Mac Demarco @ The Institute

Photo by @Tvermar off Twitter

Photo by @Tvermar off Twitter

Warning: the following review contains ill-informed, conspiratorial hokum

I’m pro Demarco. There’s no questioning that. I’ve been been pro Demarco since I stumbled upon ‘Rock and Roll Nightclub’ and thought ~ who is this strange, cross-dressing man with a seductive (fetishised?) voice. The kind of delivery that you can imagine in a Lynchian underground club scene with dim, red lighting and lots of cigarette smoke. It was his first album, but it left a mark, and I wanted to find out more. Fortunately, Mac Demarco 2 was already out at the time, so I was able to wallow in the tunes that really made him goodespecially Cooking Up Something Good, which he played last night and which almost brought me out of my first-solo-gig-experience stupor (more on this later).


I started watching all the videos, building the Demarco legend in my mind, even taking on board some of his goofy mannerisms. Then the Mac Demarco Safe For Work Session arrived and my adoration was cemented. He was the cool. I was a devoted Demarco disciple from that day forward, spreading the new messiah’s name far and wide.

So, completely Cockersless, I marched upon Digbeth with a determined stride to see my idol. But, wait a minute, who the fuck are all these other Macolites? I thought to myself while eating a Mother Clucker burger nextdoor to the institute…who are they, and what do they want with my Mac? There was a complete sense of disassociation with this crowd – a righteous indignation that they should feel worthy of liking him. Sure, they looked cool in their haircuts and their denim, and their stupid youthful faces. But, it’s what’s inside that counts. And inside me was a deepening desire to rewatch the Not Safe For Work session I already mentioned and retreat to a world where Mac was on TV. The TV that shined only for me.

Going to a gig on your own is a lonely expedition. Sure, I’ve wandered around on my own at festivals, but always safe in the knowledge that my friends aren’t far away, and the carnivalesque nature of music festivals brings out the pack animal in everyone*.
I wanted to find a spot where I could see the stage, rest my drink/lean if I wanted to and not be jostled by the lava of unwanted human contact. Once I’d found a spot to the left of the stage with a pillar blocking too much over-crowding and a shelf for my drinks, I was very reluctant to move. Like a badly treated cat that’s just been re-homed and won’t come out from under the sofa, I stuck to my spot like my very safety depended on it.

Fast forward about an hour of time usually spent talking to friends and the support act came on.

What can I say about the support act, well it was better than looking at an empty stage, and I’d say he put the meaning in + Special Guests. He was a kind of 80s brand MTV cabaret act you might find amusing at a house party (with friends) and sure enough the crowd were lapping him up like a dog laps up his own vomit.
I’m exaggerating, it did raise a smile, but I had no idea who he was. No introduction and no self promotion. He was just the fluffer for the main act.

Fast forward about an hour of time usually spent waiting at the bar to get a few pints in before the main event. Except I was rooted to the spot. Without a wingman to save my chosen spot I wasn’t moving for love nor money. I felt like if I left my post I’d be endangering my sense of well-being beyond the point of redemption. I was like Charlie Sheen in Platoon courageously defending his foxhole from the enemy while all around him the Viet Cong happily went to the bar and ordered Becks Vier… the Vier Cong. I felt like Captain Willard sent on an errand to cut off the head of Mac Demarco and brandish it to the stonewashed crowd.
I felt like getting a drink but my legs weren’t budging. My brain had control of them and I knew it.

By the time Mac came on my legs were a bit stiff from all the stationary swagger I’d been putting them through. I showed my appreciation by doing a careful tip-toe and head raise. After introducing the band (including a new guitarist from Kings of Leon**), he went straight into ‘Another One’. Then I think he did ‘Let Her Go’ which is always a good one. It was nice to see them in the flesh but I wasn’t bowled off my beleaguered feet.
By this stage I happened to notice another solo gigger, I said gigger, who looked a little awkward, a little like someone who needed refuge in a fox hole. Someone who also didn’t belong in the mosh pit/beer shower that the Institute had transformed into to.
I let her stew in the midst of it and made doubly sure she didn’t get my spot through some trickery. I know her kind, comes with intrinsic knowledge of crowd avoidance tactics. I know because she is me. But she’s is in the lava, I’m in the watchtower.
I’m almost exultant in my advantage until I notice she has a fresh pint of beer and I’m just getting more and more thirsty.

Mac plays ‘Cooking Up Something Good’ and I have to admit it hasn’t lost any of it’s charm. That easy beat, no hang ups, don’t give a fuck style they dubbed ‘Slacker rock’. The new guitarist adds something here, maybe it was more intricate or just cleaner finger picking. I don’t know what the other guy sounded like live, but it seemed to me this guitarist was making his stamp on the band in his own hairy way.
Anyway, together they have the kind of sound that goes down like a cold beer on a hot day. Refreshing! Intoxicating! Inhibition-stifling beer. Oh how I miss you cold beer.

Mac starts a good few of his songs by making a kind of muted beat on the strings, the technical term for this is Strumming. Being such a huge fan I thought I’d be able to tell what song he was about to play, but I didn’t. This time it was Viceroy. Another classic off Mac Demarco 2

Something Mac is heralded for is his onstage ‘goofing off’ otherwise known as ‘banter’ in the great British isles. There was some convincing evidence of this on the night, but I couldn’t hear it due to the absolute c**ts who had ambushed me from behind. I think one of them was chanting “Sky Blue Army” at the top of his lungs, while another was so infatuated with Mac that he was just making a kind of orgasmic whooping sound. It was low and mewing like the disturbing noises insane people make in their sleep when their dreaming of decapitation. Let Mac do the noises. He’s a professional.
I could tell Mac was deserving of his reputation (even if I couldn’t decipher much of what he was saying) I blame myself, I really do…and to prove he deserves it…and to break me out of my deep existential reverie he performed a very goofy stage dive in the middle of ‘Together’. Then he was devoured by the baboons until just his shoe was left.
Thank you for your sacrifice Mac, I know that dive was for me and not for them.

It took a while to get my legs working [you did your job brain, we made it, but let it go now. Don’t make me push the reboot button] I stiffly made my way to the exit, and as the night air touched my parched tongue I felt free again. I glanced ahead of me and saw a slightly awkward girl walking on her own. It was the lady in the lava.
I hesitated behind her for a moment. I considered our separate existences and our sad, lonely walk home. How we were just two humans that didn’t have any friends and so had to walk a different path to everyone else. What did I do, dear reader?

I overtook her, and sprinted all the way to the train station. I’d had enough self-realization for one day ~ fuck you very much.

*I wanted to use the word carnivalesque to describe Rock and Roll Nightclub but it didn’t really fit, subconsciously my brain must have set up a challenge to use it elsewhere in the rambling discourse I call a review.
**This has not been fact checked


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