Mars on Earth: Rock Band and Followers Take Over Atlanta

Rock band 30 Seconds to Mars takes over The Tabernacle in Atlanta, GA for an epic performance filled with excitement, emotion… and dress up?

It is February 28, 2011, a freezing Friday night on Luckie Street in downtown Atlanta. A line forming around the block 500 strong belts out a chorus of one of 30 Seconds to Mars’ most popular songs, “Kings and Queens”. This is the second Atlanta performance for the rock band in a year. They played the same venue, The Tabernacle, in April of 2010, just six months after the release of their newest album, This Is War, and have been touring around the globe ever since.

If you didn’t know anything about this band (check our their blog), one stroll around the block would tell you all you need to know. The Echelon, the band’s hardcore followers, are dressed head-to-toe in medical scrubs adorned with symbols and lyrics of the band. This progressive rock band designates certain nights of their Hurricane Tour to be theme nights. Some are “White Night,” “Hurricane Night” (modeled after the band’s short film that has been banned on network TV) and “Yuppie Night.” All of the multi-colored, spray-painted, and LIT UP scrubs indicate Atlanta received “Doctor/Medical Night.”

The first group in line drove nine and a half hours and arrived at the venue at 2 AM the night before the show. These fans are serious about their music, and their band. I arrived at 4:30 AM and was the ninth in line. I took a walk around the venue several hours later, once securing my place in line, and was puzzled by the wide range of fans. There were men and women of all ages, from the very old – including one with an actual walker – to the very young who had yet to walk. I was astonished by the array of ethnicity as well. Right away I saw Caucasian, African-American and Asian. This was clearly not your typical alt-rock show overrun with teenagers wearing too much eyeliner, though they were there too.

After sitting more than half a day outside the venue, and being gawked at by passers-by for my scrub attire, anticipation could not have been higher when the venue doors swung open at 8 PM. Having never seen this band before, I sprinted once inside the venue and subsequently battled my way to the front of the standing area, dead center. After waiting with 2,500 Echelon for 30 minutes, the opening act, Middle Class Rut (aka MC Rut) came onstage. This California alt-rock due consists of vocalist/guitarist Zack Lopez and vocalist/drummer Sean Stockham. Once they started to play, I was taken aback by the immense sound these two guys were able to make. One would have thought there were four or five musicians on stage.

Their new album, No Name No Color, was released in 2010. They played a rousing 40 minute set including “New Low”, a catchy song I highly recommend, “Busy Bein’ Born” and “USA.” After an exhausted MC Rut exited the stage, I waited anxiously with 2500 Echelon for Mars. After 30 minutes of being pushed as far into the barricade as possible, or so I thought at the time, and losing the ability to successfully breathe from all the pushing and cramming towards the front, the headlining band finally came out.

30 Seconds To Mars, including singer/songwriter Jared Leto, drummer Shannon Leto, and Croatian-American guitarist Tomislav Milicevic aka Tomo thundered onstage in their scrubs and surgical masks to applause and screams the likes of which I had never experienced. Opening with an infectious high-powered song, “Night of the Hunter”, the entire crowd began to jump together in unison. I no longer held control of my body. I, inexplicably, went up and down without my feet even touching the floor for a large part of the concert. This continued the entire hour and a half show with pauses only to listen to Jared comically banter with the audience and give a special shout out to a “76 year old grandmother” who was keeping up with the high energy, fast paced concert just as well as anyone else.

My own breathing continued to be labored, as everyone in the standing area pushed forward to be closer to the band, much of this at the encouragement of the lead singer. With each new song a new boost of energy and unprecedented level of excitement arose from the crowd. One very special thing about this band is that many of their songs, such as “Closer to the Edge” and “This Is War” require audience participation. The audience has an actual vocal part to play and the band goes to lengths to ensure that you are doing your part at the top of your lungs. However, the lung-crushing pressure of the crowd did stifle my own ability a bit. Jared Leto’s live vocal performances of “Search and Destroy” and “Hurricane” brought out a sense of urgency and raw emotion that stood out above all of the jumping and excitement.

Thankfully, there was time for a quick rest during an acoustic version of “Alibi” and the drummer’s famous “L490” guitar solo. As the end of the show neared, excitement only climbed higher. These fans knew what was coming next. The intro to “Kings and Queens” began, as well as a mad rush to the stage. Simultaneously, Jared invited anyone who dressed up for the theme night onstage with the band for the final song. Crowd surfers, climbers, scratchers, and the purely determined made it onto the stage. The band allowed as many fans on stage as it would hold. So many, in fact, a sound tech had to tell the lead singer to stop inviting fans due to the guitarist’s pedal board being trampled.

I opted to duck under the barricade, which was overflowing with bodies still trying to reach the stage, and enjoyed the show inches from Jared and Tomo. The finale was a surreal moment in this music fan’s life. It is clear this band not only enjoys being close to their fans, but they thrive on it. The 30 Seconds to Mars’ live show was nothing short of an explosive experience centered on a very real connection between the band and the fans. I left feeling like I had gotten well more out of the show than I originally thought I would, especially so, considering the ticket was a mere $32. I will definitely return for another 30 Seconds to Mars live show, and hopefully soon.

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