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Mac Demarco is the king of weird, and we loved every minute of it

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Image source: 
David Harris

It’s important to leave all reservations at the door when you dive into a night of Mac Demarco. Your preconceptions and ideas of what a rock-gig should look like will only get in the way.

There’s nothing quite like him on stage. It’s the allure of unpredictability, the lovable larrikinism. He does what he likes, and the crowd laps it up. He’s the wizard of slack, the stoner without a scoob, the indie-lizard who’s chronically lounged, but still manages to galvanise all who listen. The funny thing is, no matter how many adjectives you throw at him, he’s still slippery enough to evade capture in words. To venture within the vicinity of an answer, he’s Mac Demarco, the court jester with a heart of gold.

Queue ‘On the Level’. Its queasy synth-encased melody wobbled in and out along a slow groove, the wonky-vibrato accent crashing into the end of each bar. The resolution brought delight to all ears in the crowd.  Up front and in the pit with the faithful, things were extremely sweaty. It was 36 degrees and humid as hell ­– not that you noticed, it was smiles everywhere you looked.

‘Salad Days’ took everyone back to the lovable larrikin we all know, it’s joyful melody rolling into itself. The belting chorus saw most punters join in at the top of their lungs; the Forum had never been so loud.

Onstage the band seems to know no other gear except fun and silly, the party on stage was joined by a few notable faces in the Melbourne music scene. Mac seemed to possess a penchant for befriending everyone  wherever he happens to tour. A few tracks in he nodded to “Le Gizzard”, sitting adjacent to the band, but visible to the crowd. The reference had most in the crowd yelling with joy, at their mere mention.  

The set overall clocked in at just over two-hours, though never felt like it dragged on. The extended legroom gave space for the onstage antics to breathe and manifest themselves in all sorts of wonderfully weird ways.

See ‘Dreams From Yesterday’, which gave way to an extended jam, with Mac abdicating frontman responsibilities, swapping with drummer Joe McMurray. Mac then manned the beat, as McMurray improvised a monologue to the song, eventually falling on the topic of economics, discussing wage disparity. Yeah, he did that.

From there, things got weirder. One song saw Mac leave the stage, before emerging again piggy backing on support Kirin J. Callinan, with a cowboy hat on his head. Mac gave Kirin the mic before letting him jump into his own monologue, both took their shirts off in an epic battle of weird. Mac regained the stage, “from one cowboy to another”, he said, before grabbing the mic and launching into a screaming contest with the crowd. The merchant of weird remained victorious.

Mega track, ‘Ode to Viceroy’ was perfectly placed toward the end of the set, It’s lush, wonky vibrato guitar echoed out into the hall and everyone gained a second wind. Every word was chorused by the crowd and the moshing began. The guitar solo that bookends the track felt like lush sustenance cascading into thirsty ears.

The band then launched into a cover of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’, which saw drummer McMurray man vocals and dive into the crowd.

The final track showed Mac’s sombre side. First he came out, got everyone in the venue to sit down and listen like an intimate acoustic show. He sat at the edge of the stage, shirtless, and sung a few bars from the soul in ‘Watching Him Fade Away’. And at the end of it all, he raised his fingers to his mouth asking for a cigarette, to which they replied in bulk. He left the stage with a gap-toothed smile and a wave.

Highlight: When Mac cackled with laughter, telling everyone they had wasted their money, and that with it, he had secured a mortgage.

Lowlight: 36 degrees at midnight.

Crowd Favourite: The luscious ‘Ode to Viceroy’.