With Alex Calder
House of Blues, Dallas
Monday, October 19, 2015
America’s current favorite Canadian, Mac Demarco, returned to Dallas last night and he brought all of his synthy, dad rock hits with him. The wunderkind, who is no longer 22 or booking free shows like he did at Bryan Street Tavern way back in 2012, proved he was playing in the big leagues, performing charismatically to a packed house of screaming fangirls at House of Blues on Monday. (Move over Joey “Bat-flip” Bautista and your whole crew of Blue Jays. No hard feelings, we swear.)
The “Pepperoni Playboy” and poster child for New York label Captured Tracks put out his mini-LP Another One two months ago, a quick turnaround for an artist who just released a full-length last year along with a slew of demos. It was a swift move by the label, who noticed how quickly Demarco’s national popularity had been increasing, especially since Salad Days’ release and his sold-out show at the tiny Lola’s in Fort Worth the last time he played here. Another One could very well indicate the maturation of the wild boy, with a heavy emphasis on '80s-sounding synths, laid-back melodies and an abundance of melancholy lyrics. Mac Daddy may have gone “chill” on this one, but whatever he’s doing feels right.
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When Demarco and his bandmates took their proper stations on stage, the roaring crowd was deafening. Had we witnessed the second coming? The deity before us had a grin from ear to ear, a gap in his teeth the size of the Grand Canyon and a preference for Viceroys over Marlboros. The crowd, a swarming sea of 16-year-olds and adult couples, was tightly compressed. Concertgoers were like sardines in a tin can at the sold-out show. Someone in the crowd threw a bra at Demarco and he used it as a microphone stand decoration. “Everyone always throws underwear and bras at us, but never any men’s clothing,” he quipped in a raspy voice not unlike Oscar the Grouch. He delivered hits like “Cooking Up Something Good,” “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” and “Passing Out the Pieces,” but in between the heavy hitters he played slow jams off the new EP such as “A Heart Like Hers," which gave the crowd time to calm down and breathe. Demarco even introduced the newest member of the band/keyboardist, John, and made him crowd surf as a “rite of passage” to the band. That's Demarco for you: fun-loving.
In fact, even as Demarco climbs the charts, inching toward the legacy that dad rock legends such as John “Cougar” Mellencamp and Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen have left behind, that irreverence stays central to his music. He ended his set with a cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” that mostly poked fun at the excessive use of solos by metal legends James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett for 10 minutes straight under the brooding red stage lights. At one point, his guitarist even mentioned that the music was for crazy people, but quickly reiterated that it was for party people and not the mentally handicapped.
Any day now we might expect Demarco to up and leave Captured Tracks to sign to a major like Warner Brothers or Geffen. He's definitely got the chops to write marketable hooks, but it seems like CT has given him complete creative control. Plus he has his nice apartment studio, Jizz Jazz Studios in Brooklyn, where he lays down all of the fat tracks for the ladies. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that no one can quite replicate his magic touch. All eyes will be on him in anticipation of his next proper full-length release because everyone immediately connects with his goofy sincerity. He’s just a big kid at heart, and there’s something endearing about that in the cutthroat climate of the record industry.