On Wednesday, I drove my younger son Sam and his friend Freya to see Mac DeMarco play at Vicar Street in Dublin.
If you don’t know who Mac DeMarco is, don’t worry, you won’t be alone. He is, in fact, a very talented and interesting musical artist who seems to have gathered the bulk of his following from younger twenty year olds and older teenagers. I think this is pretty remarkable in itself, given the general laid back, ‘almost jazzy’ feel to his work. Projecting a strong image of a warm but world-weary sensitive slacker, Mac has an admiring fan base among his demographic and not without very good reason.
Tickets for his single Dublin gig in the intimate Vicar Street setting were sold out from day one and were much pleaded-for and not found. I managed to get hold of two by being eagle-eyed on Twitter for quite a while. So, on Wednesday, off we went.
Sam and Freya went into the gig when doors opened at seven o’clock and got themselves a place two rows from the stage. I had a loose idea to try to get an extra ‘face-value’ ticket outside if I could and if I couldn’t I always had my car seat, my Kindle and my warm coat.
I had resolved to give it a half an hour outside the venue, to see what I could do about a ticket, but people tend to fascinate me, and at nine thirty, I was still there, wandering up and down the alleyway, chatting and smiling at anyone who seemed receptive to a chat or a smile and generally having my own rather odd version of a pretty good time. At half past nine on the dot, just as Mac was due to go on stage, I gained access to the show and had a really good time at the back, watching the gig. I don’t think I can tell you how I got in, as that isn’t really ‘blog material’. Next time we have a coffee, I’ll tell you.
But that’s not what I want to write about anyway.
I want to give a shout out to Jamie, who I met outside. Let me tell you about Jamie but, first, my mission.
I had a mission, you see. Sam was very keen to get on stage to drum with Mac DeMarco and his band and so he drew up an A3 sheet with a plea that had been carefully written out in his lucky Death Grips marker. I also thought that a hand delivered note, dropped in at the stage door, might appeal to Mac’s famous sense of live improvisation and general mischief. So Sam also drafted a card, in which he placed a one euro coin with a note which said ‘this is a bribe’. My mission was to drop this note in at the stage door. Nothing to it.
Except there was something to it. The stage door at Vicar Street is not a stage door at all but rather is a stage steel double gate securing a yard where the band’s transport park securely. The gate was locked shut and nobody was manning it. There was nobody to give Sam’s note to.
I would have given up quite soon if it wasn’t for Jamie. As I said, this is a shout out to him. Jamie was the only other person apart from me at the locked steel gates. Less than fifty yards from the pre-concert throng, there was just Jamie and me, waiting, assessing the situation, and getting completely drenched in some of the worst rain that Dublin had seen all year.
Jamie was a tall thin guy with an evident passion for his music. Jamie was on his own mission too. He had arrived at the steel gates at three o’clock that afternoon and had been waiting ever since for Mac DeMarco, who he greatly admired. He had no ticket for the show and no money to buy one. All he wanted was for Mac to sign his guitar. The second signature that would appear there, if he could only get it.
Jamie and I got chatting, we had similar missions and I had no wish to crowd him or reduce his chances of an audience with The Man. There was a gap in the gate about six inches wide and every now and again Mac would appear in the yard for another of his famous smokes. (He eulogises his favourite brand in one of his best known songs). At those moments, Jamie would call in through the gate and Mac would wave and acknowledge him but he wouldn’t come over. I didn’t call out, advising Jamie to maintain that he was the only one there and only wanted a quick autograph. But Mac still did not come over to the gate. I don’t blame him for this. The life of a music star must be a life of constant call-outs and requests and they cannot all be met. If Mac had known of Jamie’s commitment, I have no doubt he would have responded but he didn’t. To him he was probably just another faceless voice in the dark and there was a show to get done.
In between Mac’s smoke breaks, Jamie and I chatted a bit. I told him about my note and how keen Sam was to drum. I told him about my own stage door experiences which included Tom Waits and the famous Death Grips encounter.
Jamie showed me his guitar and the neat, artistic, signature there and he told me the story of how ‘Liam’ had come to sign his guitar and it was then that I realised that I had seen Jamie before and that he was a bit famous in his own small way. Jamie had been one of a small cohort of guys who, back in June, had met Liam Gallagher on the street in Dublin. The signing of Jamie’s guitar is captured on a piece of video that was widely shared in the media at the time. Liam signing and chatting and then, realising that the lads had no tickets, returning to put them all on the guest list. At the time, there was a feeling that this might have been staged but Jamie was clear that it was not and his attendance at tonight’s gig in the torrents of rain seemed ample confirmation of that.
Most of the time, there was nobody about in the backstage yard and I left Jamie to it from time to time to wander up through the pre-gig crowd to see about a ticket for myself. To be honest, I would have bought two if I could have found them and let Jamie go in to see Mac play. It seemed clear to me that Mac could not come to the gate and sign the guitar because show time was drawing nearer and nearer. But there was no tickets to be had, not by me anyway. Although I saw three separate occasions of tickets being handed over for nothing by people who had extra ones, I could not get hold of any myself. I didn’t mention this to Jamie, ‘what ifs’ have very little value in a rainy night-time Dublin alley.
Eventually, all the lights in the stage yard went out and Jamie and I knew that our missions were over and could not succeed. Jamie shook my hand and smiled a broad smile and headed off home in the rain, disappointed but glad he tried.
Some time after, I went back to the gate and the lights were back on and there was a band member there who I called over and who promised he would deliver Sam’s note to the man himself.
And I got to see the show.
Sam didn’t get to play on stage with Mac but he had a great night.
Jamie didn’t get his autograph or an invite to see the show, which I sense he would not have refused if it came.
Both tried though. Both pushed hard for what they wanted. The two guys didn’t get to meet but they were similar in ways. Similar in ways that many of the young people I meet are similar. I grew up in a small town, with small town ways. The young people I meet have all grown up in the Entire World and this knowledge of the world entire has instilled in them a fearlessness and a tangible ambition that may yet carry them far.
We, the older generations, are leaving them a huge challenge as we go. Foolish, dangerous elected leaders. Oceans of plastic. They may be able to make it better though, if we don’t do too much more.
Because they try hard and they smile when they fail.
And then they try hard again.