The indie-slacker effectively quashes melancholy beneath goofy antics in a low-key acoustic set.
by Alexander Smail
A member of the audience interrupts Mac DeMarco’s strumming to request he play ‘Freaking Out the Neighbourhood’, one of the Canadian’s more upbeat and danceable songs – a request which is gently refused by the singer for being “too rock-and-roll”. Playing to an intimate crowd of around 250, it is clear his intentions lie elsewhere tonight. Armed alone with only the bare essentials – an acoustic guitar and a mini keyboard – he introduces himself by letting the crowd know how he spent the prior night: drunk and throwing up.
Musically, the Canadian seems to be drifting further away from the buoyant slacker-rock of his roots, towards melancholic introspection, and it’s a similar story onstage. While the carefree attitude for which he is loved remains intact, nowhere to be seen are the crazy antics and unprompted nudity which brought him notoriety early in his career and, as DeMarco matures musically (and mentally), the raucous infancy of his fan base is becoming more apparent. After the show, daughters are dragged home by their fathers before they can greet their beloved, and young teens approach him bearing gifts. For kids looking for a way to be themselves, it’s hard not to see the appeal in DeMarco’s eternally chill demeanour, but as his music becomes more subdued and wistful, the unruly crowds to which he plays seem increasingly disconnected from the music. Nevertheless, if the sorrow suggested by the despondency of his lyrics is present in his performance, it is well hidden beneath goofy jokes and gags.
Throughout the set, DeMarco chats to his audience as if he is chilling with them back at his beach house in New York. Between asking a member of the crowd to feed him a beer, and doing one of his bizarre impersonations, he recalls a particularly unpleasant experience growing up, when one of his favourite bands refused to let him and the rest of the audience sing along during a gig. Consequently, DeMarco seems determined to maintain as good a relationship with his fans as possible – even going so far as giving out his home address on his latest album and inviting them over for coffee. It is easy to imagine the personable entertainer feels most at home during these informal performances, where the connection between him and the audience is palpable.
As he nears the end of the set, DeMarco invites the audience to kneel with him for an intimate rendition of ‘Still Together’ – dedicated to his long-time girlfriend. His howling vocals hush the crowd and, for the first time, the Canadian appears truly vulnerable. The moment is short-lived, though, as he quickly dives off the stage, and into the ravenous hands of his fans. He may not be stripping onstage anymore, but Mac DeMarco has never bared so much.
Cover photo by Ralph Arvesen [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons