After an intermission necessitated by a short burst of pouring rain, a starry-eyed crowd gathered at the outside stage to welcome the new golden boy of slacker rock, Canada's Mac DeMarco.
Sticking out like a sore thumb at a festival loaded mostly with sampler-happy beat junkies, Mac nevertheless managed to capture the attention of the devoted crowd. And I mean devoted -- for reasons unknown, Mac had to play the show solo, sans backing band. A quiet, lone-wolf-style set at a festival is hard to pull off, and that goes doubly when you're fighting for volume against waves of pounding techno pouring in from other stages. In this regard, Mac did beautifully, captivating us with pitch-bent guitar chords and some mostly on-key, majestic warbling.
We sensed the guy has enough stage presence to entertain for hours on end and enough to charm to be convincingly modest about it all. At one point, Mac tossed out a pack's worth of cigarettes, one by one, to the crowd. At another, he took a break from crooning to slap the mic powerfully against his groin, producing a loud popping sound.
The indubitable highlight of his set, though, was when he inquired if anyone played drums and was soon joined by a fan who helmed the previously unmanned kit behind him. Together they launched into a distortion-fried rendition of Metallica's "Enter Sandman," complete with DeMarco's convincingly growly butt-rock impression. Overall, doubts about Mac's ability to carry a festival show dissolved into euphoric swaying and emphatic cheering, and his set full of self-proclaimed love songs undoubtedly sent many hearts aflutter.
One final crowd surf and it was back to the beat, as we rushed inside to catch the melodic, overdriven tech-pop of British-American hybrid Hot Natured.
Led by Jamie Jones and Lee Foss, who also cofounded their own label, Hot Creations, the band is an electronic supergroup of sorts composed of notable producers. The sound has an alt-'90s vibe, simultaneously intoning the peak of rave and the future of bass.
Tightly knit and impeccably curated, the group's electro licks tugged heavily at our dancing shoes while the tuneful crooning serenaded our ears. Melodically head and shoulders above their peers, the group is definitely pushing dance music to new territories.