Maruja delivers a lesson in rebellion in Camden

Normally when reviewing gigs, an idea begins to formulate while watching. I begin to understand what I want to say and how I want to say it within the first few tracks. Maruja was something unforeseen, something so different and unexpected that I actually found it quite difficult to articulate. Nevertheless… here is my best attempt: 

When walking into The Underworld in Camden, a sort of electric buzz was felt – a ringing indication of the loud, all-consuming jazz-punk that was to come. The hum of anticipation for Maruja hung over the sold-out room in a visible way. The band opened with their latest single, ‘The Invisible Man’, an ineffable, flowing track that is a worthy display of Maruja’s unique sound. The crowd was immediately involved, jumping and pushing and moshing, and they screamed ‘the truth, it hurts’ alongside lead singer Harry Wilkinson. Next to Harry was alto saxophonist, Joe Carroll. Joe demanded attention, not only due to the impressive way he carried the heavy jazz sound throughout each track, but the way he radiated an energy that almost screamed through his instrument.

Photo Credit: Cal Moores

The Manchester-based quartet has been dubbed one of the most exciting live acts to see right now, and I vehemently agree. However, some of the credit for this exhilarating show needs to be given to the crowd. By the second track, a fan had managed to crowd surf onto the stage and then dive right back in, completely encouraged by the band. The members themselves came out into the crowd numerous times, whether it was crowd surfing or just standing in the middle and performing amongst their fans. Doing so made the show feel like a group effort, as if we were creating something bigger than all of us in the room.

Photo Credit: Cal Moores

‘Rage’ is next, an emotional track full of brutal lyrics, and my personal favourite to hear live. The song is almost split into two parts, with the first part floating and reflective, containing lyrics like ‘I define myself in judging you…’ (I mean, holy shit). Part two comes crashing in after the first body of lyrics as Harry repeats ‘There’s something inside me, rage…’ over and over. He almost screams the words and the other three musicians share the same unsettled energy, making the song feel appropriately rageful.

When thinking of one of the most impressively composed songs in Maruja’s discography, ‘Kakistocracy’ comes to mind. It’s an almost seven minute track of unadulterated, intentional chaos. The alto saxophone in this had to be my favourite part of the entire gig, stopping and starting, isolating and then colliding with everything else. 

The band is known for improvisation when playing and recording, and their closing song seemed to be something of the sort. Panting and grinning, the guys walked off the stage, leaving a satisfied and buzzing crowd behind them. Rebellious, innately cool, and honestly groundbreaking, Marjua did nothing short of wow me.

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