First published on The AU Review (05.12.15)
When the effervescent Agnes De Marco introduces the support act for her son’s show at The Hi-Fi bar in Melbourne, red wine in one hand, the other hand neatly resting on her popped hip, you know you’re about to witness a very atypical indie rock performance. I had it on good report that Mac De Marcoand his four-piece band enjoy putting on a raucous performance in their shows, testing not only their physical and mental boundaries, but also the audience’s. As I stepped down the tall staircase and into the standing area, intoxicated by the promise of potential nudity, discordant jamming, and maybe some ad hoc crowd surfing, I was met with equal amounts of trepidation and excitement.
Let’s just say Mac did not disappoint.
The Murlocs, a young band hailing from Geelong, were an apt choice for support act before Mac Demarco. Their tight folky sounds were illuminated by the lead singer’s uniquely high-pitched voice. Another thing I noticed was that The Murlocs don’t shy away from the use of the harmonica. The inherently country sound the small instrument emanates peppered their performance, bringing a new and modern twist to a much-loved piece of music equipment. The Murloc’s had the crowd bustling in the mosh pit, purchasing their third beer at the bar, and readying themselves for the onslaught of music prowess that awaited them.
Casual and modest in his childlike overalls, white sunhat and vans, Mac Demarco came onto the stage with no fuss or air of superiority, but with that familiar gap-toothed smile we all know and love.
Mac Demarco opened the set with the pounding classics from their most recent album, Salad Days. Perhaps warming up the audience for some of the more eclectic sounds to come, the first songs were palatable but appropriately amped up the audience. To put on a show with the amount of energy that they do, they knew they would have to pace themselves. “Viceroy”, a track that is Demarco’s quirky ode to his favourite brand of cigarette (the name of which he also wore on his cap), had almost everyone singing along, and interesting element given the band later condemned society for being overwrought by consumerism. But it’s those oddly appealing contradictions and inconsistencies that are what really define Mac Demarco as not only a buzzing band with exciting potential, but brimming with endearing personality.
Mac Demarco breaks his strings a lot. So much, in fact, that he brings an extra pair on stage with him, along with about a dozen beer bottles. During one of his string breaks as he crouched on the ground casually retying, his fellow guitar players took the opportunity to take to the helm. Funnily enough, it was these obviously unrehearsed moments that not only made me laugh, but gave me newfound respect for the diversity and strength of the entire band’s talent. They played Adele’s “Someone Like You”, during one of these moments, motivating the mosh pit crowd to spark their lighters while singing along and swaying, making me feel as though I’d stepped into a crowd from Carols By Candlelight. After the guitarist saw a guy in the front wearing a Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt, he pulled him on stage, then continuing to play a very offbeat, comical rendition of “Californication”. I can’t deny; it was actually really fucking good.
Getting back on track, Mac Demarco continued to play their set, inserting some of the tracks from their EP, Two. “Annie” and “Brother” sounded excellent live, and flowed through one another nicely. Just when I thought the set was perhaps becoming somewhat tamer, De Marco encouraged the audience to take their tops off. Sorry, encouraged the men in the audience to take their tops off. “I’ve got a girlfriend, ladies, sorry,” De Marco said. This didn’t stop him from beginning the well-known Australian chant, “tit out for the boys,” pressuring his drummer to take his top off, and emphasising how much he wanted to see “perfectly sculpted male pectoral muscles.” Right on, Mac.
After “My Kind of Woman”, yet another string broke, and the two guitarists again took it upon themselves to entertain the crowd with a song. Oddly enough, “Yellow” by Coldplay was their song of choice, although this time the interpretation was so left of centre and discordant that Mac informed the crowd that they would need to have a band meeting after the show.
Making a welcome reappearance, Agnes De Marco joined the boys on stage during a ‘jamming’ session where she took to the mic like a natural, singing an intriguing variation of the song “Jamming” by Bob Marley.
Despite a couple of minor technological hiccups on the keyboard, Mac wound down the set with a personal favourite, “Chamber of Reflection”. The keyboard was old and maybe even a little shabby, but the sound it produced was so true to the sounds I’d heard from the record that I couldn’t help but respect it. To me, it was testament to Mac’s musical skills in that he isn’t afraid to use old sounds, old instruments and used ideas, but reinvent them in an excitingly fresh way.
The Murlochs came back on stage for the closer song before the encore, where Mac Demarco dedicated the track to his girlfriend back in New York, and played the song “Still Together”. It would’ve been a lovely way to finish what was an epic performance, but knowing Mac Demarco’s preference for all things unconventional, it actually didn’t surprise me when he returned on stage for the encore and pulled out the likes of Metallica.
Even though I’m an avid live music-goer, you may be surprised to know I have never actually seen someone crowd surf and pull it off. Mac Demarco christened my experience in the most spectacular way. The abetting crowd wilfully opened their arms to Mac’s sweaty embrace, and he trailed over the hands of most of the people in the venue. When he reached the end of the bottom section of the HiFi, he actually climbed the balustrade (which wouldn’t be an easy feat by any standards), and continued to crowd surf in the upper section. Eventually, he made his way back down, regained composure, and said his final farewell to the enlivened crowd by cheering “Kumbaya”.
There really are few words to describe the eccentricity of Mac Demarco’s on-stage persona and overall musical capabilities, so I’ll use the definition he himself coins for his particular brand of sound. Some may call it “blue wave”, or “slacker rock”, some may even call him slightly insane. But after seeing him play live and seeing his broad musical repertoire in the flesh, when he says, “I just wanna do Jizz Jazz”, I strangely completely understand what he means.