On Saturday Hil and I drove to London, On, to catch a Dan Mangan show. Even if you’ve never heard or Dan Mangan or think he’s not really your thing, I encourage you to check out one of his shows asap. For Canadians this should be super easy – he’s on a cross-Canada tour right now and he plays all these great small venues in all sorts of cities (and because they’re small venues, the shows are cheep. Really what have you got to lose?) We once saw him play in a big old stone church, which was actually probably one of my favourite concerts of all time. The acoustics were unreal – it was truly incredible.
This weekend we saw him at the Music Hall – a room attached to the ever sketchy bar Tequila Rose. The crowd at a Dan Mangan concert is just guaranteed to be lovely. Mangan plays rough-edged folk music and so most of the people at the concerts are really laid back hipsters. Nobody tries to shove their way to the front of the stage, nobody tries to stand in front of you, and nobody tries to start a mosh pit on your face. This concert was no exception – Hilary and I stood at the very front with a clump of indie high school kids who turned out to be just delightful. A little unsure of themselves and extremely polite. One of them looked so familiar and it wasn’t until halfway through the show that we realized he was the spitting image of Where’s Waldo and that was why. Can’t go wrong.
And the concerts and so interactive, which is absolutely the best part, because then you’re part of the experience, part of the show, not just some calm observer. You’re not just sitting in neat rows at the ACC nodding your head and waiving a lighter passively. You’re clapping along with guitarist Gordon Grdina, you’re singing along to Robots as Mangan crowd surfs, you’re singing the hook to the encore song that Mangan has taught you, as he stands on a stool in the middle of the floor and all necks crane to watch him do his thing. It’s a really beautiful sound when hundreds of voices join in, and know every word.
Finally the music itself is just amazing. It’s intelligently crafted with smart, sensitive lyrics and beautiful sounds. Nothing is played exactly as it was recorded for the album, all the songs have these ragged edges and they all get tangled up together, one song flowing to the next. It’s a real performance with real musicians, and it’s different every time. And isn’t that what making art is actually about?
Check out Mangan’s tour schedule here, and see a show in your area.