If you didn’t think you could mosh at a Mac DeMarco concert, I’ve got some bad news.
The night ended with a shirtless Mac on guitar, shredding “Enter Sandman” onstage, with a mosh pit opening up near the pit. Concertgoers were throwing themselves into eachother. For those not near the mosh pit, they danced and jumped anyway, Mac shredding and screaming into the microphone.
To get here, we have to start at the beginning of the show, which started off completely opposite of where we ended up. Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa opened the show with a calming ambient set made of preloaded sounds and psychedelic visuals projected behind them. Afterwards, the house music leading up to DeMarco’s set was a low, rumbling base, and then something that sounded like Brain Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Instead of getting the audience riled up for the show with traditional rock music, the house music seemed to relax and soothe the crowd, which consisted of a lot of teens. Looking at the crowd, I saw more X’s on hands than beers in hand. The coat check consisted of mostly jean jackets, and fans wore carhartt hats and baggy sweaters that mimicked Mac Demarco’s iconic and admittedly comfortable clothing style.
The band took the stage just after 8 o’clock (not bad for a school night) to Beatle-like screaming and cheers. It had only been two years since Mac last visited the Twin Cities as an opening act for The Flaming Lips at the Myth Nightclub. Now, he and the boys had the stage at the Palace Theatre all to themselves. Mac started his set by introducing his band, and then starting the first song of the night, asking the crowd to sing along to the lyrically genius Here Comes the Cowboy off of Mac’s most recent album of the same name. After a minute or so of that, he took off his acoustic guitar and shouted “Alright, now it’s time to rock!!” before dinosaur stomping around the stage to “On The Level” off of 2017’s This Old Dog. It was these kinds of stage antics, and semi-psychotic freak-outs that the crowd seemed to enjoy, and maybe even the reason why they came to the show in the first place. “Lets see a trick!” Mac shouted through clenched teeth, before throwing the microphone on the ground and doing a handstand, all to the applause of the crowd. “That’s a trick, motherfucker!” he shouted again afterwards.
It was clear that fans wanted to rock out, and it seemed like it was something that Mac wanted to do too, but was constrained by the slower, dreamy songs that had made up most of the last few albums. With the crowd slowly bouncing along to My Old Man off of 2017’s This Old Dog, Mac bent over and screamed into the microphone in between choruses, again through clenched teeth “Gimmie the fuckin money!” in a seemingly pretend bank robbery, “Heyoo!” before returning to the chorus, singing it normally, as he does on the album, all with a smile on his face. The crowd pulled up their phone lights and lit up the stage during “Preoccupied” again off of Mac’s newest record Here Comes the Cowboy (2019) “Keep it up, or we’ll be in complete darkness” he said in between lyrics. During “My Kind of Woman” off of 2012’s 2 album, Visuals on the blow-up projectors switched between a fisheye video the band on stage and the scene in Purple Rain where a de-clothed Apollonia jumps into the waters of “Lake Minnetonka” which, I think, is the most Mac Demarco thing he could do to honor Prince.
The set did seem to have some sort of Minnesota meme vibe going on. Bassist Jon Lent donned a Zach Parise Jersey during the set. Old wrestling videos of Jesse Ventura played on the blow-up projector screens during songs, along with old Kare 11 news reports and Fancy Ray’s commercial for So Low, a meat store in Minneapolis. In the balcony, many parents and people older than 40 didn’t seem to be in on the joke. One older woman seemed to laugh at every little antic on stage. Another kept her arms folded and just stared at the band, looking lost. Meanwhile, all the “kids” down below in the GA were completely in bliss with the visuals and the music. The gen z can-we-just-die-already demographic had found their goofball, slacker hero who, perhaps inadvertently, still makes smoking look cool. He’s a modern day Gallagher. For some, listening to 2014’s Salad Days while stoned has become the modern equivalent of the right-of-passage their parents took listening to Pink Floyd while stoned. Demarco’s dreamy, up-tempo, tape warbling bedroom-made ballads that have dominated college radio stations come from the same idea behind Billie Eilish’s success of DIY music. I think it’s safe to say that they would sound like each other if Billie was into weird analog recording equipment, and Mac was into Garageband and Avid Pro-tools. He is, in essence, Billie Eilish for hipsters.
The band perfectly balanced the tight musicianship of a theatre-touring group with the attitudes and fun of a house-show.The night had ended with a lot more of the up tempo songs that had made Mac Demarco a cult indie icon. “You’ve done your chores, now you get your dessert!” He screamed before beginning “Rock and Roll nightclub”. The song turns 8 years old this year and brought fans back to the beginnings of his career, while “Chamber of Reflection” slowed things down again with the calmer, wavy synth sounds and drowning waves of nostalgia that every gen z thinks the 90’s were like. Mac then brought Dustin Wong back up to play guitar alongside his band to what appears to have been a spontaneous cover of Steve Miller’s “Rockin Me Baby” That raised the eyebrows of the over 40 crowd, but most importantly, made them feel included. While backing guitarist Andy White held down lead vocals and guitar, Mac then went back by his amplifiers and then jumped off the front of the stage into the crowd. After a brief fall, He was back up and surfing, going all the way back to the soundboard, and then passed back up to the stage. The band then went back into “Chamber of Reflection” With Mac continuing the tourette-like freakouts in between lyrics.
That brings us back to the encore, with the crowd chanting “One more song!” Almost in total unison. Out came a shirtless MacDemarco on stage playing “Enter Sandman” with a mosh pit. It was here that I realized that a Mac Demarco show can really do it all. While we’re a far cry from the relaxing ambient house music we had started with, We had pretty much covered everything you can do at a concert. From slower ballads where concertgoers wave their phones in the air, to rock and roll, handstands and humorous stage banter, and now to crowd surfing and moshing. Mac DeMarco knows how to put on one hell of a show. “Hopefully we’ll see you guys again soon.” he said earlier. “What’s it been, two years since we’ve been here? That’s horseshit!” He screamed. The crowd applauded and cheered. “We’ll see you all sometime in the new year.”