Not everyone can hack a camping festival like Falls. Happily, the headliners play side-shows for urban hipsters – and divas. Canadian indie-type Mac DeMarco (born Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV!) performed the first of three consecutive nights at Melbourne’s former Billboard on a humid Sunday. Dude was only here for 2015’s Laneway. But this time the 25-year-old, known for his copiousness as much as that gap-toothed smile, is touring behind the romantic mini-album Another One – which made multiple 2015 ‘Best Of’ lists.
The first of two supports was the incongruously raucous Mesa Cosa. The Melbourne six-piece combine Mexican vibes, surf-pop and thrash metal. Mesa Cosa may be broadly tagged “garage”, but they’re actually part of the same Aussie pub-rock resurgence as Bad//Dreems – imagine a collision between Hoodoo Gurus and The Angels… Mostly the band are wildly energetic – their set was accompanied by frisbee-throwing and, at the end, they threatened to smash their guitars. And did we mention they have a bonkers saxophonist?
Less impressive was Perth’s GUM – a new(ish) project for Jay Watson of Tame Impala and Pond fame, apparently fulfilling his second gig (!). Watson was on (treated) vocals and guitar, with a bassist – but the sax, synths and (electronic) drums were all on playback. GUM veered eccentrically from psychedelia to synth-pop, yet it just seemed underdeveloped. Still, they deserve props for closing with a rockin’ cover of Divinyls’ Science Fiction.
On the dot of 10pm, the ever-reliable DeMarco materialised on stage. For all the buzz, the cult fave isn’t a trailblazer. But he is unpretentious – and has abundant charm. DeMarco – attired like a busker, complete with cap – might be a jangly Ben Howard. Mind, on this night he played some intricate guitar. DeMarco was generously easygoing, too, sharing the spotlight with his bandmates – Andrew White (guitar), Pierce McGarry (bass), Jon Lent (keyboards) and Joe McMurray (drums). Unusually, the chatty frontman introduced them at the show’s start.
DeMarco’s set was not dissimilar to that heard at Falls, spanning new and old songs (dating back to 2012’s debut, 2). He opened with the Hawaiian-flavoured The Way You’d Love Her, the kick-off single from Another One, leading into 2014’s catchy Salad Days – punters now singing along. Next, DeMarco explained that the shoegaze No Other Heart was penned about his experience Down Under last summer. Far from sedate, DeMarco’s numbers inspired serious crowd-surfing. Later, even Lent, the band’s newest recruit, had a go. Another One‘s title-track, almost mid-set, was among few songs with no jangly guitar, being a pianoey ballad.
DeMarco allowed his band to chit-chat. McGarry brought out an Oz-based second cousin – who also spoke. DeMarco himself geeked out about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. One of the evening’s biggest hits was Let Her Go – the venue heaved. DeMarco finished with the keys-heavy slowie Chamber Of Reflection, then a cabaret-style version of 2‘s Still Together, dedicated to his longtime girlfriend back in New York. Melbourne loved it.
Gallery: Mac DeMarco, Melbourne / Photos by Nikki Williams