Mac Demarco opened the first day of his ‘Purple Bobcat Next to River’ solo tour in mid-November at Valley Bar in Phoenix, Arizona. All fifteen dates consisted of no more than Mac on stage with an acoustic guitar and his keyboard. There are no openers for the tour, no bandmates, and no crew. Demarco is set to play much smaller, more intimate venues than he has for the past few years, selling out major venues across the globe. He and his girlfriend, Kiera, are simply cruising around the states in their car for two weeks.
Valley Bar is an underground bar and venue located in downtown Phoenix. Rather than cram everyone into the bar, the venue set up the alleyway, also called ‘Punk Rock Alley’, for the show. There were around 600 people in the audience, not including the folks that managed to sneak into the parking garage and surrounding fire escapes to peer into the alley from above.
Mac walks onto stage and picks up an acoustic guitar. He says it is his first show playing this guitar, which he purchased from a friend in LA before coming to Phoenix. He kicks off the set with ‘Salad Days’ and everyone cheers. The result of such a stripped down set up, allows for fans to marinade in the raw goodness of the songs. Up next Mac plays ‘Still Beating’ from recent album This Old Dog. Afterwards he comments on his efforts to create a set list which alternates upbeat and downbeat tunes, but then remarks that all the songs are mellow tonight.
Keeping the selections fresh, Demarco picks ‘Stars Keep on Calling My Name’ from the record 2. Without his guitarist Andy White on deck, Demarco hums melodies and solos as he holds the rhythm on the acoustic, and also requests audience participation to sing and hum along with him. The next song he says is about his Pops; it’s ‘Cooking up Something Good’. Even with the inherently mellow nature of this performance, the tunes from 2 are certainly groovy and bouncy. The whole audience sings along.
Mac brings it down a notch with ‘Without Me’ from the album Another One. He rolls back to 2 with ‘Annie’ and then back to Salad Days with the song ‘Blue Boy’. The lights shine blue as he strums on stage. The crowd is really into this one. Mac glances over at his girlfriend Kiera as he plays ‘Let me Baby Stay’. Up next ‘Let Her Go’ gets Mac to belt out some killer vocals. He comments on how he has been sick recently, but manages to hit every octave. He even stops playing the guitar and starts to scat through the song, and dances as he goes. Then he says, “F*ck it, let’s shred it again”. He stretches his vocal range even farther and everyone in the crowd is completely captivated.
Mac lights a cigarette and then tells a sweet anecdote about his guitarist, Andy, who is not present this evening. He asks the audience to help him with the solo which he usually does. “Do it instead of Andy with your mouth, and I’d be very much in your debt,” he requests. Everyone cheers as they discover the tune is ‘Ode to Viceroy’. It is quite a comical unfolding as everyone in the crowd makes noises mirroring the solo of Andy. Afterwards Mac thanks everyone for helping. The whole evening continues to be a very honest and no frills presentation of much-loved songs. Mac’s occasional moments of forgetting a chord here or there end up being completely endearing. His down-to-earth persona really shine through in his effortless presentness.
The next song he says he wrote when he was 19 years old. “I’m 45 now,” he jokes. The song is about Marilyn Monroe. “Is that ok with you over there on the stairs?” he remarks to the fire escape dwellers. Mac tells a brief story about the dad of a friend of his, who had a naked poster of Marilyn Monroe on the wall. He said he never really saw the allure, and then one day after watching her film “The Seven Year Itch”, he suddenly understood. The tune is called ‘Marilyn & Me’. It is a total rarity not often seen since his days in the band “Makeout Videotape” or a live, acoustic performance released to cassette in 2013 by the Captured Tracks label. Halfway through Mac says, “Sometimes it’s fun to do an old song; Just buckle up mother f*cka!”
He looks over at his girlfriend Kiera sitting down side stage and says, “What do you wanna hear Kiera?” A couple of fans yell out, “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans!” Mac goes for ‘One Another’. It is another tune from recent record This Old Dog. The crowd shout out more requests after. ‘My Kind of Woman’ is one such request. Mac points in agreement, and asks for the requestees name before kicking off the tune. Halfway through Mac goes acapella and says, “F*ck the guitar; Sing with daddy”. Everyone laughs and naturally abides.
Mac wraps up the set with ‘Another One’ on the keyboard, which ends up being one of the only tunes for the evening delivered via keys. Next he invites Kiera on stage for the last song. She gives him a little kiss and dashes back off stage. Mac says, “I’m sorry I made you come up here; I love you”, and then sings ‘Still Together’ to close the set.
Everyone chants for one more song and Mac treats the crowd to a completely heartbreaking, yet beautiful tune about his father. It is ‘Watching Him Fade Away’.
Fourteen dates remain on the Mac Demarco solo tour, the last of which will bring him back to Arizona to close it out at 191 Toole in Tucson, Arizona.