The Marías Aligned Venus and Jupiter Over Houston Last Night

María Zardoya
María Zardoya Photo by Violeta Alvarez
The Marías
White Oak Music Hall
October 13, 2022

Before she and her band The Marías played a sold-out show at White Oak Music Hall, María Zardoya told us she was feeling the uncomfortable growing pains of success. She admitted to breaking down a bit on tour, overwhelmed by the sudden rush of attention.

“All these people are here for us, thousands of people are coming to see us and we’re just normal people who wrote these songs in our little apartment in California,” she said. “Now all these people are here for us. I don’t know if I’ll ever really get used to it, but it was just kind of like, are we deserving of all of this?”

That conversation took place in January 2022, before the L.A. band’s sold-out show in White Oak’s large indoor room. Last night, the band was back in Houston and performing to an even larger crowd on the lawn at White Oak. The Marías’ star was rising at the beginning of 2022, but that rising star has since evolved into its own planet – think Jupiter – with lots more fans satelliting around it.

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The Marías
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
The group was already destined for its own place in the music universe, thanks to its winning blend of indie pop, soul and Latin music genres, delivered via impossibly catchy songs written by Zardoya and her partner Josh Conway. Then the big bang of a hit collaboration with Bad Bunny this spring expanded their galaxy further. At the center of these heavens is a goddess – think Venus – who seems to have overcome any success anxiety she once felt. From start to finish of last night’s set, Zardoya was in full command. Her devout fans even brought gifts to the altar – mostly flowers – to show their adoration.

The show began a quarter after eight in the evening and a cool breeze flowed over the crowd precisely when the band launched into its set with “Calling U Back.” The live concert trademarks of a popular band were evident from the first song on – the crowd knew and sang the songs, prompting multi-instrumentalist Conway to commend its vocals from behind the drum kit. And, the smartphones lit up the evening sky, adding more glow to the spotlight while fans recorded their favorites – “Un Millón,” “Little by Little,” show-closer “Cariño” and more.

Hispanic Heritage Month concludes this weekend and Zardoya conducted a bit of a parade from the stage ahead of “Otro Atardecer,” the Bad Bunny collaboration, which came near the end of the set. In Spanish, she took a roll call of fans representing Latin countries last night. Costa Rica, she asked? There was some applause. Even more for Colombia. Expectedly, the biggest cheers went up for Mexico. Zardoya showed pride in her Puerto Rican heritage by carrying its flag while singing the massive hit.

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And Venus was her name: Zardoya goes goddess for fans of the band
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
The band’s ease between pop and Latin styles is another reason it’s gained a large following, a following which skews young and Latina by a survey of last night’s crowd. The Marías attract a very young, very hip audience, the kind that sets trends, and they have the band trending skyward. They went wild for Zardoya, but also for the skilled band backing her, especially trumpeter Gabe Steiner. Anytime Steiner stepped from the shadows of stage left to play, the crowd lost its damn mind.

That’s the sort of enthusiasm The Marías evoke, though, and it’s mostly evoked through subtle sounds rather than thunderous ones. Songs like “Over the Moon,” “Déjate Llevar,” “Heavy,” “Jupiter” and the first song Zardoya and Conway ever wrote, “I Don’t Know You,” were all in the set list last night and all blew a sweet Caribbean breeze over the gathered. The literal sky over White Oak last night was cloudy and in the distance there was lightning. But all we got were a couple of raindrops. Or, perhaps they were tears of appreciation from a goddess, who once was worried about the unfamiliarity of success, washing over the throngs who’ve lifted her and her band to celestial heights.

The Opener: Can we talk about Benee for a minute? Last night’s show opener, like The Marías, is in Texas for ACL and scootched down 290 to Houston for a set which started promptly at 7 p.m. At some point during her spirited run of songs, the New Zealand pop star screamed “Yeehaw! We are in the country!” We found this quite funny, considering the metropolitan city skyline adjacent to White Oak’s outdoor stage and that New Zealand is twice as small as the state Benee has been traversing this week.

Not that we’re holding that against her. She was vivacious and fun on stage, bounding from end to end while performing some very well-crafted songs, keepers like show opener “Tough Guy,” which she punctuated with a “Let’s fucking go!” to the eager audience. She finished a very poetic “Find an Island” with a high-pitched cackle straight from Hocus Pocus 2. At one point, she seemed to be yapping out vocal exercises and later, to advise she’s never been here before, she repeated “Houston!” in a range from alto to falsetto. She is exactly our kind of weirdo, no fucks given and giving it her all with impressive songs like the hit “Supalonely” and new track “Green Honda,” a highly-revved car in reverse backing over a jilted ex. Please give her a listen and if you’re headed to ACL this weekend, do not miss her entertaining set at the fairgrounds or at her aftershow at Scoot Inn.

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The Marías' fans are young, hip, Latina trendsetters
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Personal Bias: My favorite songs from Cinema were tied together last night. “All I Really Want is You,” closed the set proper. It has an ‘80s vibe, particularly the guitars in it, that take an old fella back to some romantic teenaged nights. “Hush” was the first song of the encore – prompted by chants of “Otra, otra!” – and is one of the group’s flagship tracks. It oozes sexiness and who knows what tangent it sent the crowd on once they left White Oak’s grounds.

Also, I don’t mind a cover in a set even by a band with so many good songs as The Marías, so “La Bamba” tacked onto “Jupiter” and “…Baby One More Time,” which allowed Zardoya to show Britney some love, were nice additions.

The Crowd: Young people with very refined taste in music.

Random Notebook Dump: I was in New York City last weekend with the wife to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden (more on that next week) and walking through Times Square, the digital billboards were advertising for The Marías on Spotify. If you’re name is in lights over Midtown Manhattan, you’re clearly doing some things right.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.