Mac DeMarco as Opener Vs. Mac DeMarco as Headliner: A Study in Contrasts
Christopher Victorio Mac DeMarco at the Independent on Monday
Monday, April 1 // Wednesday, April 3, 2013
The Independent // Rickshaw Stop
Even Mac DeMarco -- the grinning, beatific, 22-year-old rocker who sings about Canadian cigarettes and cooking meth -- thinks it's weird that his band is on tour opening for Phoenix. And it is: The French electro-rockers are cool and studied, keeping their anthemic pop decidedly within the lines. DeMarco, as we witnessed on Monday opening for Phoenix and last night headlining the Rickshaw Stop, is a natural proprietor of chaos, even if his guitars are clean. Why fans of one are expected to appreciate the other is unclear, even to DeMarco himself.
"We've been on tour with Phoenix, which is like this giant fucking rock band," he explained from onstage last night. "When we play with them people are usually like, 'Who the fuck is that guy?'"
Indeed, Monday's Indy crowd largely seemed regard DeMarco with a combination of disbelief and disgust, with only a few finding pleasure in the ramshackle surf-pop. His reception couldn't have been more different at the Rickshaw last night, where DeMarco played atop a bill of three local bands and received boisterous enthusiasm from the youngish crowd all the way through the set. The differences between the two shows were so sharp, in fact, that we decided to lay them bare for you below, in a sort of case study.
Different: The order of the setlist. Similar: The actual songs played. (However, "Cooking Up Something Good," "Freaking Out the Neighborhood," and "Ode to Viceroy" got the best crowd reactions both nights. "Freaking Out the Neighborhood" was played both nights at ramshackle speed.)
Similar: Mac DeMarco and band did not know where they were sleeping after either show. (Last night, he asked for some floor space. On Monday, we heard that an employee of the Independent was nice enough to put them up.)
Different: Opening for Phoenix, DeMarco put on his gap-toothed grin out for a charm-offensive between most songs, seemingly nervous. Headlining the Rickshaw, he showed it mostly at the beginning and the end. At times during last night's set, it felt like the band forgot there was an audience in the room.
Similar: Mac DeMarco still seems like an absolute fucking psycho onstage.
Different: After the Rickshaw show, a couple people near me were wondering out loud if DeMarco is on heroin.
Similar: Clean electric guitar sucks as a live lead instrument unless the mixing is perfect, which it never is. Someone please get DeMarco's guitarist an overdrive pedal.
Different: There was crowd-surfing at the Rickshaw -- both from fans and DeMarco himself. Returned to the stage after a comfy ride around the room, DeMarco said in his typical understated way, "Thanks for the surf, guys, very cool." He was of course grinning.
Different: Much of the crowd at the Indy looked like they could not give two fucks about this giddy dude in a baseball cap and his clean guitars. The Rickshaw's weatherbeaten indie kids danced and moshed (to clean guitars!) and cheered loudly.
Similar: About 40 percent of DeMarco's songs were fantastic -- fast, sinewy, vaguely funky guitar-pop. The slower ones, built on plodding midtempos and predictable chord changes, usually dragged.
Similar: Toward the end of both shows, DeMarco and Co. went into an extended medley of covers that included Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" and the Beatles' "Blackbird."
Different: Last night's medley included "Enter Sandman," "Taking Care of Business," The Police's "Message in a Bottle," and even Tool's "Schism." (They played no more than a minute of any of these.) The Rickshaw crowd received each one giddily.
Similar: Both sets ended with "Still Togther," which sounds like a cover of some lounge-era classic but is in fact a DeMarco original. Different: Monday's crowd appeared perplexed by this to the point of offense.
Different: Walking offstage last night, DeMarco said, "Up next is Van Halen -- stick around, they're going to rock." The crowd laughed.
What does this all say about DeMarco? If you want the full experience -- and we'd recommend it -- try to see him when he's not playing before Phoenix.