Summer may be officially over, but it sure didn’t feel like it last Sunday when indie singer–songwriter Mac Demarco took the Skyline Stage at the Mann.
For those of you who have not been fortunate enough to attend a show on the Skyline Stage, it's a beautiful outdoor, standing–room–only venue that overlooks Center City. Trees sparkle with fairy lights, and white tents house food and merch booths. And on an 80–degree night at the end of September, Demarco’s signature laid–back vibe completed the venue’s picture of serene summer perfection.
Demarco released his latest album This Old Dog in early May and embarked on a world tour shortly thereafter. After a sold–out gig at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, the singer–songwriter brought the tour here to an audience largely composed of laid–back twenty–somethings smoking enough to cigarettes and weed to create a haze over the crowd.
Demarco’s show shines in its simplicity. With no set and clean lighting, the gimmick–free performance centers exclusively around his music (which truly speaks for itself) and his crazy sense of humor and quirky personality. He has a unique stage presence unmatched by anyone else in the genre, and his wild energy contrasts to his laid–back musical vibe. One of the best examples of this—not to mention one of the best moments of the show—was the extended cover of Vanessa Carlton’s early 2000s hit “A Thousand Miles” during which Demarco simply repeated the lyric “Making my way downtown” over and over in different voices for more than five minutes. His audience seemed to love every minute of this, and they sung along with the same passion that they belted out crowd–favorites like “Salad Days” and “Ode to Viceroy.”
In between most songs, Demarco kept the crowd entertained with crazy impersonations and voices—everything from an Italian man (including his own rendition of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore”) to something that sounded like a chain–smoking southern trucker. He also repeatedly discussed how badly he wanted to find a Philly cheesesteak after the show and even encouraged fans to try to guess which place he was going to and meet him there.
And while Demarco’s antics certainly make his show entertaining, his music, and how it translates live, transforms his show into a must–see. His most recent effort, This Old Dog, takes the craziness that fans love and translates it into a simple, reflective album. The gravity of tracks about being burnt out (“This Old Dog”) and becoming like his father (“My Old Man”) add an element of seriousness to his otherwise comical live show.
No one does balance like Mac Demarco. Rarely, if ever, will you see people crowd–surfing to the music of a singer–songwriter or witness an artist turn a serious love song into a medley of Van Halen tracks (which he did in honor of Sammy Hagar playing the Mann soon). Demarco does his own thing on stage, but at the same time draws his audience in, like when he brought a fan on stage to play guitar for older track “Freaking Out the Neighborhood.” It's the combination of all of these things—his wild humor, quirky personality, and of course his incredible sound—that make his show a must–see for fans and others alike.