Indie sweetheart Mac DeMarco hit Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Saturday night for his latest tour, supported by equally outlandish openers The Garden and Holiday Sidewinder.
Anticipation was built as the stage sat dark for a solid 15 minutes before our Canadian headliner actually appeared. Chants of “Mac!” and “Cowboy!” eventually brought DeMarco onstage, three beers in hand, before he waved to the crowd to start the show.
DeMarco didn’t hold back on showing his quirky stage persona throughout the concert, telling the crowd, “We’re gonna play some songs … keep it cool, keep it hydrated,” from the get-go. He often inserted awkward comments between songs, such as “let’s grease it up,” as well as generally uncomfortable but comical growls.
DeMarco’s staging choices were unique, to say the least. While he had a simple light setup, several large objects decorated the spaces between the instrumentalists, such as an oversized pickle, a cowboy hat and two smiley faces, one of which matched the cover of DeMarco’s newest album, Here Comes the Cowboy, which was released just more than a week ago.
On a far corner of the stage was what DeMarco called the “bistro table,” a VIP section reserved just for DeMarco’s friends and other very important people. About 35 people lounged on the couch or on the stage floor throughout the entire concert, one of whom was DeMarco’s girlfriend, Kiera McNally.
While DeMarco’s musical performance had barely any flaws, the crowd for this concert was more out of place than the looks of the cartoonish pickle. DeMarco’s music is undeniably indie and low-key, giving more of a chill-out-and-smoke vibe than anything else. There was no explanation for why that signaled to the crowd that this was the best place to mosh and crowd surf.
During the performance of “Choo Choo,” one of the more upbeat songs that people went crazy to, DeMarco’s band was especially playing into the oddball theme. A member of the bistro table stood up on the side of the stage and periodically blew a train whistle into the mic, followed closely by guitarist Andy White chanting, “High-speed rail!”
The tone of the show was a hodgepodge of anti-reality quips and dances, and it seemed DeMarco sometimes let the absurdity distract him from the real people who were present offstage as well. At one point, DeMarco asked the crowd to turn on their cellphone flashlights for the upcoming song. Instead of calmly asking the venue to turn off the spotlights, he chose a “Turn the fuckin’ stage lights off — no, don’t turn them yellow, turn them off.” If there was any moment when DeMarco seemed a little too into himself, it was this one.
DeMarco luckily didn’t carry this high-and-mighty attitude throughout the entire show. At one point, he brought the crowd’s attention to U.S. politics: “There’s an attack on access to abortion in Alabama right now,” he said, citing the Yellowhammer Fund as an appropriate place to donate to the cause. While he may have previously broken into wacky laughter duringbroke wacky laughs into almost every sentence, this point was no laughing matter to the artist.
The serious mood didn’t last too long as DeMarco transitioned into his next song, “My Kind of Woman,” which he dedicated to McNally. This song was one of the best-performed of the night, as the smoothness and suaveness DeMarco directed toward his girlfriend could be felt by anyone in the audience.
While DeMarco introduced every song after as “Salad Days,” 100 percent of them were not the actual song “Salad Days,” which he had performed much earlier in the night. His lumbering dancing matched the confusion these introductions laid out, but once DeMarco dropped his mic to do a handstand toward the end of the performance, nothing else particularly mattered to the fast-moving crowd.
As the show drew to a close, DeMarco said, “San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the entire world.” Although it’s unclear exactly why, San Francisco seems to like DeMarco back — considering they’re both strange, it makes more sense than you would think.