In this day and age, one thing musicians often forget is that a stage performance is about so much more than the music. A live setting is a medium dissimilar to a record in that it can potentially stimulate all five senses of a spectator. One artist known for taking advantage of the live setting has got to be Mac DeMarco. In case you didn’t know, Mac DeMarco is a Canadian singer-songwriter and psychedelic pop artist. After hearing rumours about his last performance in Montreal in which he climbed up a wall mid-song and then jumped down into the audience, I knew I just had to see this guy. In addition, I had enjoyed his new EP, “Another One”, which came out earlier this month and which I had reviewed for Montreal Rampage HERE.
On August 13, Metropolis was packed to the brim with young hipsters, stoners and pop addicts ready to see their man Mac. I was astounded by how young the crowd was. At twenty-one years old, I was surprised to be one of the older people in the audience. It felt strange. The lights went down and the opener, Jerry Paper, took the stage.
I sincerely don’t really know how to describe Jerry Paper. Somehow I feel as if words could not do justice to how bizarre this guy was. His performance featured him walking around the stage in a kimono flailing his arms around while he sang into a headset, making weird facial gestures. He was backed by an art-pop audio track and he sometimes played a synth on the side of the stage. It was interesting to watch people’s expressions when they entered and saw him up there. Step 1: confusion. Step 2: Entertainment. Step 3: Awe. There was something about his over-the-top performance that seemed oddly genuine and relatable. I think it’s because he seemed so unafraid to act so outlandishly onstage.
After Jerry Paper there was quite a long intermission and the crowd grew restless for Mac. People began stomping their feet and screaming. I felt very boxed-in and crammed in the area before the stage and I ended up staying farther back for most of the show, prioritizing comfort. Soon enough, Mac came onstage with his band and began playing, starting his set off with “The Way You’d Love Her,” a sweet song from his latest EP. Immediately everyone started jamming out and grooving to the music.
I feel here I should say something I’ve found about Mac the more I’ve gotten into his stuff- Mac is a great musician, but his immense popularity is not largely due to his musicianship, but to his aesthetic. Up onstage before me there was his five-piece band, all of which were introduced by Mac before they started playing. To the side, still onstage, sat a table of “Mac’s friends,” a bunch of people he had invited onstage to watch and groove there. In short, Mac’s whole set had a huge feeling of communality to it. In my review, I remarked how at the end of his EP “Another One,” Mac gives out his address to the listener and invites them over for a cup of coffee. Mac in nearly every way strives to give off the impression that he cares a lot about the listener and the people around him. This aesthetic is one of the big reasons why people love him, and the type of people who went to this show noticeably saw something in that. I myself have been enamored with Mac’s charm. With his buck-tooth grin and Vancouver hillbilly-hipster attire there’s definitely something lovable about him. However, I could see someone criticizing this aesthetic, potentially deeming it ingenuous or forced. Having “Mac’s friends” up onstage did impose a sort of elitist dynamic to the whole show. What could it take to be one of HIS friends? In any case, I enjoyed myself at the show and didn’t think this whole question took away from the music in the slightest.
What did take away from the music was that most all of the sound wasn’t loud enough. It was hard to decipher Mac’s words at some points or to hear some synth lines. At one point audience members began shouting “LOUDER!” in unison. It was a bit of a pity because the band was playing excellently. Mac’s guitar tone sounded just like it does on record and the bass parts, heard in the live setting, were complex and interesting. Mac’s stage antics were definitely the highlight for me though.
Audience members threw various articles of clothing onstage and the bandmates put them on. Mac put some kind of white shirt-like article on his head under his hat for a song. Mac also at one point used his gap-tooth to squirt water at audience members, and I have to admit, that was hilarious. My favorite stage antic though had to be when halfway through his song “Still Together” Mac backflipped into the audience and started getting crowd-surfed around. While the band continued to play the song, he crowdsurfed all the way to the front bar of Metropolis, close to the entrance, and then back. I was astounded. I was standing in back and I saw him slowly coming forward. Soon enough he was over my head, pointing with his fingers, telling people where to direct him. Eventually he got back to the stage and finished the song off, ten minutes later.
The band ended with an extended jam of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” mixed with Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water.” At some point or another in the set, then band had also played Steely Dan’s “Reeling In The Years” and Coldplay’s “Yellow.” All renditions were sick, awesome and surprising. It was interesting to hear him playing metal so well. Great job, Mac.
Overall I had a great time at this performance. If you get a chance, catch a Mac DeMarco or Jerry Paper show. You won’t be disappointed. If you’re not the type for going out or it doesn’t look like they’re ever coming to a place near you, check out their music on the fantastic internet.