After seeing what felt like thirty reverb-laden, sunsoaked lo-fi post-everything shows in a row, I walked into Eclectic last night more than ready to hear some actual rock and roll. And none of that jingly-jangly 80’s revival breathy-vocals heartthrob shit, either. Though garage rock is similarly at what seems to be another pinnacle point of resurgence this year, with the likes of Ty Segall, FIDLAR, King Tuff, and Thee Oh Sees tearing up live shows and metacritic scores simultaneously, the music landscape of today still feels a little softer than it used to be. That’s not really surprising, though: when a band’s target audience is made up entirely of people downloading upwards of five albums a week, an aesthetic other than “loud” is required to stay relevant. Aesthetic, however, can be a dangerous thing. All too many artists of current place primary emphasis on a particular “sound” instead of songs themselves, hoping to ride the waves of blog-hype to a sizeable listenership. Thankfully, though, Mac Demarco isn’t one of those artists, and I highly doubt he gives even half a fuck about what’s trendy in music right now.
Mac Demarco’s Rock and Roll Night Club EP, for example, felt remarkably out of place when it came out earlier this year. As a softer, laid back divergence from his previous contributions in the aptly-named band Makeout Videotape, Rock and Roll Night Club was a slightly disturbed mix of tongue-in-cheek lyricism, lonely 50’s style guitar hooks, and some vocal delivery almost too cool to take completely seriously. It remains a refreshingly weird testament to the potential of intelligence within simplicity, a sentiment easily buried beneath the technical effects and experimental gimmicks so prevalent today. Mac Demarco’s full length debut 2 likewise picks up the pace and fidelity of his previous efforts without sacrificing any of their sense of estrangement or subtle derangement, and really peaked my interest in their obvious potential for having a truly killer live show. In retrospect, though, 2 gives little insight into what one can actually expect of Mac Demarco’s live presence.
The night was fittingly kicked off with a great set from Featherwood Bee, who offered a unique mix of classic rock conventions with bursts of noise and Cloud Nothings-esque guitar jams. Taking influence from almost every genre under the sun and incorporating many of their best elements, Featherwood Bee displayed a strong sense of identity and some extremely talented musicianship. As the crowd began to grow, Yeoman’s Omen marked their two year anniversary with their signature amalgamation of folk, rock, and funk influences. Some impressively technical drumming and welcome jazz elements provided by the keyboardist really fleshed out their sound in a unique way, as the band showed off two new songs that were definitely crowd pleasers.
On record, Mac Demarco’s delivery and restrained pacing could probably draw comparison to that of Girl’s frontman Christopher Owens. Live, however, Mac channels something more along the lines of Jay Reatard, funneling an unabashed mix of half-ironic combativeness and so dumb it’s somehow witty charm into a truly charismatic stage presence. His music followed the same cue, adopting a sound much more entrenched in the low-end than that offered on his LP, and sounded thoroughly more edgy for it. What really struck me initially was how much chemistry there was between Mac Demarco and the rest of his band, who played with a remarkably consistent sense of cohesion for a genre often that’s intentionally sloppy. The drums were appropriately heavy, seemingly tumbling over themselves while the bassist laid down a thick and chugging foundation for each and every song. Even with this heavier sound, though, each instrument found its place in the mix while avoiding any sense of muddying or burying each other in the process. Each song swelled in and out without sacrificing any of the aggression or danceability, frequently diverging into weird psyched-out garage trips and walls of sound interspersed between rolling guitar parts. By the end of the set, it was clear that Mac Demarco has a strong sense of just how important momentum really is.
It’s really impossible to describe my experience as anything other than “honest.” The music itself maintained a cohesive and unique persona without relying on heavy-handed effects, and won the audience over on straightforward musicianship above anything else. Mac himself seemed just as candid while telling everyone at Princeton to “suck his cock” as he did when making out whilst crowd surfing; an act he subsequently followed up with half-complete covers of Metallica and the Police to a crowd full of half-crazed smiles and eyebrows cocked in confusion. I wasn’t entirely sure if he was spouting condescension or legitimate enthusiasm, though it’s quite possible he wasn’t sure, either. Mac Demarco’s performance last night was simply energy for the sake of energy, and as one particularly astute attendee labeled it, “fucking rad.”