This is not a music review but a snapshot of my music-filled weekend to remind us all how much we should appreciate live performances and see a show whenever we can.
It started with John C. Reilly introducing Mac Demarco for his show on Thursday, August 23rd at the Teragram Ballroom. The Teragram, located in downtown LA’s City West area, opened in 2015 giving LA a new mid-sized venue it desperately needed. The owner, Michael Swier and his architect brother, Brian, are behind well-known New York clubs including the Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge. The original building that now houses the Teragram was constructed in 1913 as the Playhouse Theater, where it showed silent movies. Later, it was a print shop and then a popular filming location. The Teragram, named for Swier’s late wife, Margaret (spelled backward), quickly became one of my favorite venues in LA since attending my first show there in December 2015.
I’ve seen Mac Demarco a couple times, but this was definitely my favorite. The location and the intimacy of the venue contributed a good amount to that feeling. Yet the frontman’s comfort on stage was like no other time I’ve seen him before. He always starts the show by bringing his friends up to sit behind him. It’s a unique way to feel at home on stage. As someone who’s performed in front of strangers, there’s nothing more soothing than a familiar face to calm the nerves. It’s this signature move of his that also makes the audience feel at home as well. It’s almost as if you’re sitting in his living room watching him perform at his own party that you were invited to. It’s a great way to tear down the separation between the stage and the audience.
There’s also not many better ways to see a show than being handed VIP passes as soon as you walk into the venue. This happened just by the random act of kind strangers, and I thank the live music gods for moments like this. It allowed us to enjoy the concert from a small balcony with maybe ten other people overlooking the 600-person capacity venue. The best part of the show? Mac Demarco crowd surfing his way to our balcony at the end, being pulled up by us and “hanging out” for a few moments while the crowd below cheered and snapped photos and videos.
As if Thursday wasn’t already enough, on Saturday I attended David Byrne’s American Utopia tour show at the Shrine Auditorium. Byrne, who rose to fame in the ’70s and ’80s as the lead singer of the Talking Heads, is still going strong with his musical ingenuity at 66 years old. It was my second time seeing him and one of my favorite shows I’ve ever experienced. The 12-piece band had the biggest sounds I’ve ever heard without any help from backtracking or even amplifiers on stage. There weren’t even wires, with every instrument being hand held or strapped on, projecting through wireless amps.
With all the band members in matching grey suits, the choreography was carefully crafted for each song in classic David Byrne fashion. A show that well designed makes you realize you’re experiencing something more than just a concert. The instruments, vocals, choreography, and lights all contributed to a theme of human feeling (in all senses of the word) that I felt underlined every one of his songs. He also ended the show with a powerful political statement covering a Jonelle Monae song that she allowed him to update paying tribute to victims of police-involved shootings and other recent violence. I wish everyone could experience what I did. Check the American Utopia tour listings as Byrne goes around the world, and go to a show if you can.
The common thread between the two very different artists I saw this past weekend was they were ultimate entertainers. These were real shows that made you think and feel rather than being just concerts to sit and listen to. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I truly hope you get to experience a show like one of these in your lifetime. And if you were there or happen to catch one of them at a different venue, please share your experience below.