Fresh from his first ever Glastonbury performance (which involved a full waterproof outfit), Mac DeMarco and his band of merry men emerge on stage like long, lost heroes. The band’s regular bassist, Pierce McGarry, has been replaced by Rory McCarthy for the European leg of the tour. Despite this loss, the band’s chemistry is still second to none, with Mac exclaiming to Koko’s audience, in his usual mellow voice, that Rory’s eyes are ‘beautiful [..] There’s a story in those eyes’.
I’ve never seen DeMarco live. My expectations were that the sold out venue would be full of 20 year-olds swaying gently to DeMarco’s laid back tunes. Oh man, I was so wrong. The place was full of young teenagers who looked like doppelgängers of the man himself (viceroy caps were popular). Obviously, DeMarco’s contagious charm has seeped down the generations. They worship him like a god, following his every word. At Koko, the crowd were chanting ‘Fitch, Fitch, Fitch’, a chant orchestrated by Mac DeMarco himself, all because Mac pointed out a member of the crowd dressed in burgundy, thus, calling him ‘fitch’ (note – this is not a typo. Fitch is the new bitch apparently).
It’s funny how someone insanely silly like Mac DeMarco has now become a teen, cult icon. So much so that the Koko gig made me realise that Mac is edging towards Kurt Cobain status. Indeed, the opening songs, ‘The Way You’d Love Her’ and ‘Salad Days’, were met with rampant, energetic leaping from the crowd and stirring sing-alongs of ‘la-la-la-la-la-la’. The increased vitality of the live versions of songs, like ‘Let Her Go’ and ‘Freaking out the Neighborhood’, compared to the more dazed album versions kept the crowd’s energy levels sky high to such a degree that you forget that this music is put under ‘easygoing listening’.
As well as great songs and musicianship, each member of the band had a stage presence that was a sight to behold. Mac was theatrical in his gestures, waving his hands from side to side in his wacky way. His voice, a tool for playfulness as well, escalated from that 60s-esque, woozy style to hyperbolic, rock n’ roll scream, with a few songs being introduced with the uproarious ‘one, two, three’. Andy White, the guitarist, addressed the audience in his deadpan manner that had the undertones of sarcasm and quick wit that Will Ferrell would’ve been jealous of. This was all helped by the oddly amusing backdrop video of X-Men’s ‘BEAST’ floating around the screen in a 90s-nostaligic manner. Why? I don’t know. Is it an in joke that I’m not in on? Whatever it was, it shows the Mac and his friends don’t care what other people think and that’s why we love them.
After Mac’s traditional cover of Steely Dan’s ‘Reelin’ in the Years’, which involved all band members playing their instruments from behind their heads, the set returned to signature ‘jizz jazz’ guitar sound and Mac’s crowd surfing antics. Climbing up to a balcony and then diving into the crowd, Mac laid back into the hands of his devoted fans with his trademark grin on his face. A spectacle that Mac knew the crowd craved. The last two songs were classics. I feared that the delicate melody of ‘Chamber of Reflection’ would be lost in the muddied acoustics of Koko. Fortunately, this was not the case and the sleepy synths shone through. Closing with ‘Let My Baby Stay’, a slower, cathartic ballad, where DeMarco is melancholic and insecure, lamenting on his own personal experiences in love – ‘Far as I can tell she’s happy, livin’ with her Macky’. It had couples slow dancing to Mac’s dulcet tones. A perfect way to end a perfect show.
Verdict: Although his shows have evolved into upbeat, often rowdy affairs that result in some casualties, his performance at Koko affirmed that goofy is the new cool.