Earlier this Spring, unpretentious Canadian indie singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco released his third album, This Old Dog. The album earned a best new track title from Pitchfork and exhibited a new level of maturity, with Mac playing every instrument as well as holding down the production and engineering tasks. The bass and drum backed acoustic guitar arrangements provide a tight sonic underpinning for DeMarco’s world-weary lyrics and warm unhurried vocals. In support of the new album, DeMarco embarked on a string of headlining tour dates, including sets at music large festivals like Coachella and Hangout. The tour was extended into the fall and included a stop at the Carolina Theatre in Durham NC, where we caught the show.
The Carolina Theatre was packed to capacity and filled with anticipation when the lights dropped and Orange County, California-based duo The Garden took to the stage to kick off the evening. Formed in 2011 by twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears, The Garden dropped a string of releases before signing to Epitaph Records in 2015. The Duo hit the stage at the Carolina Theatre with a wild and infectious enthusiasm. They played a high energy set of garage-punk influenced bass and drums songs thickened with electronic beats and samples. The performance was in your face ferocious and unrelenting. The duo mixed songs from their early releases with new tracks from their recently released U Want The Scoop? EP. The songs were solid earworms that defied categorization. They were punk, they were rock, they bordered on hip-hop… In fact, to avoid being boxed into a genre, the duo coined the term “Vada-Vada” to describe their sound. Regardless what you call it, their ferociously played set of songs was solidly embraced by the frenzied crowd.
As the buzz from the opening set started to fade, a gap-toothed smiling Mac DeMarco took the stage. He took a moment to fully take in the crowd, pacing from side to side of the stage bathing in the loud adoration. With the laid-back demeanor of a 70’s crooner combined with the light-hearted goofy antics of a comedic Bill Murray character, Mac DeMarco proceeded to play through a solid set of songs centered around his latest album This Old Dog, that also mixed in crowd favorites from previous releases Salad Days, Another One, and 2. Highlights included “On the Level,” “Salad Days,” and crowd members slow dancing to “This Old Dog.” In between songs, DeMarco took the time to chat with the crowd, and in a recurring bit, he continued to call out to an onstage photographer who he introduced to the crowd as his adopted son Sabian. Sabian, he explained, really wanted to go to a frat party, so if anyone knew of one they could attend, Sabian would be overjoyed. Despite the humorous interludes and goofy banter, the songs often provided a serious and sometimes emotional counterpoint.
As the show progressed, the pacing was spot on with the band responding as a tight unit, downshifting and providing a low-key tranquil vibe when called for, and driving forward with an almost jam band-like proficiency stretching out some songs, like the late set “Still Together” into a wildly careening sonic party. And what a party it was… “Still Together” devolved into a wild mix of covers that felt more like caricatures of the songs than true covers. Songs like Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With The Devil” and Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper” were stripped to their core hooks, keeping the fun without any overhead. The highlight had to be a continued return to Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” that even included DeMarco handing his microphone over to Sabian , who he coached into singing what became the lyrical mantra of the evening “The Cuervo Gold. The fine Colombian. Make tonight a wonderful thing.” As the set closed, it was apparent that Mac DeMarco had done just that… He had indeed made tonight a wonderful thing.
Mac DeMarco + The Garden @ The Carolina Theatre – September 25th 2017