On a cold December 4th in San Diego, hundreds of hipsters crowded together in Little Italy’s three-storied Music Box to see Mac DeMarco, a name that is ubiquitous among indie fans. The gap-toothed Canadian artist known for his sleepy brand of lo-fi indie concluded his three-week solo tour with a marathon 20-song set that featured tunes from his entire discography.
I say “marathon,” but anyone familiar with DeMarco’s work knows that he’s never really in a hurry, musically. His signature style is a sauntering introspection that doesn’t rush to the point. He’s most definitely not a punk artist or overly energetic. This attitude was persistent in the entirety of his show.
The concert was front-loaded with crowd pleasers “Salad Days,” “Still Beating,” and “This Old Dog,” to which a good majority of the crowd responded enthusiastically. The bulk of the set, however, was spent pulling out oldies and rarities that dyed-in-the-wool fans would appreciate.
Each song was introduced with an anecdote about the circumstances that influenced its inspiration. DeMarco regaled stories about past tours, living in Montreal, defrauding a community center, and the untimely death of a cat he was supposed to watch for a friend. For other songs, such as between “Treat Her Better” and “One Another,” DeMarco popped a pimple on his face, and talked about YouTube videos of people removing their ingrown toenails, which had absolutely nothing to do with the songs. Even DeMarco observed at one point, “The banter is very strange tonight.”
On songs like “Ode to Viceroy,” the crowd cheerfully sang the guitar solos in the absence of a lead guitar player. Mac yodeled and sang falsetto for other notable instrumental fills. These human substitutes for instruments gave a more stripped back and intimate attitude to the songs, which fit the atmosphere well.
The stage was littered with the kind of things you would find at a garage sale in the suburbs: giant plastic Christmas candle lights, an old-school globe, various busts, a Kool cigarettes storefront sign, a moon-shaped lamp, and an obnoxiously loud Halloween animatronic that would decapitate itself. Set before a Party City disco ball and a projector screen displaying a loop of slo-mo aerial footage taken at sunset, this was the kind of low-budget, tongue-in-cheek aesthetic that DeMarco is known for.
In the middle of “Annie,” the moon lamp that was suspended over the projector screen fell to the stage floor with a disruptive clunk. DeMarco, without missing a beat, turned around to see what had happened, then lamented “Oh, my moon! I got that f—-er at CVS!”
A stagehand promptly replaced the lamp to its perch to enthusiastic cheers from the audience.
At the conclusion of the song, DeMarco began a story about his various stage props malfunctioning on tour, before realizing one of the Christmas candles went dim.
“What the f—, the candles out, too!”
DeMarco closed the night with “Still Together.” Despite having endured a nearly two-hour set of slow, stripped-down songs, the crowd loudly and energetically cajoled him back on stage for an encore. DeMarco, in a pantomimed reluctance, played an abbreviated rendition of “Watching Him Fade Away” on the keyboard before pronouncing, “Bye bye for real,” dropping the mic, and sprinting offstage.
Part prop-comedy, part VH1 Storytellers and laced with burps and poop jokes, DeMarco’s solo set was distinctly reminiscent of an unassuming kickback with your stoner friends. Unusually more intimate than his full band shows, the set still feels familiar. It was decidedly goofy, but nothing felt out of place or artificial. Everything about his set, from the banter to the stage decor, felt genuine and on-brand. Mac DeMarco is one of the more self-aware artists of the indie genre.
Venue: Music Box
Date: December 4, 2018
Image courtesy of diymag.com