Stephen Lewin has high hopes as he sets out to join the dedicated DeMarco masses at Mountford Hall.
Mac DeMarco, the face that launched a thousand faded strap-back caps, tosses a bra back into the crowd. His dented grin beams out across the sweating multitude; a devoted throng that appears to revere DeMarco as some sort of nouveau-slacker royalty and also, apparently, an unlikely sex symbol.
This is my first experience of a DeMarco set and, bolstered by friends’ tales of on-stage tomfoolery, riotous Fleetwood Mac medleys and Mac’s general magnanimity, I had arrived expecting a good show.
Of course on paper one might expect a more demure affair. Since ditching his Makeout Video nom de plume DeMarco has built his repertoire around unassuming yet catchy Yacht-Rockers. The kind of outsider music a feral child might write, had he, whilst on his morning romp through the forest thickets of the Alberta wild, come across a jettisoned crate of iPods containing the combined back-catalogues of Chris Rea and Spiral Stairs.
On his recordings words bubble on the surface, floating just above the ebb of guitars awash with chorus. Live, infused with adrenaline and general on-stage bonhomie one would imagine that things would get a little more raucous.
Tonight, however, the sound and pace is fairly faithful to that of DeMarco’s studio output. This is no bad thing when you take into account the calibre of his songwriting. Mac and the lads drift through a set filled with goodies lapped up by what increasingly resembles a festival crowd.
Stars Keep On Calling My Name, Salad Days and No Other Heart inspire rapturous sing-a-longs whilst Cooking Up Something Good would be the perfect accompaniment to a Creole cookery show, all bayou-side gumbo and Zydeco-esque guitars. Contender for song of the year On The Level takes us via Toro Y Moi into a realm of slurred synths, a kindred spirit to some of Ariel Pink’s more strangely pitched electro-schmooze. We also get some favourites from the vaults; having not featured in DeMarco’s live set for a long time Rock and Roll Nightclub is dusted off to great aplomb. On Still Together DeMarco goes full Slim Whitman, yodelling his lament to lost love up and out through the steamy Guildhall.
Throughout Freaking Out The Neighbourhood and My Kind Of Woman Mac and the band bounce off each other with a glee and confidence, happy lost boys with cracked smiles. Like an Urban Outfitters Retail Buyer’s dream, the boys are a shuffling collage of mismatched threads and high-hoisted slacks. They appear to still be somewhat dumbfounded as to what they are doing playing to a sold out crowd thousands of miles away from home.
The crowd’s chants of “Ooooh Jeremy Corbyn” are answered with an apolitical rendition of Seven Nation Army. Although the possibly oblivious band stick to the Jack White-approved message the stage is aptly bathed in red and the masses continue to belt out the Labour leader’s unofficial theme. Side note: Why don’t cabinet meetings have football chants?
As the show draws to what would appear to be a close, DeMarco removes himself from the spotlight and we get drummer Joe McMurray crowd-surfing his way through a tongue-in-cheek crack at the Chilli Peppers’ Under The Bridge.
Returning from the drum stool Mac leads the band through a stop-start mess-around of sorts. Like 14 year olds at a school talent show, instruments are swapped, riffs run into dead ends and the band descends into a twenty minutes of exchanging “No, wait, I can get this!” faces. Depending on your point of view this either cements DeMarco’s nonchalant cool, shows a lit bit too much self-indulgence or you’re too drunk etc to care. One thing that is certain is that what nobody in Liverpool needs is a half-arsed 15 minute Beatles jam.
But, the slacker-prince’s impish ebullience shines through, the audience responds in kind and a Mac DeMarco show reaches it’s logically obtuse conclusion. Well, I assume it did, I drew the line at the third rendition of There She Goes.
Photos by Vicky Pea