By Mike Marsala

Photos by RL Photo Studio

Mac DeMarco has been an LMD favorite for quite some time. His slacker rock vibe, songwriting chops & lo-fi production techniques really get our plumbuses going. So when we got the chance to cover him & tonstartssbandht at Higher Ground in Burlingotn, we gladly hopped on it.

We’ll start with tonstartssbandht. I walked in totally fresh, no expectations, no preconceived notions. I knew that it was fronted by Andy White, Mac’s guitarist since September 2014 (they made an intro video for him, see it here), but that was about it.

Andy & the drummer, who turned out to be his brother, hit the smokey stage and immediately hopped into a tune. Maybe it was the striped tank top or the long hair or the no shoes, or maybe just all of it put together, but my initial take was “Alright, here’s a 21st century Beach Boy.” And to be quite honest, that wasn’t too far off. Andy’s heavily reverberated vocals were following quite complex melody lines as he plucked his chorus-affected guitar. A few songs in, I even started to get some Radiohead vibes, which was weird because they don’t really sound like Radiohead. Well they sort of do. It’s as if they took some LSD, listened to Pet Sounds & Kid A interchangeably for a few hours, then produced a record with Panda Bear. Which, honestly, sounds like a great time. And I don’t doubt that something like that happened. I know this all sounds pretty weird — and it was — but I really dug it. I definitely recommend checking them out. Or, if you are planning to see Mac on this tour, make sure you show up early and check these guys out. It’s a fun time, particularly if you and your friends are into watching a band and trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Now for Mac.

I’d seen him before, at a festival, which was cool, but admittedly not the full Mac experience. So I was pretty stoked to catch him in a club setting. He opened up the show with “Salad Days,” which I actually wasn’t expecting, but in retrospect, it made a ton of sense. Great way to kick off a show.

His guitars sounded much slinkier than I was expecting. Sleemy is a word that comes to mind, although I’m not entirely sure what it means or if it is a word [Editor’s note: nothing & it’s not]. Another description I’ve heard thrown around is “Sleepy Hawaii.” [Editors note: better].

At first I was a little thrown off. Not in a bad way, but usually when a lo-fi producer takes the show on the road, a little bit of that sleem goes away– mostly because you are playing a real guitar in a real live setting, which means you have to crank the volume up and distort the sound. But that wasn’t the case. The band was plenty loud, but the guitars maintained their soft, synthy glisten.

After hearing personal favorites “No Other Heart” & “The Stars Keep on Calling My Name,”  I was impressed. The tone was as sleemy as it is on the record. (I could have used more bass, but that’s not up to me.) I saw a Jazz Chorus 120 on stage, so I assume he was playing out of that and he had that thing cranked up all the way. Zero distortion, all chorus. Very dialed.

Upon reflection, it’s clear that this is the staple of the his “jizz jazz” sleem. It’s like he’s saying to the crowd “You came here for a rock show, but instead here’s some jizz jazz in the form of my George Harrison inspired tunes. And you’re gonna like it.”

And at first, it’s kinda bizarre if you come expecting to get your face rocked off; but, ultimately it’s pretty dope when you think about it because it cuts against the grain of so much of today’s shoegazy indie rock. Mac is the opposite of shoegaze. He’s just a traditional songwriter who developed his own brand of lo-fi sounds. And what’s cool is that his band used to flirt with that shoegaze line (see his performance at SXSW in 2013 See HERE). But with a few lineup changes and the need for consistency in a live setting, Mac has created a really cool, unique live show that showcases his strong songwriting skills while still giving the crowd enough rock and roll to have a good time. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was singing along. I was too. The crowd, which consisted of mostly college kids and hip Burlington folks, even knew a lot of words to the new record This Old Dog that came out just a few days before. That says a lot about a twenty-something songwriter.

And just when we thought it was over — after the obligatory “Together” closer — Mac and his band returned to stage for a Jam that lead into a full throttle, lights out cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” All that talk of sleemy jizz jazz vanished. Andy & Mac cranked up their guitars, switched on the distortion, and delivered a blistering rendition of the Football Stadium anthem. It was easily a 10-minute jam sandwich. And the crowd ate it up. I guarantee it was the first time half of the youngsters in the crowd had ever moshed, and that’s pretty special. Kudos to Mac & his band for pulling that rabbit out of the hat.

Safe to say, I had a blast covering this show for Live Music Daily. It’s always cool to go see a band you really dig and discover a new band that you will return to over and over again. Mac & tonstartssbandht are on the road from now until some time in the future. Buy a ticket. Take the ride. It’s worth it.

 

 

Written by mitchp8910

I like to rock and roll.

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