Review: Mac DeMarco – Limelight, Belfast

For anyone curious about who was performing in Limelight 1 last night a brief, swooping glance at those pouring into the venue was a helpful indication. The sold out crowd rushed to the early show with a wardrobe mirroring that of our headliner Mac DeMarco and we gotta hand it to em – boy, did they have a great aesthetic. A sea of glorious moustaches, oversized everything and hats – so many hats – gathered for the Belfast stop of Mac DeMarco’s 2018 Euro Fall tour, with special guest Jackie Cohen. And with great fashion came great charity, with £1 of every ticket going to organisations bringing equity, dignity and access to communities who need it, courtesy of PLUS1.

Jackie Cohen - Mac Demarco support - Limelight Belfast
Jackie Cohen – Mac Demarco support – Limelight Belfast

Its not surprising that the Canadian multi-instrumentalist sold out the show with ease, with indie fans from far and wide scrambling to be part of DeMarco’s very first visit to Belfast. It’s certainly been a long time coming, with DeMarco’s fan base strong, steady and curious from as far back as 2012 with his mini-LP Rock and Roll Night Club – his first release under his own name.

Mac Demarco - Limelight Belfast - October 2018
Mac Demarco – Limelight Belfast – October 2018

DeMarco is one artist who has earned the title of ‘seasoned musician’, showcasing a discography that has grown and developed alongside his artistry as opposed to the ever-changing demands of popular culture. However, you never get the vibe this is a conscious, thought out decision by DeMarco, seeing himself as above mainstream music. He has never come across as a try-hard in this respect – he just simply…doesn’t care. His goofball charm and laidback vibe is part of what defines his sound, so much so it wouldn’t be surprising if he just doesn’t even realise what mainstream music is. And that’s exactly why we love him.

Mac Demarco - Limelight Belfast

Creating the perfect, watery potion of psychedelic rock and jangle pop, DeMarco has played a huge part in shaping the indie rock genre. Playing in bands since high school before leaving punk-rock project Makeout Videotape behind to pursue a solo career in 2011, DeMarco has endlessly toured in between releases to create a name for himself in the most organic way. He emerged as one to watch from the get-go, his prominent style a refreshing burst of self-described ‘jizz jazz’ that earned both his debut album 2 (2012) as well as his second album Salad Days (2014) a ‘Best New Music’ designation from Pitchfork.

Mac Demarco - Limelight Belfast

Ironically buried in the lighthearted, lo-fi beats of DeMarco’s music are incredibly introspective, poignant lyrics, covering themes such as death, aging and relationships with lovers, friends and family alike. His latest album This Old Dog (2017) is testament to this, gently combining melody and message with a delicate simplicity, simplicity he describes perfectly with ‘I wanted to make something that will resonate with me, no baloney. I didn’t want to be Baloney Jones, just a normal dude.’ Baloney Jones. Nobody wants to be Baloney Jones, Mac.

Opening the show for non-Baloney Jones was LA artist Jackie Cohen, doing well to command a slowly filling venue for the early Monday evening show. Emerging this year with her debut EP Tacoma Night Terror Part 2: Self-Fulfilling Elegy, Cohen is a bit of an enigma, giving away as little on stage as she does on her social media. There is minimal discussion between songs minus trying to flog one singular tape of her music for £10 to the audience, as well as reporting this was her first trip to the UK. The latter was swiftly met with boos from the audience until Cohen corrected herself with ‘first visit to Ireland’, followed by a confused ‘I don’t know what you want from me.’ It’s a delicate sitch, Jackie – you’ll learn soon enough.

Mac Demarco - Limelight Belfast

The surreal tones of singles such as ‘Darlin’ and ‘Tacoma Night Terror’ fill the venue. Cohen’s anti-folk vibes perfectly echo groups like The Moldy Peaches, mixed perfectly with the rising riffs of heavier songs as Cohen exudes a quirkiness reminiscent of Stevie Nicks. It was a brief set by the San Fernando Valley native, but the perfect introduction to her mysterious presence.

There was a brief interval before our headliner and his band appeared on stage, with no amount of time appropriate to prepare the crowd for the positively bizarre set that was to follow. By this point Limelight 1 was fit to burst, everyone tumbling on top of one another as our next act filed on stage. Sporting his token cap and a fishing vest, it was straight into fan favourite ‘Salad Days’, the opening song for the album of the same name.

And like that – the whole crowd was under DeMarco’s spell. His weird, hazy spell. Strobe lights were replaced with gentle spotlights of every colour, slowly moving across the crowd as they danced to the watery beats of songs such as ‘My Old Man’, ‘My Kind of Woman’ and ‘Cooking Up Something Good’. Its like the crowd became instantly hypnotised under the hazy lights, their movements changing with the tone of each song, immediately changing thrashes to sways for slower songs such as ‘This Old Dog’.

Mac Demarco - Limelight Belfast

The significance and influence of the lyrics in DeMarco’s songs was evident as the crowd sand to literally every word, easy to hear alongside the muted, low frequency beats and bass guitars. Big shoutout out the DeMarco’s band alongside him, particularly favourite Andy White with his pigtails and tank top. White played a significant part in the set, commanding front and centre of the stage for multiple covers such as Misfits’Where Eagles Dare’ while DeMarco lingered on a box with his head amongst the overhead lights. White also took the time to announce his candidacy for Mayor of Northern Ireland, taking the time to secure votes with standout policies like being pro-vampire.

The weirdest of contributions however came from DeMarco’s drummer Joe McMurray, diving into a unnecessarily deep biography of Yoda while sporting the hat to match. This was just one of countless simply bizarre events that took place throughout the set. At one point a member of the audience had ownership of the microphone, performing a nearly full-length, notably terrible cover of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’ before throwing himself on top of the crowd. The strangest part of it all was there were no questions asked, no turned heads in confusion, the crowd bouncing along to this cover by a stranger as DeMarco lay flat on the stage. Literally lying down on stage.

The crowd continued to thrash around as the band changed between multiple random covers, including Crazy Town’s Butterfly (Come my lady), clearly still deep into their hypnotic state. The hypnosis didn’t break once, the crowd hooked to the very last note. DeMarco and his band departed the stage briefly for the encore, shortly returning to bring the concentration back to the music the crowd were here to celebrate – Baloney Jones’.

The whole crowd swayed as DeMarco and his band closed the set on an incredibly heart-warming rendition of ‘Watching Him Fade Away’. It was an incredibly touching end to an incredibly bizarre set, a set filled with electoral speeches, homages to Star Wars and sporadic covers by strangers. The lyrics ‘watching him fade away’ delicately faded out as DeMarco, his band and the crowd closed our headliner’s first visit to Belfast together. Until next time, Baloney Jones – don’t be stranger.

 Mac Demarco - Limelight Belfast