Smooth Sailing: A Night at The Marías’ Cinema Tour
Updated: Apr 13
It’s tough to think of many bands that deserve their success more than The Marías. After a few years of consistent releases, innovative production, and steady quality, they’ve built themselves a solid platform and a devoted fanbase. It’s a triumph for a band that has always done it their own way and has brought something new to the overcrowded grandstand of somewhat chill indie-pop. After the well-received release of their album Cinema and a blowup in their mainstream following, The Marías finally get to bask in their success. I’m sincerely happy to see it.
The line into Vic Theater stretched around a couple of blocks on a cold Friday night. Right as you thought the line would end right around the corner or just at the next alley, it just kept going. I was shocked by how many people turned up, but it’s a testament to their recent success. Luckily the show took place at Vic Theater, a nice venue right in the heart of my favorite part of Chicago so there was plenty of sightseeing to do while waiting. It’s a slightly small venue, but a perfect place to capture the energy of a band like The Marías. It’s one of those places with an open floor and an overhang with seats on it, so it’s not too packed but not too spacious either. All places like the Vic also seem to have this almost over-the-top Victorian ornate decoration along the walls and ceiling. I honestly haven’t been to enough concerts to know if these kinds of places are prominent in other cities, but they just have a very classic Chicago feel to them.
After the customary purchase of merch and a drink, we took our places standing in the crowd. The merch was all great, but their long sleeve tour shirt (pic below) stood out most to me. The first opener was already playing despite it being only 7:40. The start time was advertised as 7:30. It was a bit of a shock to see this kind of punctuality at a concert, and it was the first in a series of instances where The Marías showed a great respect for their audience’s time. After I posted a video of part of the set on my Instagram story, the official band account DM’d a heart response. I know that’s probably a common thing, but it was endearing to see them put in more time than normal into making their fans’ experience a good one. It’s the little things.
The openers were solid and received warmly by the crowd, but frankly, I just wasn’t really focused on them enough to have anything of substance to say. They were certainly good, but I was there for The Marías. They came on exactly at 9 PM without making us wait very long at all.
Have I mentioned that The Marías is one of the most fitting names in music? María Zardoya is the definition of a lead singer and has one hell of a stage presence, so it’s natural her first name is also the band’s namesake. It’s been clear from the beginning that she makes or breaks the band. This isn’t to take any credit away from the rest of the band, the instrumentalists are fantastic. But I Just couldn’t imagine them with any other voice. The production and the vocals compliment each other perfectly, but in a live setting, María herself reigns supreme. Her sleek, smooth tone and unquestionable vocal quality carried just as well through the stage mic as in a studio, almost startlingly so. I expected a little bit of a drop-off, but damn. The band plays into this lead singer dynamic expertly, and they’re very good sports all around. They did agree to be named “The Marías,” after all. Whenever any other member of the band chipped in with their occasional vocals, raucous cheers went up from the crowd. They took their flowers and went right back to business. Gabe Steiner, the trumpet player, got his own solos on a couple of songs. A few times he even had the honor of the spotlight being shone directly on him as the rest of the stage went dark. He got the best cheers of all, and really caused a swell of energy in the crowd. Still, María just stole the show. They had an arch set up on the back of the stage with a sheet behind it, the most prominent of the generally scant decoration on the stage. A couple of times, they shut off all the other lights and shined a bright light through the arch towards the crowd. This had the effect of making María into a silhouette on essentially a white screen. It was incredible, and just felt fitting.
The Marías aren’t really a band you’re meant to rage or headbang to in any sense, which can make things challenging for a live show sometimes. The songs are all very smooth and calm overall, the equivalent of laying on silk sheets. Audio in a live setting isn’t always the most conducive to this sound, and if there was one thing missing it was that their splendid chord progressions seemed to be drowned out a little bit. Still, The Marías are a band that makes great use of their basslines and drums to make their songs catchy. So, with the drums a bit louder and the guitar a bit softer, it still balanced to give me the same warm, calm feeling of listening to their music on a leisurely walk down the street.
The crowd, a much greater turnout than I had anticipated, were in about as much frenzy as you could ask for considering how mellow the music is. The screams of some (and I emphasize, some) people around me when María addressed the crowd sounded like how I imagine people used to sound when they saw Justin Bieber walking down the street in 2010. It’s intriguing to see how music that’s so chill can produce such an energetic reaction. And the energy all around was great. The musical experience was a nice balance. It had enough energy to feel the excitement, but enough clarity to clearly hear every lyric and feel close to the stage. Most people in attendance seemed to be belting out every word as the songs went along, but around half went silent when the Spanish lyrics were sung. This made the Spanish lyrics feel like the lyrical equivalent of an elegant guitar solo as the audience quieted down and really seemed to focus in. The Marías’ music has this unique ability to make you lose yourself in it, it might be the chord progressions, or maybe the ethereal vocals. At the Vic, I certainly felt myself melt into the crowd and just relax as the music washed over me. Dejate llevar, I guess.