Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Mac Demarco at La Sala Rossa

Mac DeMarco  |  Sala Rossa


It’s a Sunday night and I’m standing in an alley adjacent to Sala Rossa, leaning in towards a benevolent stranger as he flicks at a Zippo, beckoning the fiery genie that seems to live within. Bracketed by the monochromatic graffiti of the wall behind him, my new friend exhales a thick cloud from his lungs before inquiring about my familiarity with the artist. “He’s quite the character, you know”, he laughs, “DeMarco’s the kind of guy you want to party with”. Before I can ask him to elaborate, a loud lough erupts from the crowd milling around the entrance. We both crane our necks around the bend to observe the scene. The demographic is young, dressed in layered shirts, ripped jeans, and slouchy beanies. Cool, detached expressions are a prevalent in this sea of faces, but the high-velocity vivacity of their dialogue reveals their enthusiasm. I extinguish the stubborn embers with the heel of my boot and surrender to my curiosity as I pull open the door.

A lot of shows seem to generate an excited sort of tension when the only thing before us is a still-empty stage, dimly lit, draped in vivid red velvet curtains, and whispering all sorts of promises about how wonderful the night is sure to be. Tonight, however, the mood is easy - there isn’t so much as a hint of anything pretentious or grandiose in the air. We don’t have to wait long before Brave Radar takes the stage. Their sound is as meek and inoffensive as the band members themselves, who play the entirety of their set gazing at their instruments instead of working up the audience. The fuzzy bass guitar overwhelms the vocals, giving their music a hazy, distorted feel. Their performance is pleasant, but also kind of plain – a palate-cleanser of sorts for the unapologetic weirdness of the main act.

DeMarco is humble and appreciative in all the ways I don’t expect a mischievous 22 year old musician to be. He walks up to the mic, fiddling with the strap of his guitar, and thanks us for being here. His voice is unaffected and lazy, like a man who’s just been roused from a nap a few hours too early. He swiftly jumps into Cooking Up Something Good (a song about his father’s meth addiction), and follows it up with The Stars Keep On Calling My Name. Both songs brim with the catchy hooks and easygoing sound for which DeMarco is so well-loved. Between songs, the gap-toothed musician gazes out at the crowd with a smirk and remarks, “you guys are somethin’ else”.

The lazy, lo-fi fuzzy sound is entrancing. A familiar, deliberate drumbeat signals the beginning of Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans, and the guy beside me smiles as he takes a sip of his beer. That’s the thing about this young artist - it’s not about overly zealous fanaticism, it’s just an understated, heartfelt appreciation that makes you go “Yeah, I dig this”.  Listening to the low drawl DeMarco’s voice and the sleazy tremolo of the guitars is a thought-melting process, turning my ideas into indecipherable things that I can only faintly identify, like searching for shapes in the clouds. I feel like I’m traveling through a different ether, heavy-lidded and fully entrenched in the song.

At some point in the performance, Mac asks for permission to crowdsurf before throwing himself in the audience. When he’s back on stage, he runs a hand through his hair and chuckles “very sexy, very cool”, into the microphone. Despite this show being the last of their tour, leaving the guys low on sleep, they’re all good-humoured and easygoing. Someone launches a disposable camera at DeMarco, and he catches it mid-song without even flinching, playing along and taking a picture of the crowd before tossing it back.

The show’s over all too soon. As I walk out onto Saint-Laurent, resetting my brain to its normal speed, I can’t help but remember what my Zippo-wielding friend stated before the show.

“DeMarco’s the kind of guy you want to party with”.

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