When talking about the current status of British Columbian indie rocker/jangle popper Mac DeMarco, our contributing photographer Dan summed it up with, “His popularity pretty much lies in the underground, but as far as the underground goes, he’s about as popular as you can get.” While Mac’s great second album (under this name) Salad Days probably wasn’t on the radar of many Katy Perry and Maroon 5 fans when it dropped in March of this year, it’s hard to think of an lo-fi pop musician currently working with as large and devoted a following as Mac DeMarco has, perhaps best evidenced by his November 13th late-night show at Chop Suey in Seattle, which sold out completely just about a week after it was announced, itself an after-party of sorts for Mac opening for Julian Casablancas + The Voidz at the Showbox earlier in the night, which didn’t hit nearly the same level of demand that the Chop Suey show did.
I’d already seen Mac DeMarco play a set before just a couple short months ago at Bumbershoot on day one, and I thought it was one of the best performances I’d seen all festival. His band’s sound was great, they played off of each other really well, the audience interaction was loving, the overall mood was more playful, light-hearted and welcoming than most musicians are willing to make their live sets, and there was just a strong air of passion emanating from Mac and his band. It was clear as that beautiful day that Mac DeMarco and his band clearly loved doing what they do, and as a result, the audience was equally in love as well. However, while his performance at Bumbershoot was great, his late-night performance as Chop Suey was goddamn incredible. I was not prepared for just how chaotic, off-the-wall, and just purely fun as all hell his set was.
There were two local openers for the show by the names of Gold Fronts and Great Spiders, but for the average attendee, it’d be easy to forget that they were ever there. Gold Fronts were this five-piece Americana-pop group whose gimmick is their almost Rednex-esque caricature of Deep South Americans, between their cowboy hats, on-stage banter with mock Southern accents and remarks, and their mildly obnoxious twangy Americana songs that seemed more fitting for the Tractor Tavern than opening a show for an indie pop-rock musician. I wasn’t really enamoured with the group, but at least they had good stage presence and weren’t outwardly bad, which is way more than I can say for Great Spiders, whose entire sound and stage presence read like an alternate universe Foxygen that had no charisma whatsoever and that inexplicably forget all of their music right as they were going on stage for a performance, and awkwardly improvised and ad-libbed for 40 or so minutes in an attempt to seem like that was the point, and that they had any musical ideas to speak of.
However, that bad taste in my mouth was whisked away the instant Mac’s set started. The performance began with their drummer Joe, whom was dressed like Mac DeMarco and was pretending to be him, coming on stage and picking up the mic to do a brief cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games”, with as much reverb thrown on his voice as possible. Afterwards, the real Mac DeMarco came out joined by his band, and they played their real opener, “Salad Days”, to which pretty much the entirety of the audience immediately began engaging in moshing and overall eclectic and violent behaviour that seemed more fitting for an Anal Cunt show. It was very fascinating to see such a large group of people all moshing and jumping around to some of the quaintest and most pleasant-on-the-ears indie pop being made right now, especially when compared to his Bumbershoot set, where the audience was relatively subdued and stationary.
From there, Mac and his band went through a steady succession of songs off of both 2 and Salad Days, with a couple of short covers interspersed, like Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” (which Mac was quick to tell us was a new song that’ll be on their upcoming LP) and a shout-along run of the first verse and chorus of Adele’s “Someone Like You”, which was performed after Mac accidentally broke one of his guitar strings. These too were interspersed with off-colour conversations between band members, as well as a lot of funny exchanges with the audience. Among the performed songs were “I’m a Man”, “Blue Boy”, “Annie”, and “The Stars Keep on Calling My Name”, which was a massive crowd pleaser. Although I was surprised to not hear Salad Days’ lead single “Passing Out Pieces” in the set, I don’t have any complaints about what was performed; it was a pretty agreeable mix of his best and best-known songs, and both I and the rest of the audience were very pleased with what we heard.
To me, though, the last third was where this set went from simply great to unforgettable. On top of a great performance of “Freaking Out the Neighborhood”, as well as another little brief cover – this time of Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” – they performed their set closer “Still Together” (their staple set closer, it appears), which very quickly turned into a loud extended jam before the last run of the chorus, with Mac’s band freestyling away on their respective instruments while Mac decided to do a graceful swan dive into the audience. From there, he surfed the audience all the way to a support beam high up on the ceiling 20 or so feet away from the audience, which he climbed upon like a Viceroy-wired monkey and sat upon, gazing down at the audience, almost knocking over a mounted ceiling fan onto the audience, before jumping into them once again and being carried back to the stage.
…to which he then jumped into the audience again, this time climbing onto the same support beam, but coasting along it inch by inch, until he eventually made it successfully to the bar (which keep in mind was like 50 feet away from the stage), and, while still hanging onto it, dangling from the ceiling, one of the guys working in the bar handed him up some sort of hard alcohol still in its special bar bottle, which he drank from before handing it back down and working his way back to the stage. It was an incredible sight I won’t soon be getting out of my head. Afterwards, his band did stage diving of their own, once each, before they all came together for the final run of the chorus of “Still Together”. Since this extended portion of the song lasted about 15 minutes and the jam very quickly stopped resembling the song at hand, I think by the point most if not all of the audience had forgotten entirely about the actual song, and when they began playing the song again, it was kind of a wakeup call from the high-octane trance that everyone was in.
While I’m always a sucker for a good music festival, shows like Mac DeMarco’s on Thursday night are always my favourite ones to go to, because they aren’t hampered by time limits or a hard-to-please audience that may not be familiar with your work. The entire audience was absolutely into the very goofy and over-the-top performance that they were a part of, and they had all the time in the world to devote to their long, unstructured extended jam of “Still Together”, as there wasn’t a forced 40-minute time window for them to factor in. As I recall, the show got over at around 2:00, but everyone in that building was so in love and crazed with Mac DeMarco that they probably would’ve been totally fine with the show getting over at the very crack of dawn.
The show on Thursday night was also a perfect affirmation of just why he and his band are so huge and adored within their scene. Mac DeMarco and his band have three major things going for them: very fun, impressively-written, and memorable lo-fi pop songs, a great and unforgettable personality both in and out of their music, and legend-making live shows, all of which were put snuggly on the pedestal on Thursday night. Mac DeMarco’s live shows are the kind where everybody says that they’re absolutely fantastic and unlike any others out there, but you don’t realise just how amazing they are until you actually experience them for yourself. I’m not surprised at all that the show sold out as quickly as it did, and I reckon his live shows will continue to sell out in Seattle every time one is announced for as long as he has the indie music scene by the balls. If you haven’t seen Mac DeMarco live in concert yet, even if you aren’t terribly fond of his music, I absolutely recommend you check one out sometime. You may wind up yearning for your tongue in his mouth by the end.
(Below is a gallery of pictures taken at the show on Thursday. Photo credit goes to Dan “Left Brain” Tice.)