Mac Demarco Salad DaysFor Those Who Like: Ariel Pink, John Lennon, Neil Young

Canada has a long line of great singer-songwriters. Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Robbie Robertson, Randy Bachman, Kate McGarrigle and her children Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Feist, and the list goes on and on. Could Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV – better knowns as Mac DeMarco – join them? Despite being only 23 year old, an argument could be made that the native of Duncan, British Columbia and current resident of Brooklyn and Montreal already has achieved such a lofty level. A more relevant question, as such, may be when will he surpass many of these great artists and achieve the legendary status of Young, Cohen, Mitchell, and Lightfoot?

On his latest album, the sublime Salad Days, DeMarco builds on 2012’s 2 to put together 10 tracks of melodic and wistful aw-shucks indie rock. What DeMarco does so well are two things – making life, even its most mundane points, seem interesting with his witty lyricism, sort of like what Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David did on Seinfeld, and creating groovy, dreamy melodies with his delayed guitar sound reminiscent of classic rock and a touch of laid-back surfer textures.

While the album itself is one that can be listened to while relaxing on the couch and with a beverage in hand or driving down an open road, in a live setting, DeMarco and his bandmates take the songs to a whole different level live.

This past Friday, April 4, DeMarco played a soldout show at The Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec. There was high anticipation and the mostly-university-student crowd was extremely anxious to see the young Canadian, and DeMarco didn’t disappoint. Like with many live shows which afford musicians more freedom and the opportunity to incorporate different elements and textures into their songs, DeMarco and his bandmates transformed the melodic nature of his last two LPs into an extremely groovy, sometimes poppy, sometimes full-out rock performance, as they turned up the volume, quickened the pace on the songs, and blasted their guitars. And despite a faulty keyboard, DeMarco and his bandmates never slowed down.

The show opened with the title track from DeMarco’s latest LP, “Salad Days”, and the crowd exploded in a groovy frenzy that one would see in a rave. “Let Her Go”, a delicious indie-folk-pop tune, resulted in more dancing, swaying, and jumping among the young crowd.

But when “Cooking Up Something”, the great opening song from 2, was played, the crowd erupted and a mosh pit ensued, and the mosh pit would continue throughout the night. The energy snowballed from there as DeMarco played mostly tracks from Salad Days, including “Blue Boy”; the slow burner “Goodbye Weekend”, during which the crowd chanted “Mac! Mac!”; the slow folky tune “Let My Baby”, which was accompanied by the clapping of the audience; and “Passing Out the Pieces”, a keyboard-heavy, late-’70s-esque pop-rock tune.

But one of the two highlights was “Freaking Out the Neighborhood”, the excellent indie rocker from 2, as the DeMarco, his band, and the crowd literally freaked out. Crowdsurfing ensued in the small venue with the capacity of 300 people, and the audience flicked cigarettes at the band. DeMarco would later join in the surfing action as he has a tendency to do (check out Ming Wu’s photos for pics from the show, including Mac crowd surfing).

The other highlight was the closer, as DeMarco and his band did a fantastic cover of Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend”, which included DeMarco calling for the crowd to “kneel for Neil”. In so many ways, the finale was appropriate – a tribute to one of not just Canada’s but music’s great legends from a legend in the making.

DeMarco is currently touring in support of Salad Days, and you can find tour dates on his Facebook page. This might be your last chance to see him perform in small venues. DeMarco will also be playing at a few festivals in the area, including Toronto’s NXNE in June, a return to Ottawa for Bluesfest on July 6, and Montreal’s Osheaga, which takes the first weekend in August.

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Kendal Thompson 2For Those Who Like: Adele, Jessie Ware, Amy Winehouse

Originally from Allison, Ontario and now residing in Toronto, Kendal Thompson is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter,, whose sultry, soulful voice echoes of Adele. And like the great British songstress and the late Amy Winehouse, Thompson is blending genres, in particular pop, R&B, and soul.

Thompson is a fixture on the Toronto music scene, playing at various venues often covering songs by Lykke Li, Jessie Ware, and others (check her YouTube page for some of her covers). She has more recently, however, started writing and releasing her own work, including the tantalizing, hallowing “Be Mine”.

She’s entered in CBC Music’s “Searchlight: Here and Now Toronto” contest, which is searching for Canada’s next great musician. The contest closed yesterday, but you can still can check out the contestants.

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Kendal Thompson

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