Manchester band Maruja's stage at Manchester Psych Fest
Credit: Julia Mason

LIVE: Maruja – Manchester Psych Fest, 02/09/2023.

Train strikes were not going to keep me away from one of my favourite multi-venue festivals: Manchester Psych Fest. On a beautiful day in the North-West it was an utter joy to again spend the day moving between venues seeing artists you love, artists you’ve heard of but never seen, and discovering new artists.

Manchester’s own Maruja closed out Canvas right in the heart of the Festival itself. Anyone who has seen this four-piece live will know they are something unique. However, this set took their performance to a whole new level. Attending my fair share of gigs, every once in a while something extraordinary happens. Maruja began with a statement of intent. The band members, caked in heavy black eye make up, demonstrated this was going to be special from the very beginning. Opening with the drum and bass of Jacob Hayes and Matt Buonaccorsi respectively, the band members had an intensity which remained throughout the gig. Lead singer and guitarist Harry Wilkinson was next onstage and the instrumentation began to build. Finally saxophonist Joe Caroll burst forth and together Maruja went on to blow our minds. Joe immediately headed into the crowd and the mayhem of the moshpit began from the very first song. Indeed he prowled for the whole set, never standing still, into the crowd I lost count how many times. Maruja make music that is undefinable, and that’s their joy. At times loud and wild, at times calm and quiet. At times emotional and heart-wrenching, at times soothing and peaceful. The set included the extraordinary ‘Thunder’, perhaps encapsulating Maruja in one song. The rest of set was new material, I think. To be honest I might be wrong, I was so wrapped up in the gig that was unfolding in front of me.

However, it was not all about chaos. There was an incredibly emotional moment when Harry introduced a song and referenced Mental Health. Love, and looking after one another was expressed in the most eloquent manner. It’s at the very heart of this band. The performance of their lead singer was simply mesmerising. Giving everything, it was obviously loaded with a fierce belief in Maruja and delivered in such a manner it was simply impossible to look away. This is a band in sync. This music cannot be played without that connection.

And goodness did the crowd respond. Time and time again the moshpit took off encouraged by the music as well as the band. You could see how much the crowd were lost in the very moment and it was thrilling. The gig finished with Joe crowd-surfing which seemed an entirely fitting way to end.

Maruja head out on tour in a couple of months beginning at Glasgow’s Broadcast on 1 November. They are also playing at Sheffield’s Float Along festival on 23 September and have just been announced for Manchester’s Beyond the Music festival on 12 October.

For more information including tour dates, please check out their facebook and instagram.

For now those of us lucky enough to be there, experienced a set that will live long in the memory.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.