“Full of doubts with a general smile,” Briston Maroney glows on Ultrapure tour

February 15, 2024

Courtesy of Francesca Theofilou

Briston Maroney is so much fucking fun it’s infectious. On the second night of the U.S. leg of his 2024 “Ultrapure” tour, the indie rock singer performed at D.C.’s 9:30 Club and effortlessly charmed every single audience member in the process. 

Maroney’s sophomore album, Ultrapure (2023) is a lovestruck addendum to the reflective musings of his debut, Sunflower (2021). The Georgia-born performer fuses folk/Americana with a 90s alternative rock sound to create a dance and cry worthy tracklist that uniquely spotlights his talents. In his own words, the record explores “just about every feeling under the sun” and allows the listener to let go “of the idea that anything is supposed to go any certain way.” The album is carefree at its core, and the subsequent performance Maroney delivered on January 26th was no different. 

In contrast to his carefree musical persona, Maroney’s intricate, abstract set design demonstrates an admirable level of attention to detail. The stage was covered with creatures—a giant red heart, a jellyfish, a diamond—with giant emotive googly eyes. With tattered, glittery cellophane wrap draped across the ceiling and perimeter of the stage, the whimsical setup transported the audience into a psychedelic Bikini Bottom as they anxiously awaited Maroney’s debut on stage. 

Courtesy of Francesca Theofilou

Lit in bright pinks and blues that matched Maroney’s newly dip-dyed Harley Quinn-style waves, Maroney and his four piece band established their dominance on stage instantaneously. Maroney sang and played multiple different guitars alongside his bassist, Zack Lockwood, his drummer, Nathan Knox, and his guitarist, Devin Badgett. At many instances, the band ventured into multi-minute instrumental showdowns, emboldened by the electric energy in the room and yet just as relaxed while rocking out as if the four were playing for themselves in an empty garage. 

For a few numbers like the pensive “Sunshine,” Maroney swapped his electric guitar out for an acoustic and softened the energy in the room from a heart-pumping dance party to a campfire serenade. These milder moments of pause served as breathing room in the set for both the performers, and the audience. Despite the tempo shift, all eyes were fixed on Maroney’s rhythmic strumming and raspy croon. These dynamic energy shifts kept the audience waiting with baited breath—Maroney’s next move, much to the crowd’s delight, remained a perpetual mystery. 

Later, when everyone recognized his most popular track, “Freakin’ Out on the Interstate,” from its first chord, he stopped to joke with the audience: “It could be anything! It could be ACDC’s Back to Black! Lots of songs start with this chord!” Shrieks turned to chuckles as he began the much-awaited track, and the crowd’s subsequent lyric changing nearly drowned out Maroney’s voice. 

He wrapped up the pre-encore set with the clincher to his 2018 EP, Carnival. “Rose” is less of a song and more of an epic poem, a change in pace which allowed the audience to reflect on all they had just seen and heard and gave the band one final moment to shine before the night came to a close. A track devoted to the bittersweet goodbye that feels both inevitable and yet all to soon, “Rose” encapsulates the fondness of the audience, bidding adieu to a cathartic and enthralling night. The six-minute song features each instrument in the band, as the four take a full three minutes beyond Maroney’s final lyric to play out this somber, yet electric number. Here was another testament to Maroney’s willingness to share the spotlight and the presentation of a single name, “Briston Maroney,” that operates much more as a collaborative project. 

Courtesy of Francesca Theofilou

With overwhelming charm and a bit of nervous energy, Maroney had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Joking with the audience with a sincerity that makes you feel that you’re the only one in the room with him, Maroney expertly toes the line between powerful alt-rock artist and best friend. Perhaps, in another life or realm, you two could jam together like he riffs with his bassist and guitar player on stage. It’s the mark of a great performer—the ability to connect with everyone and no one in particular, and to have just enough fun with the audience that they leave wanting more. Maroney isn’t trying to be cool; he’s just having fun doing what he loves and that’s exactly what makes his performance so wonderful. 

Francesca Theofilou
Francesca is a senior in the School of Nursing, and a Halftime Leisure assistant for The Voice. She has been described by friends as a "jester," and has a love for the 2005 Mousercise CD.

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