John Mayer was in Austin last night.
OK, not really — it was technically Canadian singer-songwriter Mac Demarco, who on Monday night kept screaming, despite “feeling a little under the weather” and losing his voice, that he’s John Mayer. He even led the crowd in a call-and-response “I say ‘John,’ you say ‘Mayer’” chant.
It was wonderfully bizarre. That’s on par for a Mac Demarco show.
So is the fact that Monday’s sold-out show at Stubb’s was part concert, part psychological study of the American teenager. Man, do the teens love this guy. Before the band came out, the mostly young crowd started several chants of “Mac, Mac, Mac” and when the 27-year-old musician took the stage, dressed like your dad in the 1990s, the teenage girls in the audience delivered screaming of One Direction and Justin Bieber proportions.
But he’s no Harry Styles. Demarco is just a gap-toothed, goofy slacker rock kid from Edmonton. He’s currently touring on the heels of his latest record, “This Old Dog,” which he released in May. He launched his set with “On The Level,” off the new album, followed by the title track from 2014’s “Salad Days” and “No Other Heart,” a sweet love song from 2015’s “Another One.”
A Mac Demarco concert is a curious thing. As I mentioned, he’s popular among the younger crowd, and by “younger” I mean “definitely in high school and not old enough to be smoking cigarettes at Stubb’s.” It’s the kind of gathering that makes you incredibly grateful you aren’t in high school anymore, and especially that you aren’t in high school in 2017. But there was a sincere sweetness about the vibe at Stubb’s on Monday night, and it’s something you can only get from a crowd of young people who just really, really, really love this dude. They dress like him. They smoke cigarettes like him. They crowd surf like him (the venue security tried, fruitlessly, to get them to stop -- instead, they encouraged more people to join them).
And Demarco knows they adore him. He brought several fans on stage to crowd surf and hang out, and he’s been known to let fans play along with the band at times (at an Austin City Limits Music Festival set several years ago, he brought a young fan onstage to play the guitar solo during “Ode To Viceroy,” and the kid absolutely killed it). He hasn’t been in Austin since October 2015, even though he was set to play last year’s inaugural Sound on Sound Fest but had to drop out at the last minute because of a “family health issue.”
Demarco himself is a delightful weirdo who always makes you feel like you’re in on the joke. At various points in the set, he donned a halo -- the kind you wore when you got cast as an angel in your private school’s reenactment of the nativity -- and at one point he even sang the opening lines of “The Christmas Song,” chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all. He also launched into a cover of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” if you could call it a cover. The band knew the song, but Demarco didn’t -- he just screamed “Making my way downtown” repeatedly, and somehow even that was charming.
After opening for The Flaming Lips the night before at ACL Live, he was losing his voice and asked fans to sing along on “My Kind of Woman” -- “you guys know the lyrics better than I do,” he said. “You sing louder, we’ll play quieter.”
And for a guy who wasn’t feeling well, he still launched into the falsetto chorus on “Still Together,” his long-time closing song, which he usually mashes up with old-school classic rock hits that clash wonderfully with the sweetness of “It’s easy love, fits like a glove.” On Monday night, it was Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” Crazy Town’s “Butterfly” and Van Halen’s “Running With The Devil.” He didn’t come back for his usual extended encore, but it’s impossible to feel disappointed at the end of a 1.5-hour set that feels like hanging out with your high school friends (figuratively and literally).
1. On The Level
2. Salad Days
3. No Other Heart
4. The Stars Keep On Calling My Name
5. This Old Dog
6. Cooking Up Something Good
7. Dreams From Yesterday
8. The Christmas Song (kind of)
9. Ode To Viceroy
10. My Old Man
11. A Thousand Miles (again, kind of)
12. Freaking Out The Neighborhood
13. One More Love Song
14. My Kind Of Woman
15. Chamber of Reflection
16. Still Together
17. Don’t Fear The Reaper/Butterfly/Running With The Devil