By WILL REISMAN
July 8, 2014
Great American Music Hall
Despite his youthful transgressions -- beer chugging, chain-smoking, a tendency to shove drumsticks up his ass -- it's hard to believe that Mac DeMarco is only 24 years old. He's been producing music since he was a teenager, under the moniker Makeout Videotape, so he seems like a wizened old veteran. And his latest, acclaimed album, Salad Days, is full of world-weary, almost solemn lyrics, replete with sage advice like "treat her better," or "take it slowly." One almost gets the impression that DeMarco is cresting on a newfound wave of maturity.
But as if to quash any of those notions immediately, DeMarco arrived on stage Tuesday night for the first of his two sold-out shows at the Great American Music Hall adorned in a Simpsons T-shirt and ripped jeans. Then he proceeded to gleefully ham it up to a crowd of young concert-goers clearly eager to see one of their own demographic onstage.
While DeMarco is now of drinking age -- his group's beer of choice on Tuesday night was Budweiser -- many of the folks in the audience were not. There were at least two girls at the front wearing braces, although one of them cannily opted to trade a hit of her joint for a chug of Miller Lite.
DeMarco kicked off his set list with the title track from his latest album, drawing a raucous response from the crowd. As expected, he leaned heavily on his new release for the early part of his performance, moving through cuts like "Blue Boy," "Treat Her Better," and "Passing Out Pieces" in the opening moments.
Salad Days, released in April, has made DeMarco a legitimate star on the indie rock circuit. But the barely post-adolescent gathering on Tuesday cheered loudest for his older cuts, reaching a high point on "Ode to Viceroy," the great paean to cheap cigarettes from his second album, 2. The first semblances of a mosh pit began to form during that song, and DeMarco in no way discouraged them. For "Rock and Roll Night Club," off his debut EP, the crowd-surfing began in earnest: one girl jumped off the stage after announcing that it was her 23rd birthday.
Although DeMarco's airy and lilting, calypso-like guitar work could hardly be considered technically overwhelming, he and his band sounded plenty tight. Flanked by his mustachioed counterparts -- Pete Sager on guitar and Pierce McGarry on bass, who provided much of the night's on-stage banter -- the band performed confidently, deftly recreating the studio sound of DeMarco's albums while also adding the improvisational flourishes of a group used to performing together. This did much to belie the past stories of DeMarco and his band blacking out in the middle of prior gigs.
DeMarco's soft, hushed vocals occasionally got lost under the mix of guitars, bass and keyboards, most notably on "Treat Her Better," but for the most part, he sang with self-assurance, making a star turn during "Let My Baby Stay," a frail ballad that climaxed with a cathartic singalong.
Overall, DeMarco's composed yet enthused show on Tuesday reinforced the sense of his growing maturity, dispelling the L'enfant terrible myths -- and despite his clothing choices. Yes, he gave the requisite shout out to all "the MILFS," in the room (we saw none), but he never pandered to the lowest common denominator, despite numerous opportunities. Tuesday's night show was proof that you could still dress like The Simpsons but perform like The Sopranos.
Openers: Los Angeles freak rock institution Holy Shit! - -responsible for helping to launch the careers of indie stalwarts Christopher Owens and Ariel Pink -- performed as the second opening act of the night. Their eclectic mix of '60s pastiche and droning, feedback-laden compositions proved to be mostly a curiosity to the youngish crowd. Calvin Love, currently on tour with DeMarco's band, followed, exuding a young Bryan Ferry vibe courtesy of his icy synth-rock tunes. A hard-working showman, by the end of his impassioned set, Love had somehow transformed from a smooth lothario into a sweaty, Bill Hader lookalike. The night's first opening act, Juan Wauters, was not seen, because 4 and a half hours is too long to stand up for one show.