I have a certain disdain for listening to concerts after the fact, whether that’s through some taper’s recording or – even worse – a band sanctioned, for-profit concert that could, for all I know, be an amalgam of multiple concerts pieced haphazardly together and packaged as if it had been a single night of magical musicianship. That’s not to say that I never get live shows in any form; I love The Tragically Hip’s Live Between Us, though that affection might be more a function of my having spent so much time digesting it over the twenty or so years since it was released than an appreciation for live music.
All of this is a long way of getting to the fact that I willingly – gleefully, actually – purchased a live release last night, and on cassette, no less, despite the fact that I have no method of playing it (other than the digital copy that came automatically when I ordered the tape). Yesterday, through the folks at Jurassic Pop, Mac Demarco released a thirteen song, tightly-wound set titled Live at Russian Recording. (Now, for all I know, this may have been altered or pared down from its original form, but maybe not.)
I saw Demarco with his former band, Makeout Videotape, on a roof in Toronto during the 2011 iteration of NxNE, and it was one of the more memorable shows for which I’ve been in attendance. Musically, Demarco and gang sounded fantastic, loose and casual about the whole affair. (Granted, it was on a rooftop in the middle of June, so seriousness wasn’t a hallmark of any of the performances I took in that afternoon.) What I remember most about that particular set, however, was the fact that Demarco was well-versed in phallic terminology, never taking his banter too far from a comment about his dick, your dick, anyone’s dick.
It’s there that Live at Russian Recording is lacking – a preponderance of penis jokes. He gets around to them eventually – notably, in his brief cover of Eric Clapton’s seminal cover of “Cocaine”, and then frequently during the ten-minute plus “Medley”, where a bunch of well-known songs have their lyrics replaced with some form of “suck my dick”. But prior to that point, Demarco and company churn through a group of songs culled from his 2012 EP Rock and Roll Night Club and the full-length follow-up from the same year, 2. While the live versions stay largely true to their recorded counterparts, they are sped up and shouted, Demarco channeling his best punk anger through songs that have been described as “soft rock” by Pitchfork. Demarco isn’t content here to do what he’s already done, or even what he’s become known for. He has influences, dammit, and he’s going to prove it. By the time the show gets to the aforementioned “Medley”, everyone’s been so tightly wound up that the lyrical substitutions are a welcome respite from the playful fierceness of the set that’s come before it.
Demarco may be unpredictable, and discontent to be fit into any one mold, but he’s gloriously talented, and even in the recorded version of his live performance, it’s obvious that he knows how to command a stage. Live at Russian Recording may not hold up in twenty years, but at this moment in time, the set is a necessary break from the musical monotony I have found myself in, and sometimes that’s all anyone needs.