Buzzed-about indie folk jammer Mac Demarco helped open the 2014 Vans House Party series with an eclectic set among headliner Charles Bradley and opener Benjamin Booker.
Mac Demarco has been announced as a second bill headliner for 4Knots, so he’s certainly making a name for himself as an act to follow this summer. After pushing his fourth full length release this year, Mac plays at ease. He bounces around the stage bumbling with scraggly locks, sticking his tongue out and truly enjoying his own company.
At times, Mac seems like a crowd surfing buffoon. Halfway through the set, the band played filler music while Mac fixed his guitar, and a band member (wearing two hats on top of each other) trolled, egging the crowd into a full Coldplay cover - Mac joined in. Mac has fun, the audience seemed to be having fun with him (especially when he spit a water fountain into a front row fan’s mouth), and the music was played pretty well.
Mac’s sound relays best in a live act with some of his emphatic chord progressions and strong guitar licks on songs like “Salad Days,” the well-liked single off the new album of the same name. Mac can pump out some fun ditties, but his entire catalog doesn’t have a consistent punch. He’s a charismatic act who’s gaining attention, but it’s not clear he’ll go down with some of the indie rock’s emerging acts that had similar acclaim in recent years.
Mac was sandwiched between “the one and only screaming eagle of soul,” Charles Bradley (see suggested review below) and Benjamin Booker - a New Orleans band. Benjamin Booker’s recordings seem to have potential, but the band’s live sound was smothered by bass, and its style varies from throaty nineties rock to Fitz and the Tantrums esque soul pop. The lead singer resembles Donald Glover and was dressed like Kurt Cobain in an old burnt orange sweater that probably wasn’t very comfortable under the lights on a June night.
As a skate park, House of Vans isn’t completely equipped for surround sound. It’s void of speakers toward the balcony in back, and loaded up front. Regardless, Vans House Parties are among the most anticipated music events of the summer with free RSVPs to see big name acts. The Black Lips will play one of the shows in July, and RSVPS for August shows with Holy Ghost! and Future Islands will open soon.