By DUTCH GODSHALK
At about 12:45 a.m. on April 18, roughly 200 people were crammed into the small, basement-like Underground Arts in Philadelphia, but their faces weren’t directed at the stage; all eyes were on the ceiling. Indie rocker Mac Demarco was dangling from a pipe above their heads.
During an instrumental lull in “Still Together,” a loving, ululating crowd favorite, Demarco spontaneously launched himself from the stage and onto the palms of his audience. After a bit of crowd surfing, the singer reached up and began swinging from an overhead pipe like an amped-up orangutan, eventually making his way back to the stage for the final chorus.
And such was the tone of the UA performance, a set that started with the Kinks-like title track from Demarco’s latest album, “Salad Days,” released on April 1. “Salad Days” furthers the type of songwriting Demarco began perfecting in his last album, 2, taking thoughtful, sincere lyrics and filtering them through his endearing brand of laidback levity. Peter Sagar’s guitar work sounds submerged, as though floating up from seafloors, and the entire record entrances, its tracks moving fluidly from one to the next.
Didn’t seem to matter much that songs like “Salad Days” and “Don’t Take My Love Away” have only been floating in the musical ether for less than a month, concert goers responded to them the same way they responded to older tunes like “Cooking Up Something Good” and “Ode to Viceroy”. They recognized the first notes. They knew all the words. They rushed the stage a few times. They even handed Demarco some lit cigarettes. Security was working hard that night.
The band encored with an extended, high energy version of Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend” that included a slowed-down interval in which Demarco required the entire crowd to kneel down as he crooned to them from the stage’s edge, soon bringing them back to their feet again as the band exploded into the song’s finale. It’s a wonderful thing to see a room full of twenty-somethings all belting out a Neil Young tune.
Wearing his trademark baseball cap, bantering with the audience in his affable stoner drone, and occasionally climbing the walls like some rock-and-roll Dennis the Menace, Mac Demarco, a magnetic musician, is one seriously fun dude to watch.
Follow Dutch Godshalk on twitter @DutchGodshalk.