If a drug rug, a pack of cigarettes and the warmth from the coziest living room were a feeling, it was in the air Sunday night for Mac DeMarco’s Red Rocks show. The weather was perfect DeMarco — cool but not cold, easy for October and sparkling with nostalgia. Fans bundled up in Baja hoodies and beanies, shared cigarettes, smiled at each other and shuffled into the stadium on their own sweet time. It would be a show of all good vibes.
Kicking off the night was Snail Mail, comprised of the young indie rocker Lindsay Jordan and her band. It was a slow unravel, shy and pretty. Jordan sometimes interjected soft songs with screams and moments of punk rock. Snail Mail’s performance was honest and would be reminiscent of the ’70s, had any of the young audience been alive then to experience it.
The second act was the wonderfully weird Thundercat — known also as iconic bassist Stephen Bruner, who has worked with groups such as Suicidal Tendencies, Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar — as well as produced a catalog of his own music. Bruner summed up his set the best: “You guys ready to go down a rabbit hole?” Ready or not, Thundercat unleashed a stream of consciousness that was part jazz, part funk and all improvisational skill. A small pleasure of the night was watching Bruner’s black-painted nails slip over his bass, as well as the psychedelic and random video montage that looped behind him.
Then came the Mac, easing onto the iconic Red Rocks stage with a presence that could simply be described as delightful. He opened with the smooth “On a Level,” tossing his microphone and dipping in and out of the song. DeMarco conducted his whole performance this way — delicately, humorously, humbly — in a testament to the idea that you don’t need a highly-choreographed, flashy show to put on an excellent performance.
DeMarco is Canadian, and his kind, laid-back demeanor toward the audience is on-brand for the “Canadian Nice” stereotype. During his request for a call-and-response for his song “My Old Man,” DeMarco told the audience that they should sing along because some may know the words, “but if not, that’s OK.”
The night included hits such as “Salad Days,” and a heart-wrenching performance of “Still Beating.” DeMarco riffed with his band, erupted raspy yells mid-song in true class clown form, and took off his clothes (during the encore, DeMarco, Thundercat and band reappeared on-stage for a Metallica “Enter Sandman” cover. DeMarco’s shirt was tied around his head). One of the most engaging points of the show was when Snail Mail reappeared on stage during “Choo Choo.” DeMarco lifted her on his shoulders while she played guitar, then strummed the guitar for her from behind.
This Red Rocks performance was DeMarco’s third at the stadium, and also marked the final show of his tour. It was a genuine and approachable show in the best way possible, starting Canadian Nice and ending Ham Musician. Anyone who saw this performance as a repeat DeMarco show was likely glad to catch up and laugh with old friend Mac again. Anyone seeing DeMarco perform live for the first time was witness to stripped-down and effortless musicianship.
All photography by Brandon Johnson.