibly complex style of rock that Volta Do Mar puts out in a live setting. First of all, the band plays live the way they play in practice, with the drummer facing away from the crowd and the other three musicians in a sort of semi-circle around them, gathered close and giving you the feel that they are one well-oiled machine. Then, you’ll notice that the band includes two bassists, one playing a five-string bass, the other a six-string bass, as well as the lead guitarist.

That double bass attack is phenomenal, adding an incredibly rich sound that compliments the absolutely incredible guitarwork. The guitarist’s hand is often a blur, picking notes with an almost eerie speed and very seldom strumming actual chords. The band seems to be able to flow effortlessly from song to song, adding improvisation to their already complicated yet startlingly powerful music and seeming to cut from one song to another within the same song. That flow is evident on their recorded material as well but even more impressive in a live setting.

As for the music, Volta Do Mar can play the softer, flowing instrumentals as well as a barrage of loud, driving rock. This was the first show in quite a while where I couldn’t hear after, as all three bands were noisy, but I wasn’t expecting Volta Do Mar to rock quite as hard as they did. Some of these songs were elaborate rock efforts that blew the crowd away. There are even bits of vocals used here on a few songs, something else that’s new for the band.

Veluxe took over and played a good, strong rock sound. This Rochester-area band started off with a drawn-out instrumental that led me to wonder if they were trying to follow up Volta Do Mar’s lead, something they never should have attempted. But more likely, it was just an introduction into their music that finds an interesting mid-point between the punk rock of Ramones, the metal of Metallica, and the guitar-rock of Pixies. The highlight of their shows was the cover of Frank Black’s “Los Angelas,” probably my favorite Black song.

The Flashing Astonishers closed off to a much smaller crowd, and they seemed like they were just having fun, mixing up the playlist as they went along and getting playful at the request of a few heavily tattooed men who came in late and requested The Rolling Stones. Despite being somewhat loose in style, The Flashing Astonishers were absolutely incredible, mixing straight-ahead rock, more textured, almost shoe-gazing rock, and some punk-rock sounds. With a new release coming out in January, they played mostly new songs, and the difference between their new work and songs from their 1999 debut release were obvious. This band is just getting better. What the hell is a band like this doing from Syracuse?

So yes, the highlight of this night was Volta Do Mar, no doubt. This band is so good, I had to keep my draw from dropping repeatedly, and I’m looking forward to their new album very much now. And while Veluxe was good, The Flashing Astonishers provided a great backdrop to Volta Do Mar with some incredible, complicated rock of their own. Sometimes everything just comes together for a great night of rock, and this definitely was.