Review by David Fox with Photography by Rob Hadley

An evening with Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV you say? I’m there!

Tonight sees Vernor (the lesser-spotted Mac DeMarco to you guys) sojourn to Birmingham for the 1st time since his Institute gig in 2015 to proffer his jizz-jazz wears to us Midlanders…

Mac Demarco-6

…however, much to my chagrin, a commonality us locals all share is schiebe traffic, and so it was again today – causing my bad self to miss 1st support Hoopla Blue (that, and a Mr-Kipling style queue outside… exceedingly long). I missed a treat according to form, as the buzz amongst the inner throngs spoke of some “space pop” being thrown down – wowzers! My loss.

Hoopla Blue-18

Hoopla Blue-16

2nd support came from Los Bitchos, self-styled “5 gals from the underground realms of London”. And it shows – their music is instrumental psychedelic sunshine. Think Goat, without lyrics. The band swing in time to the rhythmic offerings, the backdrop is hallucinogenic, and the drums and bongos hold sway – I am sipping auditory tequila. The gathering before them enjoy their performance, a song gets dedicated to Lindsay Lohan, and they finish off with early single ‘Trapdoor’ – an away win, all told.

Los Bitchos-2

Los Bitchos-11Los Bitchos-12

Mac arrives 30 minutes later to much frothing and brouhaha, wearing a fetching green sunhat, accompanied by a backing track that is almost ‘No Limits’ by 2 Unlimited. We are encouraged to “get warm… get acquainted with your neighbours”, and literally as that is uttered, a huge waft of weed invades my nostrils from a person to my right – perhaps a suitable perfume for the tunes that follow.

‘On the Level’ opens up the set, a funky sound from last album ‘This Old Dog’ and is met rapturously, hands are in the air and Mr dM playfully cocks a finger-gun at them all as the band play on. ‘Salad Days’ is up next from its eponymous album, my introduction to Mac in 2014, and it still makes me smile like a fool, with its lyric pitting a world-weary yoof against an hackneyed old ‘un – I won’t labour the point again, but this is definitely filled with personal parental memories – the throng love it.

Mac Demarco-4

Mac Demarco-5

The 1st single from new album ‘Here Comes the Cowboy’, ‘Nobody’, is offered next. Throughout this song, I notice that the backdrop for the gig offers up some eclectic stuff, in keeping with Mac’s music promos – we see weightlifting, news interviews, woodcutting, wrestling, Ozzy and Iommi, body building, football, and a trippy view of the show from different angles.

The older tracks get raucously acknowledged. ‘The Stars Keep On Calling My Name’, ‘Cooking Up Something Good’ (complete with sunny verse, and darker chorus), ‘Ode to Viceroy’ (my favourite of the night, Mac’s most played song, and the one with the biggest cheer), ‘Freaking Out the Neighbourhood’ (with an additional 2 intro guitar plays at Mac’s request), ‘Rock and Roll Night Club’ (sped up, sounding even more energetic and intriguing), and ‘My Kind of Women’ (slowed down with heavier drums, an enlightened new interpretation). Interestingly, considering this is a tour to promote the aforementioned new album, only 3 songs are played from it, with the majority coming from 2nd album ‘2’ – this seems a shame, especially as other new tracks aired tonight (‘Choo Choo’ and ‘Baby Bye Bye’) have their own charms that should be equally appreciated.

Mac Demarco-7

Mac Demarco-19

Considering he is coined online as a ‘dirtbag Poet Laureate’ (nice moniker, that), his lyrics are largely lovelorn, loved up, and thoughtful. See ‘My Old Man’, where parallels are drawn between his own families’ generations, or ‘Another One’, turning out the lights and allowing phone torches to offer a soupçon of romance to the situation, even a slowed down ‘Still Beating’ – for all the misguided slacker jibes, he obviously cares strongly for people, his audience, and his craft.

Obviously there is a lot of chat from Mac – demanding more from the crowd, punctuating the majority of song openings with a 1,2,3,4, throwing the MF-bomb into pretty much every track, complaining of being too hot or ominously intoning “Daddy’s Home” before completely new song ‘I Like Her’. Mac seems particularly tight with Andy White (guitar), with a lot of interplay between them – about Mac teaching him guitar, or championing Black Sabbath. The band itself, with Joe McMurray (drums), Jon Lent (bass) and Alec Meen (keys) locked in, have an awful lot more funk than the 2015 edition, turning some songs into elongated slinky jams, almost like some form of lounge (lizard) band.

Mac Demarco-21

Mac Demarco-22

The gig goes from strength to strength, with a favourite of mine ‘Chamber of Reflection’ lulling inhabitants into a trance-like state, before standard set closer ‘Still Together’ (written for long-term love Kiera) commences, all “fitting like a glove” harmonies juxtaposed with ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. It soon morphs into ‘Paranoid’ by the mighty Sabbath, and it’s a damn fine version – hard rock sits well with the band. Suddenly, Los Bitchos are joining them on the stage and we have a Mariachi supergroup amongst our midst, as we now get treated to The Champs’ ‘Tequila’ whilst there is a party onstage, beer flying, mic swinging, extravagant guitar playing, eventually seguing back into ‘Still Together’ and they are gone… or are they, as they reappear to encore on Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’.

Considering how their last Brum gig ended (with Mac cessating early after a disconcerting crowd journey), today’s episode rattled on for some time and kept all and sundry entertained throughout. To borrow an album title from the man himself, there is more than enough life in ‘This Old Dog’ and I await his next moves with interest.

Mac Demarco-28Mac Demarco-32

Mac Demarco-10

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

Leave a Reply