I came to Austin, Texas for SXSW never having heard of Mac DeMarco and left not having seen him enough. Mac DeMarco played several shows during the week at a variety of venues. It was on Wednesday, March 13 that I chanced upon him and his band at Thrasher’s night party.
Following impressive sets by Bass Drum of Death and Wavves, Mac DeMarco and his band stroll confidently out onto the stage around 10 pm. The bassist sported a skuzzy moustache that seemed to match DeMarco’s careless mullet. Having never heard the name ‘Mac DeMarco,’ I turned to a fellow festival goer and asked what the group was like. The guy looked at me and just said, “better.” “Better than any other show you’ll see here.” Incredulously I turned back to see this band of misfits launch into their first song. Though the music was not as heavy as the previous punk rock bands, the energy of the band members was overwhelming.
Chaos ensued as the crowd took in this particularly frenetic and immediate brand of slacker rock. Throwing any formulas out the window, Mac and the gang bashed through another song called “Cooking Up Something Good,” pausing only to inform the audience the content was inspired by making meth. Amazingly, DeMarco managed to play hard without forgoing any pop sensibilities. Tracks including “My Kind of Woman” and “Ode to Viceroy” laid out clear melodies for newcomers to sing along to. I was immediately struck by how accessible Mac and his band were. They dressed like regular people and engaged the audience like an old buddy, joking around and having a good time, breaking down barriers between attendees.
Incredibly, Mac DeMarco is only 22. Though his onstage antics suggest a lack in maturity, his lyrics and passion say otherwise. Further emphasizing his accessibility is his use of cheap guitars and effects, no one is ever distracted by cherry red Gibson Flying V guitar or huge stage props. Throughout the show it became clear that the music was the most important thing to Mac. Well, that and just plain having fun. Like any veteran performer, DeMarco knows exactly when to switch off between intimacy and humor. Smiling the whole time, I couldn’t take my eyes off the spectacle as the band whipped the crowd into frenzy with a cover of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.” After delivering loose and powerful indie-rock music for about 45 minutes, Mac turned to the crowd, put down his guitar and pulled out a cigarette. With a huge grin on his face he turned to the audience, pausing only to remove his hat and run his hands through his hair. Dropping his cheesy rocker persona, he told everyone that the next song was dedicated to a special someone back home. Soft guitars and a tight rhythm proceeded as DeMarco and his band ran through“Still Together.” DeMarco sung about being together forever in a falsetto, pouring all of his showmanship and energy into each word. As he finished the last transcendent run-through of the chorus he fell into the audience seemingly out exhaustion. The band continued to jam as their fearless leader was tossed about before coming to rest back on the stage.
After listening to his newest record and reflecting on his show it is clear to me that Mac extended and changed some of the tracks, purposefully clearing new sonic ground. His sound is kind of a lofi, grooving indie-rock tour de force. Personable and affecting, the lyrics float just above the instrumental mix. Perhaps this particular show was so perfect because of how well it captured the carefree atmosphere of SXSW. You don’t have to make plans and stress about where your favorite band is going to be. Its all about who you’re with and having a good time. Never losing sight of this, Mac DeMarco tipped his hat, ensuring the audience he will be back one day as he disappeared out the backdoor.
by Zac Turner