The love Mac Miller showed for Pittsburgh, throughout his career, was undeniable. He wrote songs and named records after life in his hometown.
At a September 11 vigil at Squirrel Hill’s Blue Slide Park (for which his first full-length record was named), it was abundantly clear just how much Pittsburgh loved him back.
As I approached the park from Nicholson Street around 7 p.m., I heard Mac’s music blasting from a sound tent set up close to the top of the famous slide. Thousands of people, mostly younger people, packed the playground and surrounding areas on the western side of Frick Park. Tributes of flowers, candles, stuffed animals, and handmade posters lined the fence alongside the slide. Less typical offerings included Pittsburgh sports memorabilia, shoes and sweaters inscribed with lyrics and “Rest In Peace” messages and even a pack of Eat-N-Park Smiley cookies. Fans took turns posing for photos at the bottom of the slide.
Large portraits of Miller were displayed throughout the park, several were created on the spot during the vigil. The “Most Dope” symbol (from his 2013 MTV docu-series, “Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family”) and the cartoon diver from his Swimming tour poster showed up in much of the artwork as well. These shout-outs to various accomplishments and albums spoke to just how much Miller had achieved in the seven years since “Blue Slide Park” was released.
A table was set up with a petition to rename this portion of the park in Miller’s honor, which had several full pages of signatures.. A sweater that read “Thank You Mac Miller, With Love” was also laid out on this table, overflowing with Sharpied signatures. Another table featured pens, notepads, and a glass jar stuffed with folded notes, messages from fans who needed to express their love and their grief. Where exactly the jar would end up was unclear. But on a personal level, physically writing a message and adding it to so many others was comforting in its own way.
The crowd was densest directly in front of the sound tent, where Mac’s grandmother had spoken briefly earlier in the evening. Twenty or so fans had taken over the climbing structure next to the tent, towering over the rest of the group and periodically amping them up to sing along. Some had even scaled the surrounding trees for a better vantage point. Whenever the DJ’s cut the music, a resounding chorus of voices filled in the lyrics. Any mention of Pittsburgh was met with enthusiastic cheers. And as night fell, dozens more candles were lit throughout the crowd, providing a striking, reverent ambience.
The Mac Miller lyric I saw referenced more than any other in the beautiful outpouring of tributes was, “No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile.” This proved to be particularly fitting. Despite the somber reason for the gathering, it was an evening of consolation, laughter, and passionate crowd sing-alongs. It was genuinely moving to see just how much Miller meant to this city, to see even a fraction of the many people whose lives he touched by pursuing his dreams with authenticity and determination. It was a celebration of Mac Miller, of Malcolm James McCormick, of his all-too-short, extraordinary life.