Galloping into Dublin on a balmy Sunday night, hot on the tail of his latest stellar release, Here Comes the Cowboy, was none other than LoFi sweetheart, Mac Demarco. Smack dab in the middle of festival season, the outdoor stage at the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin had all the topography, vibe, and kinetic energy of a such an event for this, the last night of Mac’s latest tour. Although the raucous crowd played havoc with some of the opportunities to enjoy the musician’s softer side, everyone was treated to a quintessentially perfect performance that only Mac Demarco and co. could deliver.
Opener Kirin J Callinan showed irreverence from the get-go, popping out in the postures of a guitar tech multiple times, throwing the audience off the scent before taking centre stage with dramatic guitar flourishes and errant howls. Making some magic with mysterious floor tech, the one-man-band produced a techno backing to accompany his introductory rasping spoken word recitation, all the while plunking a hot pink electric guitar like the strings of a harp. I don’t think anyone was expecting him to drop the beat into a full on electro banger that would be more likely in the final slot at a festival rave tent within the first song, but then again I don’t get the feeling that trying to meet anyone’s expectations is anywhere near Callinan’s musical agenda.
The offbeat Aussie musician marched boldly on, crying, “This is my moment…give me my moment!” in another EDM-hybrid track from his album Bravado. Nothing that you would expect to hear was emitting from the instrument strapped around his torso, the overall effect being so dissonant that his guitar-play almost seemed mimed. But Kirin didn’t spend too much time on originals, revealing his penchant for obscure 80s songs by performing numbers from his latest all-cover album Return to Center.
In a blaze of corny synth-trumpet glory, the man burst out in “Life is Life”, causing a stir among the mainly millennial audience, looking surprised and stoked that they knew the lyrics. Delivering song after song with gusto, Callinan’s wirey arms punching into the air and hitting regal postures, the man rounded out his set with a Bowie-inspired repertoire and some pretty impressive guitar flips. Climaxing by tearing his shirt off, wrapping the mic cord around his neck and screaming curdlingly to a techno beat, the man chalked up massive points for originality and a bonus for being pretty freaking fabulous while doing it.
The second support band bounded out like off-kilter kids’ performers, a technicolour three-piece laying into a spunky tune dubbed “Apple Cider”. Begging leniency from the steadily growing crowd, fledgling front lady Bea Kristi explained that this was the first ever gig for this lineup. Her easy charm and clear delight to be there shone through more resonantly than her vocals, which were a tad on the timid side, especially when cast against a rowdy crowd’s incessant chatter. Bea remained unperturbed however, crooning minimalistic ballads, soft and sweet, and pop rock ditties as jiggly as jello. Laughing endearingly at her own mistakes while swimming in lo-fi narratives of teenage woe and heartbreak, Bea seized her moment in this staggeringly large venue.
The set was like a not so retro retrospective into Bea’s musical influence, somewhere between 90s and 00s, whether singing about first dates or her purple-haired, bass-playing consort. Or maybe what was bleeding through was Bea’s Filipina roots, having divulged in interviews that her style resembles her mum’s OPM: “Old Pilipino Music”. Among other personal and affecting tunes, Beabadoobee had to play “Coffee”, the one that caught on like wildfire in the digital sphere, much to this humble songwriter’s pleasant surprise. Nothing too cutting edge here, but watch this space because her musical journey may just be getting started.
As Mac Demarco entered the stage right on cue, he played the impeccable host as usual, making everyone who deigned to buy a ticket feel wanted with his welcome banter, carrying on to introduce his band in a genteel manner. “He’s so Canadian,” I heard one fan declare from the crowd, attempting to elucidate his courteous stage presence. I’m not sure nationality has much to do with it, rather that Mac is simply a class act, not to mention always a hoot to watch.
The droning keys of “On the Level” initiated the smooth proceedings of this genre-bending artist. Sliding from classic to instant classic, Mac hopped off the fan-tickling strains of “Salad Days” straight into one of the highlights of the new album, the staggeringly simplistic powerhouse that is “Nobody”. The band got the crowd dancing again with upbeat “Stars” then pulled out the pure lounge singer power of the new “Finally Alone”.
The set kept up this bipolar pacing throughout, interspersing the oldies with the newies, almost as if testing the waters as Demarco wades into a more mature, more experimental, and somewhat more serious territory with his latest efforts. Developing his craft, Mac’s musicality has been steadily heightening, as have his willingness to be vulnerable and address greater emotional depths. However, knowing Mac’s reputation as a good-time goofball in his live sets, the risk is always that the audience at an outdoor summertime gig may not be up for the challenge.
Indeed, Mac seems somewhat unnecessarily apologetic during a string of tender love songs, like the touching new track entitled “K”, promising to get things rocking again soon. But there was no need for this, as the true fans in attendance were simply loving every moment. True to the man’s accommodating nature, though, Mac missed no opportunity to inject a bit of randomness and absurdism into renditions of even the most heartfelt songs. Case in point: his calling for more from the crowd in a guttural demonic voice during “My Old Man”, influencing everyone to bob their arms as if to a rap song during the soulful strumming of “All of Our Yesterdays”, and attempting to invoke a full on mosh pit during “Rock n Roll Night Club.”
Although a decidedly tamer show than last year’s tour, which was packed with karaoke-stage-dive-hat-flipping awesomeness, this gig certainly didn’t fall short on the overall Mac experience. Even chain-smoking cigarettes while crooning his “Ode to Viceroy” and twirling the mic recklessly on its cord during “Chamber of Reflection”, Mac’s stellar vocals and fantastically jangly guitaring was absolutely spot on.
Also true to form, Mac’s special guest openers made several appearances on stage armed with a fleet of percussion instruments to jam along. The irreverent Kirin J Callinan turned up unannounced on stage on more than one occasion, wandering aimlessly or sitting absently on an amp for a minute or two. Most poignantly though, as the set was drawing to a close, did Callinan turn up stripped down to nothing but a pair of checked boxer shorts to dance ever so tenderly with Mac and lift him up into his arms during a triumphant rendering of “Still Together”.
Indeed, no matter how Demarco’s music may evolve and grow, it’s clear that this musician just has too much damn fun entertaining on stage to ever take himself too seriously. In fact, that’s exactly why he’s become such a cultural phenomenon and stolen the hearts of many a thousand of listeners. Well, that and the fact that his cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” is legendary.
Set List On the Level Salad Days Nobody Stars Keep on Calling My Name Finally Alone Cooking Up Something Good My Old Man Another One Choo Choo Ode to Viceroy K Still Beating Freaking Out the Neighborhood All of Our Yesterdays Rock n Roll Nightclub My Kind of Woman Chamber of Reflection Still Together Enter Sandman Still Together (Reprise)