Summer finally came alive this weekend, and while Glastonbury may have taken precedence over being “the place to be”, Dreamland Margate had its own thing going on. Celebrating Bird on the Wire’s 10th birthday, Mac DeMarco came down for a jolly by the sea with support acts that he handpicked himself. The day was set out to be one full of music and rides and it most definitely did not disappoint. Add to that an indecent amount of sun, sweat and beers on the grass and you have the ultimate British summer weekend.
The birthday celebrations are spread across two stages; the Scenic Stage out in the heat and the Hall by the Sea, a former ballroom turned music venue. Blueprint Blue welcome us early birds to Dreamland, immediately setting the tone with the uncannily appropriate single Heatwave. Their fuzzy pop rock is a nice gentle start to what is undoubtedly going to be a wild day as they ease us into the festivities.
Things are a little different over in the hall. Almost immediately, Kirin J Callinan had everyone under his spell. Just as his club anthem sound is set off with dry humour, a certain air of arrogance is clouded with charisma; a dangerous blend to make you fall in love ever so quickly. Life Is Life and Big Enough are belted out with gusto, proving to be absolute blinders while songs like The Homosexual and The Toddler leave us guessing what exactly this man is all about. Not a wandering eye in sight, Callinan holds all the power over the hall; in his own words the crowd are in “complete, compliant… total submission” as part of the set sees us repeating his words, noises and notes that we could not possibly match to his without question. Callinan, master of the crowd, the ultimate showman, we bow down to thee.
On returning outside, Girl Ray create a blissful backdrop to people drinking on the grass and soaking up the sun. Their catchy hooks and smooth vocals leave a mark, but the party is still yet to kick off. Not a bad thing though, their skilled songwriting and cool delivery leaves everyone at ease to go about their day, a simply pleasing set that rings throughout the park; to be enjoyed as a soundtrack to the first real day of summer.
Thurston Moore comes to be a crowd divider, performing a solo instrumental that goes on for a little too long. Pop in for 10 minutes, no problem, stand there for nearly 30 minutes and you may begin to feel as if you have walked in on something personal. This is half of the magic of course, there is a strange intimacy in this set, but you would equally be forgiven for feeling like the big drop you were waiting for was never going to happen. In some ways Moore is mesmerising, but doesn’t quite fit the bill of bands. Then again, maybe a moment of peace away from the theatrics was just what the doctor ordered. A conflicting set that led many people back into the scorching sun, but we can’t ignore those that were entirely in the zone. The pace may have been lost on us but for some this would have been a wholly immersive experience.
Yellow Days followed outside, the first act on the Scenic Stage where people really came alive; no more sitting on the grass, the barriers were calling! The rhythmic haze of sounds witnessed on the stage are the pinnacle of days like this one. Smooth and laidback but not without shimmers of energy and pure joy. The heat may have got to the keyboard momentarily, but no fuss, George had a solo song up his sleeve, that although unexpected, fit in as smooth as his voice, no problem at all. A band that is equal parts charming and effortlessly cool, this set is the perfect accompaniment to a day out with Mac. Whether you’re up with the crowd or tucking in to a mid afternoon snack further back, the mood is superbly serene.
A whole different kind of party is kicking off in the hall with Aussie punks Amyl & The Sniffers punching through the humidity, encouraging the crowd to get loose with them purely through the power of song. Each drumbeat demands more and more, until you think you just can’t take it. Rest assured, you can go on, embracing the heat with the thrash of the music.
Things start to cool down ahead of Mac’s arrival as Aldous Harding captivates the entire park with the most powerful voice. You don’t need to be right up close to feel the buzz, but you may be captivated enough to be led into a pocket of intensity right at the front. Not only is Harding’s voice hauntingly beautiful, but her body language and emotional expressions draw an even bigger connection.
Tirzah closes the hall with a beguiling set of heavy beats set off with ethereal melodies and oh so tender vocals. Again, problems with equipment come in to play, and again, a spontaneous performance of drumbeats keeps the crowd sweet. The mystifying set closes with the powerful Make It Up, the deep rhythm pulsing through the hall, pumping up the energy for what is to come back out in the evening sun.
Finally it is time for Mac DeMarco to take to the stage and it is nothing short of a delight. Warming the crowd up with a few old favourites it’s not long before some of the new tracks from recent release Here Comes The Cowboy come in to play. Taking on the tone of some of DeMarco’s more chilled out tracks these make for the most glorious Saturday evening. It’s not just the performance that hits every note, from the deliciously dreamy vocals to those slightly deeper tones, but the whole energy on stage and even the park is free and fun loving; the air of celebration for Bird on The Wire is clear.
Dreamland might be packed but this is still an intimate affair between friends and family, built up throughout the day with each performance. There’s nothing wrong with coming out just for the last few acts but if you missed out on some of the earlier acts, you really only got half your money’s worth. The greatest showman, Callinan is called back to stage, both to perform but also to simply mess around with his mates. DeMarco is aloof in between songs, smacking the microphone on the floor like a child who just came across a new toy, yet on absolute top form when it comes to the songs.
My Kind of Woman is a highlight, with the whole of Dreamland joining in, as well as Freaking Out The Neighbourhood which gets everyone dancing even more than Salad Days. This is a man who has created a devoted following, who let’s face it, would enjoy anything that the Canadian musician might bring to the table. So it is no surprise that before him and his band go, a medley of covers including not just one but two renditions of Coldplay’s Clocks are enjoyed just as much as the original songs that came before them. When you go to see Mac DeMarco, you go for the entertainment of a band just doing whatever the hell they want. Well performed songs are just a bonus and luckily both were plentiful this weekend.