by Katherine Schloss
Fresh off of a Cal Day full of blue, gold, go bears, and such, my friends and I sauntered to the Memorial Glade in search of respite from the sea of frat noise we’d engaged in, expecting to wade through waves of eager prospective students. Instead, we (thankfully) stumbled upon the concert that SUPERB was putting on. The vibe we encountered on the famous sturdy patch of patchy grass was reminiscent of how I imagine it must have been when the hippies roamed Berkeley in the days of free love and peace. Truly, where have all the hippies gone?!
Writing this has reminded me of my obsession with Lindsay Weir and Kim Kelly of Freaks and Geeks and my envy for their ability to journey off in a VW bus to follow the Grateful Dead. I feel like music today is an escape, whereas it was once a religion. This year I’ve been unintentionally going on a sort of concert pilgrimage. The journey hasn’t taken me far physically, but it has emotionally and intellectually stimulated and changed me. I got my first true taste of the electric experience that is concert-going this past year-- my first year of college. Prior to my time here, I’d only been to a Taylor Swift concert and Vanessa Hudgens’ attempt at one in a small county fair in Pennsylvania. Coming from Orange County, I should have been exposed to more of the small groups that come out of Los Angeles, but I wasn’t savvy enough, always hyper-aware that all of my favorite songs revolved around a 70’s witchy Stevie Nicks period or an 80’s Toto howling “Africa.” But now, I have discovered my intense love for concerts. When I lived in Foothill, notes from the Greek Theater would waft over to my dorm, scoring my study sessions (or lack thereof) and making me feel as though I had started to find a soundtrack for my ever-changing life. I often heard the musicians warming up early in the day, and it felt as if we had gone through space and time together once it was all put together at night. One poignant memory of that time period was when, walking home from VLSB really late one night, I heard the last chorus of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” a few days before he died.
From Berkeley alum Jack Symes to quirky Father John Misty to all of the band nights at Thorsen house, each concert I have attended has been a unique experience that has shifted my perception of the world and of music itself. The concerts with SUPERB have been especially meaningful to me, as they transform various spots on campus that I walk past every day into sites for my infatuations with new artists. The Stelth Ulvang concert in particular was a magical event for me. Rushing from my SwingCal practice, I walked into the beautiful, moody place that is Bowles and immediately was so relieved to shake off the weight from my stressful week and to just vibe to new music with my friends. I felt connected to strangers as we swayed under the purple lights to Stelth’s soothing voice.
For the most part, my concert experience this semester has been like riding a calm comforting wave, save one night where I found myself in the middle of a mosh pit. I’ve learnt to give into the flow of the music without losing my sense of self under the sparkly disco ball and amidst the crowds. I saw Summer Salt at the Corner Stone and I don’t think I stopped smiling once. At the TV Girl concert, I literally went through my whole dance repertoire (trying to avoid the fact that I didn’t know the words and just giving into it all). I was able to just simply vibe with the chill tunes… and that was exactly how I felt on Saturday. The Marías!!! What an insanely hot group they are! I’ll admit that I’d literally only listened to whatever songs my free version of Spotify had fed me-- sorry, I know that’s such chaotic energy but my laziness and lax attitude about some things culminates in having to patiently wait through three of the same ad every hour-- and yet I had definitely loved what snippets I’d heard of her smoky voice. I was not at all prepared for the presence María had onstage- my friend iconically described her voice as “sex embodied” with her black high-waisted dickies, a skin-tight cheetah top and black shades. All of that, combined with her envy-inducing blunt bangs and subtle body rolls, culminated in the creation of one mesmerizing lady. Her movements were sensuous and just self -aware enough to make me immediately want to be so beautifully intentional yet so chill. In a Noisey article, the group’s drummer Josh Conway grapples with the fact that the Marías have been described as “vintage.” I’m personally finding that there’s a timeless collective spontaneity that’s forming in many of the groups I’ve seen this year. By this I mean that the Marías have hit a sweet spot in the combination of their passions somewhere in the mix of old-timey and contemporary, in dreamy tunes that simultaneously evoke hotel lobbies with velour-covered couches and the farthest reaches of the Milky Way. I feel this is best captured by their Ones to Watch article, which says that the music makes one feel, “...transported, taken over by a sultry tranquility as you drift into a timeless space.” They’re all very put-together, care a lot about their music, and each member has a unique look, so their creative juices marinate nicely. This is especially impressive considering the group was a lovechild that sprang from the real love between the band’s eponymous lead woman and its drummer (for once the drummer doesn’t fade into the background). The music videos are a very smooth meshing of retro looks with an effortlessly cool sway set to their sexy and swanky tunes. I could-- and do-- watch “Over the Moon” on repeat, with its intermix of celestial claymation and María in her dazzling, pearly gown surrounded by her monochromatic, white-suited boys. It allows her to be central and showcases her, but not obnoxiously so. She is sexualized, but not exploitatively. Instead, she owns the milky, sparkly dream-like sequence, and its in three minutes and three seconds steals my heart and epitomizes for me what my concert-going journey has been: a time to both find my love for old-school music newly implanted in the present and to also allow myself to grow into my own body. To become my own María, enwreathed by an ivy of the songs that I now carry with me-- whether I know the words or not-- dickies above the ankle and my head held high.