Wearing a large, white T-shirt, red sneakers and navy slacks, Mac DeMarco looked more like a boarding school runaway than a rockstar on stage at The Mohawk. But that, along with a nondescript baseball hat, is what the newly crowned king of indie rock was wearing when he played to a soldout crowd Sunday night.
One of the last times DeMarco was in Austin, he was cursing the city and its festivals at one of his many South By Southwest shows in 2013. He still has some of his old reckless abandon but has since released his third album, Salad Days, and started to grow from a young, gap-toothed rock ’n’ roll bad boy into a confident, indie rock hero.
Standing in dirty red shoes before a crowd packed with fans who still aren’t allowed to drink beer, DeMarco played a set with songs taken mostly from Salad Days, along with a few older tracks and an almost mesmerizing cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.”
The crowd on the floor of the venue was rowdy. Crowd surfers flipped above the outstretched hands of a hundred teenagers and a steadily growing mosh pit made the ground level of The Mohawk feel more like a water park wave pool than a club. DeMarco’s music and stage presence isn’t necessarily hardcore — misbehavior just follows the Canadian musician wherever he goes.
DeMarco’s entire performance was solid, entertaining and energetic, but there were two peak moments during his set.
The first came when DeMarco leapt from the stage with a smug grin on his face, falling confidently into a crowd of people he knows would never let him fall. The crowd passed him all over the venue for over five minutes. In the spirit of fairness, DeMarco even climbed to the top levels of The Mohawk, where fans carried him around.
The second moment came during the band’s encore, which included a cover of “Wicked Game.” Bassist Pierce McGarry started the song off, but DeMarco took over to sing a verse in some sort of indiscernible gibberish. He then demanded that the entire crowd kneel down on the ground — which they did — and “calm the fuck down” while he sang another chorus.
DeMarco has come a long way since last year’s round of SXSW shows. He’s selling out venues and receiving high praise for Salad Days. The question on his fans’ minds is whether the album title serves as a sentimental goodbye to younger, more reckless days, or a self-realization that these could be DeMarco’s salad days.
DeMarco stayed on stage for a while after the show ended, signing autographs, taking selfies on peoples’ phones and even receiving a kiss from one particularly enthusiastic fan. He spoke with the people who carried him through the venue he filled Sunday night, a newly crowned king receiving his loyal audience.