A girl who looked to be about sixteen, with a grown out dye-job, stick-n-poke tattoos, and a septum piercing, lit a cigarette and blew a plume of smoke into the haze above her. Several other kids followed suit, looking like they thought they were the coolest people on Earth. They danced and closed their eyes, singing along to words written by someone a few years their senior, about themes they have yet to experience. It’s a common thread in music history, to live vicariously through the stars, but with Mac DeMarco’s fan base, it’s painfully apparent.
This cheeky manchild has won the hearts of high school kids everywhere. His music and subject matter range from silly to serious, but his onstage antics give him a relatable charm. Before the show, loud, excited conversations reverberated in the Neptune Theater, and one group discussed the top five people they’d like to meet. Every one of their lists included DeMarco. One kid asked, “What’re you gonna do when you meet him?” A shy looking girl responded, “I’m gonna ask him very politely to be my best friend.” During his set, kids in the crowd called out to him, screamed bloody murder whenever he did anything remotely comical, and showered him (literally) in cigarettes. DeMarco’s bravado is highly entertaining on record, but the reality of eager teens worshipping songs like “Ode to Viceroy” is a little troublesome. Viceroy is, of course, a cigarette brand.
The band members augmented DeMarco’s charm, throwing out off-color jokes and making faces. Guitarist Andrew White, sporting long blonde hair and a mustache, looked out at the crowd and asked, “Does anyone happen to have a bedpan or a catheter?” When people laughed and there was no response, he said, “Oh, just ’cause.” A few songs into the set, precocious bassist Pierce McGarry actually threw money into the crowd. The band’s non-sequitor toilet humor spurred crowd members to be as weird as they wanted in response. One guy crowd surfed up onto the stage, danced around a bit, then tried to hit DeMarco in the balls, smiling as he stage dove to escape security guards. For the latter half of the set, fan after fan climbed on stage, raised their fists triumphantly, and sailed into the crowd on a sea of hands. It was beautiful watching so many thrilled faces, one after another.
DeMarco played radio favorite, “Freaking Out the Neighborhood,” an apologetic ode to his mother, as well as “Annie,” “Passing Out Pieces,” and “Blue Boy.” Brief technical difficulties at the beginning of “Chamber of Reflection” had the quintessential piano opening too quiet. When it finally rang out, the Neptune erupted in cheers. As one of his more reflective songs, it sounded beautiful in the theater, and reminded the audience that this party boy can be serious, too. As fans continued to climb the stage, one girl crept up behind the piano playing DeMarco, and slipped a baseball cap over his head. He grinned and went on playing, never missing a beat.
DeMarco has gained a reputation for ballsy crowd surfing. In November 2014, at Chop Suey, he crowd surfed up into the rafters and performed a song sitting on top of the ceiling pipes. Despite its larger size, The Neptune Theater was no exception. DeMarco dove into the crowd, riding around for awhile, and made his way to the overhanging balcony. The audience watched through the chaos in disbelief as he was hoisted high enough to grab onto the lip of the balcony. Hanging at least 15 feet from the ballroom floor, DeMarco lifted himself up and over the railing, and continued to surf the audience in the balcony seats. He made his way back down and perched on the ledge. As his band played on, he looked to the drummer for reassurance, a slight glint of fear in his eyes. Egged on and confident once more, he beckoned for his crowd to gather together. DeMarco turned with his back to the crowd, and let himself fall backwards into their waiting arms. It was magnificent, and he came away unscathed.
For their encore, the band played an extended, shirtless cover of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. They continued to loop the main riff for ages, slowly calming down more and more until DeMarco was barely whispering the words. Then they exploded, breaking out into the riff anew, and the fans went wild. They did a great job reinvigorating the overplayed song, making people laugh the whole time.
Despite his boyish pranks, DeMarco has a serious knack for writing. His romantic numbers “My Kind of Woman” and “Still Together” can make the girls swoon while still being funny. In the latter, the extremely high note of the chorus is both pleasing and ridiculous. He knows he can write, so he pokes fun at the tropes of classic earworm sing-alongs. The songs achieve exactly what they’re parodying, stuck in listeners head for days. It’s easy to see why so many love him, but it’s the kind of purposefully genuine routine which can start to feel canned over time. Here’s hoping DeMarco and his bandmates can keep things fresh.
Danish opening artist Dinner (a.k.a. Anders Rhedin) helped the crowd warm up, literally. The lanky, deep-voiced pop singer waved his arms up and down, instructing them to join him. His vigorous dance moves and catchy, electronic beats had the crowd laughing and moving along. At one point, he stopped and said in a monotone, “When I came here to Seattle I thought, ‘Something’s gonna turn me on tonight.’ Maybe it’s you?” The crowd squealed in delight as he launched into a chorus of the same phrase.
Rhedin’s deep voice was reminiscent of Ian Curtis or Peter Murphy. He performed alone with a microphone as his beats were pumped through the house system. During instrumental breakdowns, he’d step away from the mic to perform a wild dance, run in place, or lie down à la David Byrne in Stop Making Sense. At one point, a crowd member yelled out, “We’re ready for dessert!” It was hard to tell if it was a compliment or a tease. Either way, Dinner was a great appetizer for the evening.
Word to the wise. Follow our pal Andrew Joslyn and the Passenger String Quartet's Instagram page @andrewjoslynmusic.
He's giving sneak previews of his symphonic work on network TV commercials and pop songs. Every student of violin and cello should be following his page. But so should you. You have heard Andrew and his writing on Grammy winning hits by Macklemore and Kesha.
...and his work with folks like Ethan Anderson to save the music industry locally and globally with the Recording Academy / GRAMMYs is something to watch.
Or don't follow him and life will be a little less colorful and inspiring, but sometimes you don't notice how good life can be without good art and good friends.
In that respect Art is dangerous because you will need more. Andrew has plenty in the vault... ... See MoreSee Less
If you love music and want to make a difference, Please support our friend Andrew D.B. Joslyn and this important cause. #DistrictAdvocateI’m excited to be joining the @recordingacademy in an effort to push critical legislation to help music creators around the country get the support and financial assistance we so desperately need to stay afloat. I’m leading a couple of meetings with Senator Maria Cantwell and my state representative Pramila Jayapal - and looking forward to joining with my fellow musicians, industry professionals and educators on doing our part to preserve our industry during Covid-19. #districtadvocate ... See MoreSee Less