Those familiar with the work of Omar Rodríguez-López, guitarist of The Mars Volta and formerly of At the Drive-In, should know enough by now to check their expectations at the door. As a solo artist, the Puerto Rican national began his career with a collection of instrumental experiments recorded in Amsterdam in 2005. Since then, Rodríguez-López has extended the project to a revolving door of recording and touring partners, including spoken word poet Lydia Lunch, superhuman drummer Zach Hill, and fellow psycho-shredder John Frusciante, while still maintaining a loosely-defined palette of electronic textures and acid jazz composition. With three albums released in 2012 alone, the project has certainly been a productive and interesting mechanism on record, but without a solid performing line-up, their live show is bound to suffer. This was unfortunately the case at Velvet Jones on Saturday night, where Rodríguez-López’s newest bandmates fell prey to muddy mixing, but left us with the prevailing hope that this will be more than a one-off project.
Now going by the name Bosnian Rainbows, the four-piece enlisted the help of KUDU’s Deantoni Parks and Nick Kasper (percussion and keyboards respectively), as well as Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes, who delivered vocals that recalled Grace Slick at her most climactic. The result was an authoritatively strange mix of punk sensibilities, highly experimental songwriting, and nuanced textures that were mostly lost in the translation of a small rock club. Rodríguez-López, whose brain-bending guitar work is the core of the group, was instead relegated to a weak position in the mix, save for a few powerful moments like “Better Off,” which also saw Gender Bender at peak weirdness as Kasper manipulated her vocals to create a crucial balance between wet and dry sounds. It’s difficult to tell if the night suffered from a lack of weirdness or not enough of it, but regardless, Bosnian Rainbows had a strong showing of folks committed to Rodríguez-López’s particular brand of psychedelia, and when he shouted his thanks at the end of the evening sans microphone, not a word was lost on the crowd.