A very nice acoustic device

BC folk rocker Dan Mangan waxes poetic on novels, the varying degrees of epic and crowds

Mangan returns to Kingston to show off a more refined sound, playing hits from his latest album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice.
Mangan returns to Kingston to show off a more refined sound, playing hits from his latest album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice.

Dan Mangan has never seen Star Wars, loves Van Gogh and is particularly fond of the colour blue. Besides this, he is known to play “music that has words and chords,” and the Vancouver native is performing a concert today at Sydenham United Church in support of his newest album Nice, Nice, Very Nice.

Mangan has been riding a wave of recent success, particularly after his three wins at the Western Canadian Music Awards, picking up awards for Independent Album of the Year, Roots Solo Recording of the Year and Songwriter of the Year, but managed to stay particularly humble about it.

“I’ve been very fortunate … I’ve just been so lucky,” he said. Besides these three wins, he was also shortlisted for this year’s Polaris award, and was the recipient XM Satellite Radio’s Verge Award for best artist.

When asked what he did besides making music, Mangan was quick to discuss his love of literature, “I love to read, and I wish I had more time to read,” he said. Nice, Nice, Very Nice is a reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, and he excitedly recited a favourite passage from the book’s fictional prophet figure.

“A Chinese Dentist, and a British Queen—All fit together in the same machine. Nice, nice, very nice.” This poem is also where he found his album cover. “It’s a nice iconic image, I saw it and I knew I wanted it,” he said.

Mangan has been rigorously touring, and hasn’t been home since mid-August, but is nonetheless bringing his trademark enthusiasm to each show.

“When you step onto a stage and you see [the audience] get excited, you can’t help but get that shot of adrenaline” he said. “Whatever energy we give off, when it’s reciprocated, it makes us have more fun. When we have more fun the audience has more fun, and then we have even more fun.”

The excitement can spiral out of control, like he said it did at his last Kingston show at the Grad Club. Playing a “late” show where the crowd was already a few drinks in turned the concert into “a wild rompus.”

Mangan said that the change in venue will differentiate this show, “It’ll be more of a concert than just a party … Friday’s show will be a little more polished, refined,” he said.

This element of refinement seemed to be a big part of what sets his second album apart from his first.

“The first album is very folky, singer-songwritery. It was all of my songs to that point on one album,” he said.

After four years of touring, meeting other musicians, and learning his craft, Mangan feels more comfortable with his music.

“I’m more certain what I’m looking for. [On the first album] I wanted every song to be epic, but this new one is comfortably ‘un-epic.’ The lyrics are stronger,” he said.

Mangan will be playing along with Harbourcoats and The Crackling, his drummer’s side project, a playbill which he had a hand in.

“When you pick the bands you play with,” he said, “It’s almost like you curate the show and present the bands you want heard.” Dan Mangan is a Canadian act that is just starting to hit his stride, and more great tracks can be expected in the future.

Dan Mangan, Harbourcoats and The Crackling play Sydenham United Church tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

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