Cue the orchestra

Dan Mangan says he gets inspiration from real-world events

Folk rocker Dan Mangan says he and his band have played close to 200 shows together in the past year.
Folk rocker Dan Mangan says he and his band have played close to 200 shows together in the past year.
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Dan Mangan’s goal in life is to get as many goosebumps as possible.

To that end, it’s a good thing he’s a Juno-award winning musician who’s privy to this kind of feeling on a nightly basis, playing to crowds of thousands regularly.

“That’s one way of doing it,” he said.

The Vancouver folk rocker is having a good year. His album Oh Fortune picked up three Western Canadian Music Awards and two Junos, snatching the ‘alternative album of the year.’

Mangan and his band have been touring city-to-city and, in the short span of a year, have been through three continents.

“This last year’s been great and touring’s been good — we’ve done close to 200 shows, which was crazy,” he said.

After five years of non-stop writing, recording and touring, it would only be natural for him to take a break.

But he’s insistent on pushing himself.

“It’s less about ‘well, these people paid to come here, so they deserve a good show’ so much as it is ‘holy shit, look at all these people who came to our show — wouldn’t it be a horrible waste of everybody’s time to not do everything we can to make it great?’”

With Oh Fortune, Mangan has produced an album of beautifully dark lyrics and yearning vocals, like with his opening track “About As Helpful As You Can Get Without Being Any Help At All.” Musically, Mangan has entered a brave new world, bridging out from a more conventional folk rock sound and adding in orchestral arrangements — thumping percussion and rich, overlapping layers of electric guitar.

The inspiration for this darker album is based on real-world events, Mangan said.

“I spend a lot of time reading articles, wandering around the Internet and flipping through papers,” he said. “There are times when I think, ‘Man, we’re fucked,’ and there are other times when I read a headline and think, ‘No, maybe we’re not.’”

Tomorrow night’s show will be Mangan’s third performance at Sydenham United Church but it’s his first time playing in the city with Toronto band Rural Alberta Advantage.

“I’ve known them for years — they’re all total sweethearts and really good, fun people. I’m looking forward to being able to hang with them every night.” Mangan’s live performance, virtuously crafted, is one few can create.

“When you go see a show and it looks like the band is mailing it in, the audience can sense that, the band can sense that and everybody knows they don’t care,” he said. “It’s not always easy to find a balance, but that’s the thing — if it was easy, it wouldn’t be as great when it works.”

Dan Mangan plays Sydenham United Church tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m.

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