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Mac DeMarco: Live at Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel

Ben Fong-Torres

Ben Fong-Torres

Posted to Artist Spotlight on May 1, 2014

This film make me want to go and see Mac DeMarco.

I suppose that’s the point of a showcase: to introduce a new talent and whet your appetite for more. DeMarco’s short (seven-song) set at the SXSW pop-up, Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel in Austin last year, surely does that.

DeMarco, out of Montreal, by way of Vancouver, has got an intriguing stage presence. He’s good-looking in a goofy, slacker way, with his tousled hair, plaid shirt and torn jeans, with his high-slung guitar, and with his tendency to shout obscenities at any given time, even in the midst of a song.

His songs are terrific – punky pop; indie rock, shades of Lou Reed, of “Take 5,” of the Doors. In fact, although he has none of Jim Morrison’s darkness and menace, he reminds me of him on occasion, in his unpredictability with what he says, sings, and does on stage.

“Gonna make some shit happen for y’all today,” he begins. That sounds pretty calculated. So does his closer, at the end of “Still Together,” when he says, “We’re gonna do one more chorus, then we’re gonna play three more shows, and then we’re gonna go and fuckin’ kill ourselves.”

I would’ve gone to those shows, because in-between the hello and goodbye, DeMarco and his ensemble (dig the bassist, in pink cap and shorts) are a mix of jangly guitars and nerves, and odd little moments. Did I hear DeMarco burp at the beginning of “Ode to Viceroy”? Anyway, watching him sing, I can almost see his mind at work, as if he could change lyrics, tone, or mood at any note. On the dense and hypnotically lovely “Annie,” he glides into falsetto, and, later, a scream. In “She’s Really All I Need,” DeMarco’s low, husky voice explodes into anger, but in perfect time with the song. When he kneels at stage front, his faithful bassist goes down with him. The band goes into an experimental, squawky jam, but only for a few bars, before crossing a Latin bridge back to the song.

And during the final number, “Still Together,” he shows off his falsetto again, then asks the crowd for a beer.

DeMarco, whose latest album, Salad Days, is due out this spring, has been quizzed about his stage demeanor. “If we’re getting loose and goofy,” he told one writer, “the crowd usually lightens up and starts having a funkier time.”

The Hype Hotel crowd was plenty hyped. And, as Baebel Music, which produced the showcase, noted, it was only 1 o’clock. Plenty of time for three more shows and a mass suicide.

 

Even if you weren’t reading Rolling Stone magazine in the late '60s /early '70s, you might still know who Ben Fong-Torres is from the movie “Almost Famous.” Ben Fong-Torres is the legendary Rolling Stone Senior Editor who was characterized in the Cameron Crowe movie and now,… More