Dan Mangan @ The Cultch -- 08/29/09

I'm not gonna lie, Dan Mangan had quite the pedigree to live up to. I have only seen two shows previously at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (which has been newly renovated and renamed "The Cultch".... seriously) and they were Wil, who is always phenomenal live, and a Matthew Good solo acoustic show, which is still one of my favourite shows of all time ever.
Saturday was night two of his sold out two-night stint at "The Cultch", for his CD release party. I had picked the the second night for a specific reason, that being the opening band. Heck, even they had a little to live up to, as the previous opening bands have been Leeroy Stagger and Melissa McClelland (respectively). But enough about other artists and past shows.

I had heard a couple MeatDraw songs on CBC Radio 3 in the past and was interested enough to want to see them live, so finding out they were opening the show was cool. Their set started with a single member on stage, with her ukulele, looking at first a little confused as she stood in silence for a minute or two. Then some faint stomping/clapping sounds were accompanied by bells and an accordion as the other five members entered from a door at the rear of the room and made their way up to launch into the music. Their sound was a kind of a... cheerful-indie-folk-pop-gospel sound, with the aforementioned ukulele and accordion, as well as a trumpet and even a saw(!) and, for one song, a length of chain in a tin can(!!) to fill out their sound. There was a palpable enthusiasm behind the band; you could really tell they were enjoying the hell out of playing, and that sense of joy transferred excellently into their live set. The only sad part, though, was it was the last gig for one of their members. But despite that, they put on one hell of a show, and any other night, they may have even stole the show, nearly getting a standing ovation from the crowd. I managed to pick up their new album there and can't wait until they are back for a show of their own.

MeatDraw, as I said, would have stolen the show... had it not been for Dan Mangan. I admit, going into the show I was only a partial fan of Dan Mangan. I had heard the songs on the radios, R3 and The Peak and streamed the album from his website, which I rather enjoyed. But the decision to go to the show was kind of spontaneous. Now, however, I am ever so glad I randomly decided to go. He hit the stage and started out with his four-piece band, but that fluctuated anywhere from 13 members, with a full compliment of strings and horns, to one, Dan Mangan alone, with his folksy brand of indie rock. He started off the night with Road Regrets, and a few other songs from the new album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice. Mid-way through, he started in on The Indie Queens Are Waiting, then abruptly stopped halfway through, saying he would only play 50% of the song as a sort of protest to the ridiculous slashing of the arts budget BC recently passed. A couple songs later, in the middle of Fair Verona, he introduced to the stage his friend, poet Shane Koyczan who recited a poem in the middle of the song, which was a really neat. He finished the main set with Robots (complete with a little mistake, jumping the gun part way through the song), which ended in a massive sing along and Mangan even going into the crowd to lead everyone.
The encore consisted of a song from his Roboteering EP, Tragic Turn of Events/Move Pen Move, which wove another Koyczan poem into Mangan's song, and was absolutely heartbreaking. He ended the night by getting everyone back on stage, even members of MeatDraw and some random musician friends from the crowd for a giant group version of an older song rejiggered, So Much For Everyone.
But even that wasn't enough for the sold out house, as the crowd urged him back out for one more, a newer (and pun-tastic) song, Daffodil.
His stage manner reminded me, in some ways, of Joel Plaskett. His effortless banter with the crowd, adding a couple jokes and things in mid-song, the raw emotion he puts into his songs, and the genuine appreciation and love of the crowd that made him seem like an incredibly nice guy. I will certainly not be surprised by the great things that are bound to come his way.

Did MeatDraw, Dan Mangan, and the show overall live up to the previous shows I mentioned? Yes, absolutely it did, and while I was only minor fans of either band before the night, they both won me over in a big way.

I was able to keep track of the setlist, which is as follows:
Road Regrets, Sold, You Silly Git, Pine For Cedars, Journal of a Narcoleptic, The Indie Queens Are Waiting (50%, budget slash), El Les Mots Croisés, Fair Verona (w/ Shane Koyczan poem), Some People, Basket, Robots.
(encore) Tragic Turn Of Events / Move Pen Move (w/ Shane Koyczan), So Much For Everyone (w/ everyone).
(encore2) Daffodil.