The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Mars hojilla lights up Trumpet Blossom at Mission Creek 2023

Saturday, April 8 was the first time mars hojilla performed in a trio, and audiences adored the tight-knit group with a strong message. Fans filled Trumpet Blossom to full capacity fifteen minutes before the show. While some were lucky enough to slip in minutes before the show (including me), others weren’t so lucky. A line built up at the door. Mars hojilla hooked the crowd right away with a sunny rendition of “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees. Myles Evangelista (he/him) showed his range with sweeping high notes and vocal subtleties.

Local artist mars hojilla was joined by bassist Paras Bassuk (they/them) and drummer Chloe Weidl (she/her). Evangelista recruited them after his act was accepted for Mission Creek. Mars hojilla is Evangelista’s pop-rock band and uses simple phrasing to portray complex personal situations. He touched on his songwriting during an interview with KRUI. “Sometimes I’ll write something and think it can only be [applicable] to me, and someone [after a show] will say, ‘oh my God, I thought your song meant this’”.

His next track was “one of the good ones”, which features the lyrics “Baby I’ve been in your shoes”. The audience swayed to the steady bassline and clean guitar riff. After the track, Evangelista thanked the crowd, especially his partner, Emily, who stood “front and center”. He introduced the track “next week” as a song about a long-distance relationship. One of my favorite lines from the song was “distance makes the heart grow fonder / but I’d hate to be away from you any longer”. “Next week” perfectly encapsulates a long-distance relationship that thrives on optimism.

Myles Evangelista of mars hojilla sings at a show. Photo by Caspian Voss.

As Myles swapped out his electric to an acoustic guitar, he told the audience some stories. He started out with a bouncer giving him a tough time when he tried to enter a 21+ venue. “[The bouncer] said, you look 12… keep thinking that your mustache makes you look 21. [I said] like, shut up Chris, you’re bald.” He revealed to the audience that he is a transgender man and has been on testosterone for the past year. Evangelista expressed his concern about the rise in trans hate.

“Systems that should be a space for protecting kids’ existence aren’t,” he said. He raised his concerns about legislation that threatens the trans community. Then, he went into his own experiences in “Pinocchio”.

“Pinocchio” is a personal narrative about Evangelista’s identity and the challenges of having other people accepting him. Vivid imagery of the marionette shows his struggles and unabashed triumph. His vocals were passionate, and the air in Trumpet Blossom froze as he detailed his struggles. As the song ended to uproarious applause, Evangelista turned around and collected himself for a moment. Then another. As the audience realized he was crying underneath the bright red sunglasses, they broke out into even more cheers as Evangelista turned around to see the moved crowd.

“Seeing and acknowledging isn’t enough!” Evangelista announced after the song. “Fight back against legislation. Donate to funds. Ensure [trans friends] are respected and safe.” After this announcement, he took a deep breath. “Oh man, I have family here.” He pointed out his parents, their first time seeing him perform in two years. Smiles spread across the audience.

“Okay. Let’s lighten the mood,” Evangelista said. “This one’s about turning your friends gay.” His song “just between us” was an upbeat poppy track with hilarious wordplay. Lines like “Keep it between us / your favorite little sin” showed the playful nature of the song while having critical undercurrents on cultures that cause people to bury their true selves within.

Photo by Paras Bassuk

Before they started the last song in the set, Evangelista cut his backstory short. “This one is about a girl who broke my heart at 19. She—wait, I can’t get into this, my parents are here.” The audience laughed, and he started “kiss your boys”. The rock track had a mean riff in the chorus that incited some head-banging. Pent up angst crashed through the guitar in a sound that bordered Evangelista’s other act, Two Canes. Unfortunately, after this intoxicating rock song ended, so did their set.

Mars hojilla’s deeply personal Mission Creek concert was a strong first gig for the trio. Bassuk and Weidl showcased their prowess and bass and drums. Evangelista effectively worked the crowd with his moving stories and sunny lyrics to deliver a compelling set of pop-rock jams. Evangelista’s vocals take the passion from emo and the range of pop to brighten listeners’ already sunny Saturday afternoons. His excitement and optimism were contagious throughout the performance. Evangelista will play with his hard-rock group Two Canes at Gabe’s on April 14th at 8:30 pm. Gabe’s is located on 330 E Washington Ave.