As part of Bird On The Wire’s 10-year birthday celebrations, they teamed up with Mac DeMarco to curate a joyous day of music and rides in Margate a few weekends ago. We headed down to the seaside-town to experience the festivities.
Those who missed out on the glorious lottery of Glastonbury had the chance to experience a taste of the festivities in the quintessentially British holiday town of Margate instead – with, of all people, Mac DeMarco. After a hearty Friday performance at Worthy Farm the loveable indie icon headed to the so-called Hackney-on-sea for his own one-day festival in Dreamland as part of Bird On The Wire’s tenth birthday celebrations, entitled Mac DeMarco… Will See You Now.
Billed as ‘A day of music and rides,’ the event was exactly that, with groups of friends cheering on Betty’s Beehive Coaster or The Scenic Railway that zoomed high above the entrance as visitors slowly strolled in under the intense sun. Though on the face of it a heatwave was a welcome addition for the majority of the crowds boarding trains from the Big Smoke (after all, what suits a seaside romp or the jubilant ethos of a Mac performance more than highs of 35 degrees?) it had an inescapable effect on the day. It’s something that Poppy Hankin of Girl Ray was quick to discern on the main Scenic Stage: “Wow, it’s like the Sahara up here.” Though accordingly almost all of the North London band’s crowd were rendered dormant on the faux-grass with only a few nods in time and the occasional pint-raised cheer as a sign of approval, they carry on in good spirits with the especially lazy sounding likes of ‘I Really Like It’ and ‘In My Head’. It was somewhat of a surprise, then, that after a head-turning disclaimer “You’re gonna lose your shit,” the band dropped into the familiar synths of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’. Bassist Sophie Moss’ tightly-locked style catered perfectly to the track’s disco groove, and did well to galvanise a sweltering audience.
The same could not be said for Thurston Moore over in the Hall by the Sea; once a ballroom for holidaying couples and now, it seemed, a stifling chamber of sensual disorientation. Performing what was essentially an hour-long proggy guitar solo with dissonant waves and screaming licks, the ex-Sonic Youth legend clearly possessed gravitas but this brand of instrumental chaos felt starkly at odds with the intended vibe of the day. Though admittedly the significantly shorter bar queues certainly helped swallow it down. Conversely, Yellow Days back over on the Scenic Stage made a much more appropriate accompaniment for those stuck in the ever-growing queue for the area’s only bar.
Despite technical problems due to a keyboard “melting”, George Van Den Broek and co. rose to the occasion to soundtrack a woozy afternoon with the stoned-funk of new single ‘Just When’ and the dreamy-soul of ‘Gap in the Clouds’. It added a noticeable contentment to the crowds now piling in and lazing underneath the Hollywood-like DREAMLAND sign or whirling in a breeze on the Chair-O-Plane.
Though later in the Hall by the Sea Aussie ‘Pub Punk’-ers Amyl and the Sniffers’ brash and careless performance jolted the energy (leaving Tirzah’s performance feeling significantly flat, though still well received), the communal feeling of the Scenic Stage was the festival’s strongest virtue. It was there the New Zealand folk-enigma Aldous Harding proffered her characteristic grimace yet heavenly ballads, though the outbreak of Harding’s inimitable moves from ‘The Barrel’ was comedically lost on some.
Despite a not-entirely well-curated event, ultimately it was clear everyone was here for the man whose name was in the title. Having seen Mac perform on many occasions over the past three years, it’s become evident that he and his droll droogs have thankfully found a better balance between raucous but cheap humour and, well, actually playing songs. Long gone it seems are the days of finishing off three bottles of tequila and burning pubes before wasting time on drawn-out covers, as the evening thankfully showed, blasting through the likes of ‘On The Level’, ‘Salad Days’ and ‘Cooking Up Something Good’ early on. That’s not to say he’s lost his happy-go-lucky charm; there were plenty of beers; cigs; elongated nonsense (far too many ‘Choo Choo’s for one song); goofy quips (“Brexit? More like English Breakfast, huh?) and of course a cover of Coldplay’s The Scientist, but it was so refreshing to see the man rise to mantle of his own festival and deliver the sweet, summery goods we had all come for.
Photo credits: Dik Ng