My best friend and I awoke a few hours too early on the floor of my bedroom back at my parents’ house in Indianapolis last Saturday with pounding headaches and heavy eyelids, but it was okay because we were about to do something wild: take a three hour ride on a too hot, too full Megabus to see Mac DeMarco at his sold out show at Metro in Chicago.
When we found out Mac was going to be so close, it took about three minutes of deliberation to decide if we were going to buy tickets for the sold out date, even though tickets cost 3x their face value. I chose to sacrifice my two-day pass to EDC Orlando and buy the ticket to the show as well as a round trip ticket on the ever glamorous Megabus.
We woke up, made ourselves presentable enough to sit on a way too long bus ride, and piled our stuff into the back of my parent’s Jeep. I do not want to offend anyone who likes traveling by Megabus, although I am not sure if there is anyone out there who actually does, but that thing is actually a double-decker hell on wheels. By the end of my three hours, I had heard a bus driver scream at a passenger, heard a passenger curse out her child, and listened to two guys talk about a live roast they were attending for far too long. I exited the bus feeling exhausted and hungry. I was drenched in sweat from the heater being on too high on the top level and wondering if seeing Mac DeMarco was worth it.
After a 25 minute Uber ride to Wrigleyville in a car that smelled quite a bit like skunk where the cab driver only talked to us about the new James Bond movie and the best movie theaters in Chicago, we made it to Metro: a small venue that is on a strip of bars and pizza parlors would have been easily missed if it were not for all the twentysomethings lining the block waiting for to have their ID checked for admission. I could barely wait for my Uber driver to open his child-locked back door before I jumped out into the crowded street, grabbed my best friend’s hand, and ran around the corner to the end of the long line of beanies and Goodwill flannels.
The cold started hitting right as I was standing face to face with man who looked too much like a stereotypical bouncer for me to not sweat a little bit when he was checking my ID, even though it was an 18+ venue and I just recently turned 19. After reading the Yelp! reviews, I knew to bypass the lines for merch and alcohol wristbands and head straight upstairs to the balcony. The nice thing about Metro is that there are two levels, with the top level being only big enough for barricade standers and one row behind them, which is way better than standing behind twelve rows of men who are over six feet tall.
A little after 9 p.m., everything began. The Courtneys, an all-girl trio from Canada, took the stage first. Their fast, hard-hitting drum beats paired with vocal harmonization gave them a really 80s girl band feel that got old after one too many songs that sounded exactly the same. This prompted the guy next to me to become the type of guy that everyone hates at sporting events who just yells out obnoxious obvious facts far too many times, so when the set was over and The Coutneys left the stage, and that guy shut the hell up, a great wave of relief washed over me.
The next opener was Alex Calder and it was probably one of the most boring sets I have ever seen in my life. I hate being on my phone during shows, but I could not help but grab it out of my pocket so I did not fall asleep right there. The most entertaining part of that entire half hour was when Andy, Mac DeMarco’s guitar player, came out and sang a cover with them while prancing around the stage in a way you would imagine only the person who plays guitar for Mac DeMarco would.
Finally, at a little after 11 p.m., the chords to Haddaway’s “What is Love?” rang out through the small venue and a very wide, gap toothed smile trotted on stage. After some very Hotline Bling-esque dance moves, the band began playing “The Way You’d Love Her” and the content I rode on a damn MegaBus for was finally beginning. DeMarco puts on an absolutely incredible show. I had seen him twice before, both in festival settings, so I was really interested to see what a show was like with him in a small venue and I was far from disappointed.
Everything from the crowd singing that annoying “la la la” part in “Salad Days” to Mac laying on the ground to play a Steeley Dan cover was amazing. Even in a room of 1,000 people, I felt like the show was a personal and intimate experience and, well, it was wild as hell. There was no shortage of Mac and his crew crowd surfing and there was even a time when Mac climbed on the balcony and jumped off onto the crowd below (which was entertaining but seems like a huge liability that I am shocked the venue was okay with). The crowd was engaged from the first note until the encore of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” where the band was throwing cookies into the crowd. Aside from the entertainment value being through the roof, the set list was also nearly perfect. Mac found the perfect mix between Another One and his older albums so fans heard some new songs as well as their old favorites. There was a lot of unity in the crowd too. I do not think I have ever seen so many people just dancing and high fiving to their favorite tunes.
Although the band often admitted to improvising while playing, everything about Mac’s incredible voice (especially on those high notes in “Still Together”) and the band crab walking around the stage sounded and looked perfect. I also feel that it’s worth mentioning that even though I got a beer poured on my foot during it, “Chamber of Reflection” is an absolutely life changing song to hear live.
What I’m getting at here is this: Mac DeMarco is a true artist who is easily one of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of seeing live. If you ever get the chance to see him, take it and run, even if you have to ride a MegaBus to do so.