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Mac DeMarco at Biltmore Cabaret

Monday 04th, May 2015 / 18:16
By Paris Spence-Lang
Mac DeMarco at Biltmore Cabaret. Photo: Justin Uitto

Mac DeMarco at Biltmore Cabaret.
Photo: Justin Uitto

April 25, 2015

Mac DeMarco’s latest album, Salad Days, is a lazy, swaying beach-party of an effort, bringing to mind sunshine and slow summer days. And this is what I expected from the band as they took the stage at the Biltmore: something nice. And at first, as the goofy-looking Canadian walked up to the mic, smiling his good-natured, gap-toothed grin, that’s what it seemed it would be. Just Mac DeMarco coaxing us through the night with his gentle guitar.

It all went downhill from there.

The first indicator that something was not as it should be was that the music was heavy — much heavier than the recorded works. DeMarco was using distortion (or more likely, his cheap guitar was distorting itself for him) and his vocals came out as shrieks or guttural roars. But this didn’t come off as a detriment: opening with “Salad Days,” the band already had the audience on their side as a hundred voices shouted along. At this point everything still seemed manageable — sure, it would be a noisy beach party, but it would still be lighthearted (they even threw out a cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”). But then, a couple songs later, DeMarco opened the floodgates: “Everyone,” he said before launching into the next song, “needs to start crowd surfing.”

From that point on, the night became a crowd-surfing, beer-spraying, can-throwing, cigarette-smoking, mosh-pitting humdinger of a show, and all the while, the four-piece threw out lewd jokes and aggressive comments. The guitarist asked if anyone could help him get laid. The bassist swore at the crowd when he was hit with a beer can. The stage-hands were nowhere to be seen.

But in the midst of all this, something strange was happening: DeMarco, fully encouraging any and all depravity, was becoming one with the crowd. “It’s funny, our last shows at the Biltmore. Between us,” he admitted, referring to the band, “we must’ve been banned from here at least 20 times.” And as DeMarco’s respect for the increasingly rowdy crowd increased, so did the crowd’s love for Mac. In fact, they climbed the partition in droves and crept on stage until they were lying three-deep at DeMarco’s feet. This connection of the crowd and Mac came to a literal plateau when he, following his own orders, dove into the crowd during the final song of the set.

And boy, can he surf a crowd. Mac hit all four corners of the room, walking on the ceiling and two-hand-fingering people along the way. Then, after a full minute at least, DeMarco pointed himself back to the stage and finished the song. I swore that there would not, could not be an encore — nothing could top what just happened.

I was wrong. The band came back out and tore into their second cover of the night, a 10-minute mash-up of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” The crowd went wild, diving off the stage, smashing into each other, and all the while shouting along. Then, Mac took to the crowd once again, shirtless, playing his guitar while he rode the outstretched hands. And then, after spitting beer at the crowd a final time, Mac DeMarco left the stage.

This was not a beach party. This was not a summer afternoon, nor a single ray of sunshine. But that’s what we have the recordings for — to make our own events on our own time. Because when we’re on Mac DeMarco’s time, we play by his rules, and if that means getting rowdy for a night, then so be it. Because where else are we going to find someone who’ll break all the rules? And that’s what makes DeMarco so unique: he’s willing to break the rules. No, it’s that he just doesn’t care that there are rules.

And that makes for one hell of a show.

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