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Mars and the Massacre: Best Live Band Finalist

Mars and the Massacre is one of three finalists in L.A. Weekly's Best Live Band contest. (Profiles of the other two finalists will be coming in the next two weeks, with a winner to be chosen by our panel of experts.)

They have also "traveled from Mars to fuck your ear drums," according to the band's business cards. So there's that.

This heavy-hitting, shred-tastic rock band began as a pop-rock group in Indiana called The Working Hour. Back in Indianapolis, the group felt restricted by the music scene around them. According to guitarist John Newell, the band had to play cover songs just to get into venues, and there wasn't much room for original music unless it was from a nationally touring group.

Tired of playing covers of Tears for Fears and Tom Petty, John Newell, Peter Doherty and Ethan Walden moved out to Los Angeles, and in 2012, Mars and the Massacre was formed. They've come a long way from doing '80s pop covers.

Unlike many bands today, the group actually wanted a name that gave some reference to its music. "We're really loud and fast," says Walden, who suggested the name should include "massacre" to match their hard rock sound. "But we're really spacey and psychedelic, too," he adds, which is how "Mars" was chosen. "It's self-fulfilling."

So, what makes Mars and the Massacre's live show noteworthy? Well, for one thing, the groups' theatrics. Last November, the band had a residency at the Silverlake Lounge. Each week they chose a different theme for the show.

 

Doherty, Walden, and Newell at "Glam Night" at the Silverlake Lounge.
Doherty, Walden, and Newell at "Glam Night" at the Silverlake Lounge.
Photo courtesy of the artist

There was "Party Night," where Newell, Doherty and Walden poured fake blood on themselves, and "Glam Night," when the guys played decked out in full-face makeup and feather boas. There was also "Three Dog Night," when they performed Pink Floyd's "Echoes" in its entirety, a song that's more than 20 minutes long. It was an homage to a group that heavily influenced the band's sound, along with the Flaming Lips, Elvis Costello, David Bowie and the Pixies. 

At "Space Night" the band played sci-fi sounds on their sampler in between songs. They use a sampler at every show to play sounds they feel match the vibe of their set, which could change on any given night since the group switches between genres ranging from punk to jazz. It also helps fill the gap between songs so the band doesn't have to come up with things to say. As Newell puts it, "less talk, more rock."

Mars and the Massacre doesn't only switch genres, though; Newell, Doherty and Walden also switch instruments between songs. They also use a loop-station to simulate the sound of a band twice their size, making their live show even bigger and more boisterous.

Mars and the Massacre doesn't hold back on anything, and the band hopes their shows are as overwhelming for the audience as they are for them on stage. "If you're not killing yourself when you're playing live, you're not doing it right," says Doherty. "You gotta bleed a little bit."
 
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