The Marías were formed by the Puerto-Rican singer María and the Los Angeles born drummer, Josh Conway. Their music is a mix of R&B, jazz, and psychedelia with melodic guitar, sultry vocals, jazzy percussion, and brassy horns. Joining the couple are Jesse Perlman on guitar, Edward James on keys, and trumpet player/tour manager, Gabe (it also happened to be his birthday). I had the opportunity to see The Marias on May 29th at the campus of our crosstown rival, UCLA. The Student Committee for the Arts at UCLA hosted this event in Royce Hall, a beautiful Romanesque auditorium, which was filled with students and nonstudents.
Jasper Bones, the Chicano wavy-soul artist, opened the show doing a groovy, instrumental jam with his band. He has opened for The Marias before which makes sense as they both appeal to similar demographics of young Latinx people living in LA and navigating love, youth, and life. Jasper Bones said short but memorable things to the crowd like “UCLA is my favorite UC school”, “where my brown people at” - really relating to his audience. Even with his outfit, he was repping Dickies with his classic jacket and red work pants -- for the culture. Jasper played songs off his first EP, released this past winter, captivating the crowd with hypnotic guitar riffs and funky baselines. He also crooned “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys which was a crowd favorite and resulted in a sing-along. Jasper closed with a new song, leaving the audience enthralled and sure to keep an eye out on his upcoming releases.
When the lights dimmed and a Spanish tune started playing, the crowd was standing and cheering with anticipation for The Marías. The band walked out in black turtlenecks and María sparkling in a gorgeous, black fringe dress with dangly silver earrings to shine even more. The stage had a painting set up in the front of the keyboard and a Greek-inspired sculpture by the drums, setting the scene for the show as elegant and nostalgic. They opened with the song “Cariño”, a bilingual love ballad that captured the crowd as they swayed and sang along. María sang sweetly and angelically while playing a stunning red Fender Stratocaster guitar. The Marías were joined by lovely dancers from the UCLA Department of Dance for a few songs and they went along with the all-black outfits. They synchronized a contemporary dance to the song “ABQ” following the rhythm and tune with their subtle moves. María spoke about how this song was written while on their first U.S. tour as well as the anxiety she was dealing with throughout the tour. She said she struggles with anxiety regularly and gave support to those who could relate, in response the crowd shouted words of encouragement like “I love you,” “you’re amazing,” and “we got you.” It was truly a beautiful moment. The Marías played songs off Superclean Volumes I and II and the crowd excitedly cheered for the popular song, “I Don’t Know You.” Maria introduced the upbeat “Basta Ya” by saying let’s dance and the audience did so. The UCLA dancers came out for a couple of other songs including the newly released cover of “….One More Time” by Britney Spears. The Marías kept the catchiness of the tune but still made it their own with whispery vocals, strong drumming, and the mesmerizing synth and keys. The dancers worked it and added just what a pop performance needs. Overall, I think Britney would be proud.
When The Marías finished their set, the audience was shouting for “one more song! One more song!” The Marías delivered more than that including a Happy Birthday shoutout to Gabe (their tour manager/trumpet player) with it sung in English and Spanish. It was very cute and showed how much the band and the crew care for each other. The Marías then performed a few more songs before ending the show and gave the audience their thanks and love.
The Marías are touring the U.S. for the rest of summer so if you get the chance check them out, it’ll feel like a true LA summer.
- Miranda Leibig, DJ