You have to love when a band has nothing new to promote but plays a show for the fuck of it. And you have to love when that band brings along their friends’ bands who also kick ass.
Vancouver’s the Courtneys once again opened for Mac DeMarco, this time at the Malkin Bowl. Bassist Sydney Koke was “living the life” in France, according to singer/drummer Jen Twynn Payne, so another familiar face from Vancouver’s music scene filled in: Hugo Noriega of sludge-punks Weed.
Amongst the many unrecognizable songs the Courtneys played (which are sure to turn up on their upcoming album that Payne said would be out “soon”) were “Manion”, “Lost Boys”, and “Insufficient Funds”. This last song is about being broke, but Payne shared some exciting personal news: “Actually, I paid off my student loan two days ago.” The all-ages crowd that largely wasn’t old enough to understand having personal debt cheered loudly. “Doing this?” guitarist Courtney Loove chimed in. “I wish!”
Next, the hyper-clean, virtual sounds of James Ferraro clashed with the (largely) natural outdoor environment. In a way, this clash only emphasized Ferraro’s satire of the inextricable link between modern existence and the digital realities we hold in our palms in tablet and smartphone form. This arguable clash is admittedly a stretch, though; it certainly went unnoticed by most of the crowd who just chatted amongst themselves, antsy to see Mac DeMarco.
DeMarco always gives his loved ones the best seats in the house. “Say hello to our beautiful bistro table full of family and friends,” he said, directing attention to a long table at the side of the stage where Noriega, two-thirds of the Courtneys, and more faces I couldn’t recognize watched him light up the Malkin Bowl on an otherwise dreary, drizzly night.
Security was initially prompt in shutting down crowd surfing, but things got out of hand in a hurry. Most stage divers leapt before security could reach them but not one unlucky young fan during “Ode to Viceroy”; the burliest guard grabbed him by the jacket and yanked him out of the crowd. “Take it easy on the fucking kid, man,” DeMarco warned, empathetically and sternly.
Security may have taken it too easy sometimes, leading to a few close calls. DeMarco ducked and dodged fans who attempted to snap onstage-selfies with him or tried to hug him mid-song. Sometimes, security intercepted right away. Other times, DeMarco avoided contact by deploying some swift evasive manoeuvres.
The barricade at the front of the stage toppled as the all-ages section pushed forward. Guitarist Andrew Charles White, in his most calming voice, politely requested that this portion of the crowd slowly step back two paces because fans were getting crushed. The crowd never took long to surge forward again before White had to repeat himself, though.
The set list (which you can peek in full at the end of this article) was as fine as any other Mac DeMarco show, and he played with as much lighthearted enthusiasm as ever. But the greatest highlights were the band’s antics.
DeMarco got really low with some serious squats while playing bass on “Another One”. They tore it up with a totally unexpected 10-minute metal epic during which DeMarco and White shredded largely in unison, including when they both played their axes behind their heads. And talk about a cool older brother: keyboardist Jon Lent invited his younger brother and sister to the stage. Neither had ever crowd surfed before, so DeMarco asked everyone to be gentle and “keep ‘em up the whole song, or Jon will bleach your balls. Okay?”
Well, somebody left the Malkin Bowl with bleached balls. Sister fared better than brother who got dumped on his feet relatively quickly a couple of times during “Freaking Out the Neighbourhood”.
After 45 minutes, DeMarco announced that they only had two songs left. After “Chamber of Reflection”, during which a stage diver mooned the audience before leaping back into them, the band got weird – too weird for some folks who headed for the exit.
White led the jam on “Still Together” while DeMarco chilled on the floor with a beer, laid out like one of the gentlemen in Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. White encouraged the crowd to repeat the mantra “I am Henry the 8th, I am” and to raise their arms like in a yoga class. Then they switched mantras: DeMarco turned his cap sideways and repeated the phrase “shut the fuck up” as the band played the main riff from Limp Bizkit’s “My Way”.
DeMarco topped off this strange, hallucinatory odyssey by taking a hell of a leap into the crowd – and removing his socks mid-surf. When he finally reached the partition between the all-ages section and the drinking section, security nabbed him and, while cradling him like a baby, passed him to the beer-swilling crowd that was now frothing from more than just Red Racer – they were now rabid at the prospect of grabbing themselves a piece of the Mac Man himself. But a tug-of-war broke out between the two sections, drawing and quartering him as security, and even a few noble fans, tried their hardest to push the collapsing barricades back into place. Props to Guardteck Security for keeping it all together – as much as they could, anyway.
The entire time DeMarco left himself to the mercy of his fans, the band journeyed into some serious Zappa freakout territory.
The band circled back to one last chorus on “Still Together”, 20 minutes after they started the song.
For the encore (not that one was necessary after such an intense intrapersonal saga), DeMarco announced that they were going to try a brand new song, the title-track from their next album, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. (Honestly, they didn’t reference Limp Bizkit enough.) They then detonated their finale with what I heard was a frequent in-joke of the theirs: “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. As they destroyed with that cover, dual Air Dancers shot up and out towards the crowd, one of them ravaged by clingy, ravenous fans.
It’s refreshing to not have to constantly dodge drinks at Mac DeMarco. And I was certainly happy I didn’t get my face smashed in again. He proved that an all-age show can be for everybody, and that’s another one I could go for.
Mac DeMarco set list:
- “The Way You’d Love Her”
- “Salad Days”
- “The Stars Keep on Calling My Name”
- “Another One”
- “Cooking Up Something Good”
- “[Epic Metal Jam]”
- “Without Me”
- “Let It Go”
- “Rock and Roll Night Club”
- “My Kind of Woman”
- “Freaking Out the Neighbourhood”
- “Chamber of Reflection”
- “Still Together”/“My Way”
- “Enter Sandman”