Festival Hall has been home to many different sounds over its longstanding tenure as a venue, ranging from the filthiest hardcore acts to million-karat lustre pop artists, but it’s a rare sight to see a whole crowd there so enchanted by one singular artist, all due to their personality alone. If you’ve poked your head into the indie scene for even a minute, I doubt you’d be surprised to know that Mac DeMarco was the one responsible for the enchanting, and it really was his crowd.
To start off the night’s festivities, CHAI and Pond took centre stage and created an incredible atmosphere early on. Serving as a neat bridge between the indie-candy sound of CHAI and the smoked-out shoegaze of DeMarco, Pond brought refreshing, ’80s-laced psychedelic numbers to the forefront and managed to get an already vibrant crowd on their toes.
To properly do Mac DeMarco justice, to truly drive home just how unique and absolute his presence and sound was that night, you have to understand one thing first. He may act like a rock star, but he’s hardly a modern musician. There’s all the bombast that you’d expect, best exemplified at the dead start when Duel of the Fates rippled through the speakers during introductions, but there’s none of the self-indulgence, no ego-stroking as the indie maestro and his merry band of talent skipped from hit to hit.
Many known classics like ‘Salad Days’, ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’, and ‘Another One’ were belted out with relaxed, inviting confidence; you could see the crowd physically pull themselves tighter in and gravitate to the front three songs in, and not a soul hesitated when DeMarco called for the house lights to come off and for the phone lights to come on. Arcs of lighter flames and raucous cheers punctuated the more ‘kill-ya-parents punk rock’ second half of the show, and if we didn’t hear those exact words come out of his mouth or listen to him break down what an Oedipus complex was right before ‘Freaking Out The Neighbourhood’, we would have been cheated.
In addition to all the goof and enthusiasm, it became apparent that no one song was performed traditionally, and the beauty of improvisation and doing this long enough to perfect it shined through with every unexpected note. Andy the guitarist shredded a two-minute solo while the drummer jumped off stage and rambled out Nirvana while DeMarco played his kit.
Memorable would be a basic way to explain Mac DeMarco and his refreshingly human set at Festival Hall, and it would also be a disservice to collected friends CHAI and Pond. Stunning? Amazing? Intrinsically spectacular? You could rake through a thesaurus for days and not find a way to properly describe the spectacle.
Highlight: When I walked in the door, sat down and enjoyed the show.
Lowlight: $11.50 for a Smirnoff Double Black really makes me uncomfortable.
Crowd favourite: Rough time pinning down a favourite, but stuff from records like 2 and Salad Days had everyone up and moving.