A little bit of snow (and of course Vancouver's notorious inability to function in the snow) wasn't going to stop me from making my way downtown to a sold out Vogue Theatre, for Dan Mangan's big hometown show. Especially because I was equally excited to see the opener.
That being La Force, the latest musical project from Ariel Engle. She was joined only by Evan Tighe on drums, starting off with a cover of Angèle Arsenault's, "Je Suis Libre" before going through songs off her latest, self-titled album.
She showed off effortless charm as she chatted with the audience between each, showing off her unique cigar-box guitar, as well as some fun vamping or ad-libs at the end of a couple songs -- or in the case of "Upside Down Wolf", a short medley of "Pump Up The Jams" and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?".
Other highlights of the all-too-short set included the dark & tense "TBT", "You Amaze Me" which showcased her enchanting vocals, and the hauntingly gorgeous "Lucky One", which finished off the set.
Aside from as a member of Broken Social Scene, the last time I saw Ariel Engle performing her own music was as AroarA (with her partner, The Apostle of Hustle himself Andrew Whiteman) in someone's backyard after a promoter unceremoniously cancelled their show last minute. And while that show was special on it's own merits, it was much more fitting to see her playing somewhere like the Vogue.
It wasn't long after that Dan Mangan hit the stage with his band, kicking things off with the first song off More or Less, "Lynchpin". The evening focused mostly on the new album with songs like heartbreaking "Fool For Waiting", the amped up energy of the infectious "Troubled Mind", and "Lay Low", my favourite off the new album and what would have been the best song to use as an excuse for missing the show.
He also gave just as much time to his breakout Nice, Nice, Very Nice, as "Can't Not" segued into "Road Regrets" and the sold out theatre sang along, as well as songs like "Pine for Cedars", showing his roots with lyrics filled with references to the city.
Part way through the set, the band took a break for Dan to perform a few songs solo on his acoustic guitar, fielding requests for the unreleased "There Is No Such Thing As Wasted Love" and playing the soul-crushingly sad "Basket", before being joined by Carleigh Aikins for a beautiful version of "Indie Queens Are Waiting".
Dan was giving it all to the hometown crowd, and the crowd was happy to reciprocate, offering Dan an extended ovation when he mentioned the troubles he had writing this album, nearly bringing him to tears. But also making him laugh and lose his place in "Jeopardy" when someone earnestly answered the lyric "What time is it?"
There were also many times during the night the audience joined in to sing, including three in a row to end off the night as the main set ended with another old favourite, a slowed down version of "Sold". Then Dan returned after mere moments with perhaps the greatest Canadian singalong, as every single person joined in with "Robots".
Finally, the night ended with every single person that had been on stage coming out, including a horn section, and Dan wading into the crowd. He stood atop a chair, with the house lights shut off, and a large light he called The Hammer illuminated him, while everyone on-stage & off provided backing vocals -- and even harmonies -- for "So Much For Everyone".
It's been a few years since I've seen Dan Mangan perform, and even more since the last "full band" show, and I think I forgot just how good he is. How he can command any room, even a sold out Vogue Theatre, and make it feel like an intimate living room show.
La Force setlsit
Je suis libre [Angèle Arsenault cover]
Upside Down Wolf
You Amaze Me
Dan Mangan setlist
Cold in the Summer
Pine for Cedars
Which Is It
Race to the Bottom
There Is No Such Thing As Wasted Love
Indie Queens Are Waiting
Fool For Waiting
Peaks & Valleys
So Much For Everyone
A couple years ago at the Vancouver Folk Fest, I went to go see a workshop and discovered Hillsburn, who I liked enough to make sure I saw their full set that weekend, too. Flash forward this weekend, their first time playing headlining a show in town, at the Biltmore Cabaret, coinciding with a recent release of the "deluxe" version of last year's album The Wilder Beyond.
The Haligonian five-piece took the stage with the first song off the newer album, the soaring and intense "Strange Clouds", which started off the set with a bang. Vocals were split between Rosanna Burrill -- who also played violin -- as well as her brother Clayton and songwriter Paul Aarntzen, with songs like "Sun Ought To Shine" providing stellar harmonies between the three. Or the darker and melancholic "With The Larks", which built to a huge ending, their three voices bursting off the stage, giving me goosebumps (and likely also the guy near me whose reaction was a stunned "holy shit!!").
Rosanna was definitely the most energetic and expressive of the three, moving around the stage and going up to each member of the band throughout the set and singing with (or even just at) them.
They ran through tracks from their two albums, highlights including the more upbeat "Cover It Up"; the boisterous "Run Down" with a nice stomp & clap-along; and my favourite off the album "Young Desire", a sweeping anthem that ended the main set with Rosanna singing her absolute heart out, getting the crowd to join in on the call & response, and even jumping onto the floor and working her way through the audience.
But they were only gone a moment before popping back out for one last song, the slower and heart-wrenching "Time of Life" which built to an incredible violin solo, leaving the crowd emotionally exhausted.
Sometimes you see a band and their sound is just bigger than their venue-size, and that was absolutely the case with Hillsburn. It's going to be a crime if we never them in big theatres, venues like the Vogue.
Everything Is New
Sun Ought To Shine
Born Only To Love You
With The Larks
When We Were Young
Cover It Up
Caught In The Rain
Bury My Heart
Time Of Life
Not counting things like #SingItFwd (or even Skookum, where I only saw part of their set) it's been quite a while since I've seen a full, 'proper' show from Mother Mother. So what better way to correct that that at the historic Orpheum Theatre, especially with the friends they had opening for them.
Those friends being Said the Whale, who took the stage exactly one hour before their new album was set to drop (well, on streaming and digital), flanked by two big Cascadia flags. They kicked off with their first hit "Camilo (The Magician)" to get the crowd pumped, before showcasing songs from the new album, like "Record Shop" and "Love Don't Ask", along with their most recent hit, the instantly infectious "UnAmerican", and "Level Best", a gorgeous song Tyler Bancroft wrote for his son, during which I could hear more than a few people letting out some tears and an aaawwwww or two.
Of course, they also included some older songs, like "Step Into The Darkness", which saw Ben Worcester pouring his heart out at the front of the stage, and one of my all-time favourites, a song that I haven't heard live in a while, and it always brings chills when they play it; "Love Is Art/Sleep Through Fire", which I still think is the best blend of Ben & Tyler's voices.
The last time I saw Said the Whale was a couple months ago, for a pop-up show at Save-On Meats, with about 100 other people as a teaser for their new single. Now to see them in front of nearly 3,000, on the cusp of their new album release, was pretty great.
After a brief intermission, the lights went down and smoke filled the stage as the members of Mother Mother launched into "I Must Cry Out Loud", the first song off their latest album, followed by the title track to Dance and Cry. Ryan Guldemond's wild vocals (and even stage presence) burst through in songs like "Let's Fall In Love" and "Bottom Is A Rock", as the whole band was so incredibly tight and full of energy.
During "Body of Years", Molly Guldemond stepped forward for a haunting cover of Radiohead's "Creep", the sold out room singing along. In fact, most of the set the audience was joining in, not just with old favourites like "Get Out The Way" but even newer ones, with people enthusiastically singing (sometimes even louder than the band, which... well, that's a discussion for another day).
In a nice stretch of songs, Ryan shouted out to everyone here with a relative before playing "Family", thanked everyone for sticking with them from the beginning while playing an acoustic version of "Dirty Town" harkening back to their earliest days, and finally reminiscing about cutting their teeth with bands like Said the Whale, before inviting them back to sing backup vocals on "So Down". There were actually a few times during the night where the setlist seemed very meticulously crafted, with songs arranged thematically, or even just by title (like "Get Up" following "So Down").
After over an hour, the main set came to an end, first with a song that remains my favourite of theirs, the frantic "Hayloft", which segued into a giant, bombastic extro and lead directly into "Bit By Bit", another huge singalong to end the set.
But naturally, that wasn't going to be all, as Ryan & Jasmine Parkin returned to the stage, this time Ryan on keys while Jasmine took centre stage to sing "Biting on a Rose", her incredible voice ringing through the theatre. And finally, after more thanks for coming, and thanking the entire touring crew, they drew to a close with another perennial favourite, "The Stand", which is as quirky and offbeat as it in catchy and memorable.
I wouldn't say I 'forgot' how good Mother Mother is -- especially live -- but this night was an excellent reminder of that, and of just how many prolific songs the band had produced over the years.
I Must Cry Out Loud
Dance and Cry
O My Heart
Let's Fall In Love
Get Out The Way
Bottom Is A Rock
Body of Years (w/ Creep [Radiohead cover])
Bit By Bit
Biting On A Rose
Camilo (The Magician)
Step Into The Darkness
Love Don't Ask
Love Is Art/Sleep Through Fire
I Love You