REVIEW: Mac DeMarco At The Riverside Theater

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Photo by Will Hughes

I thought Mac DeMarco was going to be very much like what his studio sound was. Slower melodic indie music. What I got was a house packed full of his adoring fans and a full-on rock show. The crowd was stacked with people who clearly were all die-hard fans, all super responsive to the indie prince, and completed shifted my expectation of what I was expecting the night to be. The always quirky and never wavering in who he is, Mac DeMarco put on a show that left Milwaukee swooning. 

The Band

Fairly new to the music scene Mac DeMarco made his debut album in 2009. Primarily psychedelic and experimental he snagged a spot opening for the Japandroids. After his move from Toronto to Montreal, he found that being a musician was proving difficult. After finding success with his first album in 2012 DeMarco began gaining popularity leading him where he is today. 

Mac DeMarco released his latest album Here Comes the Cowboy this year amidst some controversy with Mitski.

The Experience

Mac DeMarco’s sound can be described as a bit psychedelic rock meets melancholy. At least that’s how I felt listening to his music before this show. Thinking it would play out similar to Andrew Bird, who I saw a few days prior, I half expected an older crowd sitting down and calmly reacting to the music. What I got, was a screaming crowd head banging and moving around in their seats. It took me about 5 songs to realize what kind of show this was going to be. Playing The Stars Keep on Calling My Name, an extremely upbeat tune got the whole audience dancing in their seats was when the show really began to gel. 

From here on out, Mac DeMarco belted out short but sweet songs that kept the crowd engaged and begging for more. It was clear that he was in his element playing surfer-Esque love songs about being alone and finding happiness and it translated well. He and his band were backed with sometimes subtle and blatantly obvious references to Milwaukee playing on the screens behind them. Supercuts of the famous wrestler, Da Crusher, was superimposed over the 29-year-old rocker as he played Choo Choo. What stood out to me the most though were the random scenes from Milwaukee born film, American Movie. 

If you’ve ever seen the little indie flick from 1999, you would find Mac DeMarco’s music almost as a fitting soundtrack to the quirky shenanigans that occurred. Often feeling like this was “overly hipster” to some, I found to be the perfect accompaniment to the vibe of the show, it’s the crowd and his music. It’s clear where Mac draws his roots from when you hear songs like Salad Days that sound like something you’d hear in a corner bar circa 1995 in Seattle. The grungy, high pitched vibe can be reminiscent of Sonic Youth or Blind Melon. 

The culture of sound that Mac DeMarco created was something that was unexpecting and welcome to the Riverside. Pairing that with Wisconsin born guitarist, Andy White, the band paid tribute to White’s roots with a cover of Steve Miller Band’s Rock’n Me to cap off the set. It was clear they were having a blast and it translated into a hard to forget show that had a little bit of everything. Trippy visuals, Milwaukee homages, good music, and a whole bunch of weird that signifies Mac DeMarco is in a league of his own

The Verdict

Going into the show I felt that I was going to be treated to a rather low-key indie show. What I witnessed was an absolute riot of a time that kept the crowd dancing and the music blowing me away. I almost don’t want to listen to the studio versions of his songs anymore for fear of them not living up to what I got to experience at the Riverside. But who am I kidding, I’ll be sitting in my basement, playing games on an N64 and listening to whatever Mac DeMarco’s newest music may be. 

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Photo by Will Hughes

Setlist:

  • Here Comes the Cowboy
  • On the Level
  • Salad Days
  • Little Dogs March
  • The Stars Keep On Calling My Name
  • Cooking Up Something Good
  • Finally Alone
  • Ode to Viceroy
  • Choo Choo
  • My Old Man
  • Preoccupied
  • This Old Dog
  • Another One
  • Still Beating
  • Freaking Out the Neighborhood
  • Rock and Roll Night Club
  • My Kind of Woman
  • Chamber of Reflection
  • Still Together
  • Rock’n Me – Steve Miller Band cover

Encore:

  • Watching Him Fade Away
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