Mac DeMarco, crown prince of the slacker Millennial scene, was heartfelt, goofy, and raw during his acoustic concert at Music Box Monday night.
Mac DeMarco stood alone in a rusted gazebo in the center of the Music Box with a wide, lopsided stance, cigarette dangling at the corner of his gap-toothed grin. The sharp November wind rustled the trees around him. “Everyone remembers where they were when Michael Jackson died,” DeMarco reminisced, out of the blue. “I was in the shower, had a good cry.” Hordes of jean jacket-clad Millennials surrounded him, giggling. After the brief anecdote, he digressed: “Anyway, this one is called ‘This Old Dog.’”
DeMarco’s stripped-down acoustic performance at Music Box Monday night conveyed the wisdom and sentiment of an emotional clown. DeMarco is a staple of the slacker Millennial scene. His zany sense of humor—posting videos of him lighting his farts on fire, and his cameo on The Eric Andre Show—shows that he doesn’t take himself seriously at all. This is reflected in the nonchalant style of his music, where his colloquial vocals drag through the airy spaces between guitar riffs and soft synths. Although DeMarco’s wacky persona is not always evident in his music, the carefree, drifter lifestyle that he portrays are two sides of the same coin.
In Music Box’s laid-back environment, DeMarco’s silliness was subdued. He couldn’t crowd surf onto the predominantly seated crowd, and the acoustic set opened room for him to be more vulnerable with his music. This is not to say that didn’t try. At one point in the show, he experimented with the horns that wrap around the gazebo, commenting, “this one sounds like a fart, listen.” The audience chuckled. DeMarco was dorky and adorable, and his periodic anecdotes between songs made the set feel like a campfire jam session amongst close friends. At one point in the set, a fan passed him a cigarette and another stood up to light it. Unlike many of us, DeMarco is not shy or intimidated, which helps fans feel open and relaxed in his presence.
DeMarco oozed ease. His buttery voice spread out into the open night, warming the chilly breeze. On “Cooking Up Something Good,” DeMarco dragged each note, pulling back the veil on the sunny tune. The track begins by describing a picture-perfect family (“Mommy’s in the kitchen, cooking up something good, and daddy’s on the sofa, pride of the neighborhood”), only to reveal that the father is cooking meth in the basement. At first glance the song is about the perception of time as a deadbeat suburban kid, but as the song progresses, the seedy underbelly of this family is turned over to show that everything is not how it seems. This track is much like DeMarco himself. On the surface he is a goofball, clowning slacker who makes chill stoner tunes, but when stripped down during his acoustic set, he was loving, soft, and sincere.
Other tracks emulated DeMarco’s compassion. Before performing “Annie,” he explained that the song was about his friend’s adorable kitten named Annie who was hit by a car and died. DeMarco chuckled nervously, like he couldn’t believe he had been traumatized by the death of a kitten enough to write a song about her. At various points in the show, DeMarco showered his girlfriend with love. He dedicated “Still Together” to her, slipping into a yodel-esque falsetto while arching backwards into the microphone behind him.
The beauty of DeMarco is his ability to be fun and goofy while being thoughtful and heartfelt. He is able to speak volumes in few words. On “My Old Man” for instance, he uses the cliché of seeing your parents in yourself to convey disappointment with himself for being like his abusive, alcoholic father while confronting the fear of aging. After performing the song, he joked about how bad he looked now at 28. The audience laughed with him, but trepidation hides beneath the jokes. He sang with a subtle, pensive tone that barely peaked through his goofy grin.
Without a rowdy audience or band to back him up, DeMarco emulated the sad clown. He is profoundly in touch with his emotions and the absurdity of his life, which allows him to be foolish and laugh. Because what else are you supposed to do?