A Mac DeMarco Mess

What could have been a fairly intimate performance at Mac DeMarco’s concert ended up being, for lack of a better description, an utter goddamn shit show.

For some, Mac DeMarco is a legend. At 29, the Canadian singer-songwriter has six records under his belt of jangly lo-fi rock to tout, including his most recent Here Comes the Cowboy. It’s not necessarily DeMarco’s music that puts him on any type of talented pedestal, though.

If anything, DeMarco’s drunk-uncle demeanor and goofy stage presence makes him someone to considerably celebrate, particularly amongst a younger crowd who typically idolizes comical self-expression. In some instances, DeMarco’s funny shenanigans totally work—he and the troupe of clowns he calls bandmates come off as relatable, indie “dudes next door.” Yet during other times, their lack of put-togetherness totally fails, teetering on sloppy and outright inappropriate, especially without any prior context.

That’s what happened on May 10 at his Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall show. Things didn’t start off terribly. After an eclectic set from opener Donny Benét, the packed concert hall oozed excitement with everyone jumping to their feet once DeMarco’s beat-up Vans stepped onto the stage. Guests on the ground floor flocked to fill the area closest to the stage, aching to get as close to DeMarco and company as possible. They switched off between old standards like “Salad Days” and new releases in an easily enjoyable way, but as the show went on—and everyone on stage spiraled further and further into intoxication—things took a turn for the worst.

It was around “Ode to Viceroy”—which bassist Jon Lent decided to dedicate to a dude in the crowd wearing a Kanji shirt—where this change in manner became obvious.

During “Another One,” keyboardist and guitarist Andy White chose to sing his piano parts instead of playing them, which ended up sounding like the harmonies of a wounded bird. The toxicity of his inebriation increased as they worked through “The Cattleman’s Prayer” and “Freaking Out the Neighborhood.”

Jokes about Hall and Oates and Huey Lewis and the News got laughs from those in the crowd old enough to even know who those groups are, and an acoustic lounge-esque version of the Friends theme song got some laughs, but White began making promises he legally wasn’t able to keep.

DeMarco slightly stammered his way through mentioning the local new nightclub Barbarella, where he was slated to do a DJ set later that night for their grand opening. White then shouted over him, saying the club wouldn’t be checking IDs and that everyone in the venue was invited to come get wasted “no matter their age.” He continued pushing for young drunkenness before mildly retracting that statement and saying he couldn’t confirm the underage club entrance.

White’s mouth that was definitely the most troublesome of the night. Some kids in the crowd initiated the frat chant “Chug! Chug! Chug!” as the players on stage refreshed their palettes with beer. White very aggressively told them to “shut the fuck up”—the first time got a few chuckles but the more he said it, the less laughs it got. He repeated it with a stern tone at various times throughout the rest of the set.

“My Kind of Woman” mellowed everything back out, with DeMarco guiding the audience through singing the chorus like a choir conductor. They then teased with a cover of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” joking that they were doing Nate Dogg’s beat from “Regulator.” White randomly shouted “fuck the Army.” It noticeably rubbed people the wrong way, more than when he joked about how small his penis was. It became more and more apparent how this probably shouldn’t have been an all-ages show.

It seemed as though all the cringeworthy moments of the night were nearing a close. Everyone on stage was very visibly drunk as they went into their final song “Still Together.” Looking exasperated and straight up messy, they tried their hardest to get through the first part of the song when White, rubbing his nipples, started to go into his own rendition of Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver.” Interspersed between his singing of the chorus was a strange diatribe against fascists, the rich and the police.

“If you know any fascists, shoot them while they sleep, kill them first, slit their throats and kill their children too, please,” White tried to tenderly yet seriously mention as the rest of the band played the usually calming notes of Wright’s song. “If any of your friends are billionaires, shame them, kill them first, crash your car into their house, burn their parents and kill their kids, who cares?” He also urged for shooting them in their “eyeballs, penises and vaginas” before saying that “all cops are bastards” and that billionaires are a “failure in policy.” “Dream Weaver” never sounded so controversial.

With a very mixed reception from the crowd, the band then circled back around in a “Still Together” reprise. DeMarco stripped himself of his shirt and banged the mic on his beer-bloated belly. As if things couldn’t get messier, the band then started drunkenly talking about nonsense and attempting to jam as if they were at band practice. Many in the audience looked confused, others amused, but it was clear that no one really knew what was going on at all.

On the street, hoards of youth marched in the direction of Barbarella in hopes of White’s promises while others perplexed on certain points of the show. Mac DeMarco does have a history of interesting concerts, but this one was surely fascinating for all the wrong reasons.

Cervanté Pope is a music and culture journalist whose work has been included in various publications around Portland including Willamette Week, the Portland Mercury and the Portland Observer, as well as a couple of creative nonfiction anthologies. When she's not tackling a giant mountain of deadlines she can be found headbanging at a metal show, advocating for animal rights or trying to scheme a way to get on Family Feud.