Live Review and Photos: Mac DeMarco, August 30, 2012, Death By Audio – Brooklyn, NY

All photos by Sam Clarke

There’s a peril associated with consistently attending shows in DIY converted warehouse spaces–the threat that something could go horribly horribly wrong at any moment. Between the robbery at Silent Barn and the raid on Market Hotel, two DIY mainstays in Brooklyn have been shut down in the past two years. And while Silent Barn seems to be planning a resurgence in the next couple months, the age of bountiful all-ages spaces appears to be over.

Though Death By Audio appears to be run on a more legitimate basis, my heart skipped a beat when the power went out with a massive pop and hiss in between sets on Thursday night. Though the openers weren’t really much to speak of (mostly amateurish takes on garage pop) I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to catch Mac DeMarco’s advertised set of tunes from his upcoming debut full-length 2.

But after a bit of kicking about with the gaggle of cigarette smokers outside, a low bass rumble indicated that the show was back on for a set from NYC pop-punk quartet Home Blitz. Though their professional tightness (save for a couple of awkwardly long pauses for broken strings) was evident. The songwriting simply came across as a bit flat in a live setting. Their take on 90s pop-punk sounds and obvious enthusiam for their tunes might have hit hard in the right environment, but with a crowd of kids in Captured Tracks t-shirts, as well as members of the label’s stable themselves (Hey Dustin Payseur and Mike Sniper, sorry I was sweating on you), it was fairly evident that the evening was largely geared toward DeMarco’s set.

Though DeMarco took to the stage missing a guitar and with a visibly intoxicated bass player, the set nevertheless turned out to be a pretty outstanding live example of DeMarco’s nimble guitar lines and ‘50s crooner vocal affectations. DeMarco’s sense of humor, which can be found in spades on Rock and Roll Night Club, is what truly makes him standout from his jangle-pop peers. The adopted baritone that marked DeMarco’s between-song banter was rendered largely unintelligible by Death By Audio’s soundsystem, but the message from his goofy gap-toothed smile and constant mugging was clear. Mac was having fun and it was hard to not identify with that feeling.

Every fairly obvious musical hiccup was met with more of DeMarco’s mugging. Though it’s clear that his backing band hasn’t fully settled into the tracks from 2, “My Kind Of Woman” and “Viceroy” were still met with a crowd response generally reserved for more well known hits rather than cuts from an album yet to be released. Perhaps it’s DeMarco’s vibrant personality and persona that drives his live performance, but you can’t really fault him for that. So what if there’s a few bum notes when you have a frontman as clever and engaging as him.

Older tunes faired slightly better. Though “Only You” and “Together” date back to the days before DeMarco was making music under his own name, these tracks really hit the hardest in this setting, with the latter finding DeMarco expressing loving sincerity in the only way he knows how: soaring falsetto and a shit-eating grin.

You’ll certainly find those in the coming months that will criticize DeMarco’s tunes for a lack of originality – you know, the general criticism leveled at traditional, guitar-based bands. But what Mac DeMarco lacks in genre-defying feats of instrumental novelty he makes up for with an intensely lovable personality and, well, some of the hookiest songwriting that indie rock has seen this year. If this show was any apt preview, 2 seems poised to pick up right where Rock and Roll Night Club left off – perhaps even surpass the songwriting on that relatively short record. Musical bobbles and all, the presence that DeMarco and his band carries is undeniable. There may be better musicians in a myriad of other genres, but you’re not going to find many that are more fun to watch than this.