Mac DeMarco and Porcelain Raft at The Drake Hotel Underground – Gig Review – NXNE

June 15, 2012

Mac DeMarco at The Drake Underground, Toronto, NXNE 2012 - photo Matthew Bowles
The Gig: Mac DeMarco & Porcelain Raft [NXNE 2012]
Where: The Drake Hotel, Toronto, Canada
When: 13 June 2012
In One Word: Revealing

Going by the recordings released under his name, MacDeMarco comes off like a bit of a shady character; he speaks the language of a rock n’ roll traditionalist, but there’s certain elements – the quavering lead guitar lines, the smoky, Ariel Pink-ish retro warmth of the production, and that voice, that low, predatory purr of a voice – that add up to something unmistakably off. It’s incredibly seductive stuff; it lures you in with simple, unironically funky grooves, and before you realize what’s happened, you’re entirely enveloped in DeMarco’s drunkenly warped vision of boogie music. This, paired with his publicity photos and album art – all of which depict him as a boyish waif in eyeliner and lipstick – paint a picture of a very strange, very intense young man. So you’ll understand why I was expecting a chilly presence at The Drake Hotel Underground on Wednesday night. But, as I was extremely delighted to discover, that is not who Mac DeMarco is. Nope. As it turns out, Mac DeMarco is a straight-up fucking goofball.

Looking and acting nothing like the sombre half-glam that he appears to be in those pictures, DeMarco led his back-up band through a combination of first-time performances of new material and a good chunk of this year’s Rock and Roll Nightclub release, all the while gleefully calling out band members for solos, making ridiculous faces, cracking terrible jokes, and generally just acting like a full-on weirdo cornball throughout. This was not the Mac DeMarco show that I thought I was going to get, but it is the Mac DeMarco show that I’m incredibly glad I saw.

Beyond the discovery of what a fun, likable performer he is, the show’s other great revelation is how DeMarco’s music morphs in a live setting. On stage, these songs really open up and breathe in a way that the sleazy lo-fi cool of the studio recordings don’t suggest they can. Songs like “I’m A Man” and “Moving Like Mike” really fucking soar with a newfound swagger on stage that’s in direct opposition to their recorded versions’ claustrophobic bounce. DeMarco proves to be a much more dynamic singer as well, not that he needed to be; I could listen to him do that sexy ghost mumble thing for hours. But live he shows a little more range, unafraid to emphatically growl out a line or effortlessly glide into a truly gorgeous falsetto. The performance sometimes erred a little on the shambolic side – especially during the newly debuted material – but this was a good thing, as it seemed to keep DeMarco’s wildly frantic energy up.

The set by Porcelain Raft that immediately followed Mac DeMarco’s, however, was of a more professional sort. Part of this can be attributed to Mauro Remiddi, at the age of 40, being a much older, more elegant man than Mac, but mostly it was due to the nature of the music he makes. Porcelain Raft’s sound is based on fairly lush, layered productions, and Remiddi seems reluctant to sacrifice even a single element for the stage. His live set-up consisted of himself, an extremely talented drummer, and enough looping and sampling equipment for a band more than twice that size. Suffice to say, if even one loop is out of sequence the whole thing can go to shit, so Remiddi wasn’t exactly able to charm the crowd the same way that that grinning, gap-toothed bastard DeMarco did; he simply didn’t have the freedom to. But regardless, Porcelain Raft delivered a solid, technically seamless set that accomplished everything it was supposed to. This is perfectly fine, although I would have liked to have seen Mr. Remiddi try stripping it down a little; it would have been nice to see him abandon all the buttons and switches for a bare-bones version of “Backwords” or something. But then, “Shapeless and Gone” sounded overwhelmingly huge, seemingly building bigger and bigger with every chorus, and it was fucking awesome, so what the hell do I know.

© Justin Santelli, Music Vice

Photographs by Matthew Bowles:

Internet links:
Mac DeMarco
Porcelain Raft

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J. Francis

J. Francis is a freelance music critic that sprouted like an unsightly growth from the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area and eventually ended up in Kingston, Ontario. He is a man of deliriously firm, contradictory convictions, with a life-long dream of dismantling high-art/low-art hierarchies. He loves pop music with a passion that many find unsettling and is often mistaken as being somehow ironic or insincere (nothing could be further from the truth). His favourite album is Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell. He knows that you think that's ridiculous. Regardless, he hopes you have a good day.

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