Of late I’ve noticed that everyone has a Mac DeMarco story. Given that this Canadian buck used to live in Vancouver for a chunk of his life, before packing off to the east coast, this should not come as a surprise or, really, news. It seems nowadays you can barely mention to someone that you like DeMarco’s stuff without the response being that they used to be in the same hip-hop group or that he stole his kegger one time. These thoughts filled my mind on Canada Day as I went to the sold-out show at the Vogue instead of watching the fireworks at Canada Place, as part of the time-honoured tradition that I recognize but never follow.
Having a musician like DeMarco play at a theatre is always a tricky thing because theatres invite distance between the performer and the audience. The majority of the audience sits in restrictive seats that feel removed from the action on the stage while the rest park themselves in the front to step on each other’s toes. With theatre seats, there is always a feeling of a lost opportunity to participate, replaced instead with the only other option of blind consumption. This was especially concerning with a musician like DeMarco whose indie celebrity status is tied into how personable he is as a rock star, and by that, I mean onstage antics involving drum sticks and nudity to get people going and talking. Fortunately, however, the show had solid energy, and things got a little out of hand.
Out of a set that involved “Rock And Roll Night Club”, “The Stars Keep on Calling My Name”, and “Salad Days”, a selection of notable tracks taken from DeMarco’s released albums so far, the crowd sang along to “Passing Out Pieces”, “Cooking Up Something Good”, and “Ode To Viceroy”. DeMarco introduced new songs with screwball politeness, the same careful voice that thanked us at the end of Salad Days for joining him, along with doing his go-to moves like take-a-knee, and kick-out-leg.
During songs with a tailbone groove like “Freaking Out The Neighborhood”, fans got up on-stage, dancing for a brief while before the security guard inevitably stomped on to push them off in one smooth swoop, like his hands were a broom taking care of dust. It was a game of Wac-A-Mole unfolding, with one mole down, and two more taking its place. It wasn’t so very funny when a guy from the crowd resisted, and tried to roughhouse the security guard as well as Demarco at the beginning of the sleepy AM radio single “Brother”. It was a give-and-take, however, with members from the opening acts taking turns crowd-surfing.
Supported by his friends, Peter Sagar on guitar, Pierce McGarry on bass, and Joe McMurray on drums, McGarry was the most natural performer on-stage in engaging the audience, and he was the one that I learned the most about: he had buyer’s remorse about his jeans, he got engaged a day ago, and he would like to thank Taco Bell. During “Let Her Go”, McMurray was a lot noisier, and to hear the clean clash coming from his hi-hat changed the surf pop qualities of the song, made for a stimulating rendition.
Demarco and his cohorts were a Canada Day gift for Vancouver.