With the technology and communication networks we have in this day and age, it has never been easier to stay connected with our favorite artists. And even if you are not one who spends WAY too much time on the internet or social media, one of the least time-consuming acts you can perform is to simply subscribe to a musicians’ email list – it’s a great way to receive their latest news, without an obligation to scroll through your feeds frequently.
Case in point: had it not been for receiving a communique from Vancouver, BC indie-folk artist, Dan Mangan, late last year, we may have never known about a small, solo-acoustic winter tour that would ultimately bring him back to the US east coast for a pair of shows. Invited to perform on the Millennium Stage – a smaller stage within the prestigious Kennedy Center on the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, DC – we appreciated receiving sufficient advance note to secure tickets to this ‘lobby series’ style event, and enjoyed spending some time in our nation’s capital on an unseasonably glorious 55 degrees Saturday in late January.
“Good evening, thank you for coming. What a dump,” Dan joked as he was greeted on stage by a large gathering of fans. “As I walked in, I thought ‘should I be wearing a tux?’ Thank you, Kennedy Center, for having me. I have a list of songs here, I’m not necessarily gonna call it a set list, it’s just reminding me of the songs that I know.” Touring primarily to promote his most recent “Being Somewhere” album (reviewed earlier this month here at GDW), Dan would naturally incorporate a handful of new tunes into his set – including fabulous acoustic versions of “Fire Escape” and “Just Know It” – along with popular tunes from across his extensive back catalogue over the course of an hour.
I referenced discovering Dan’s music following the release of his 2009 “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” album in that feature earlier this month, and took delight in not only hearing “Road Regrets,” but also a short tale about the origins of the song. “I wrote this in 2007, and was on my first tour down to Austin, TX. I’d borrowed my mom’s car, and I was going to the SXSW festival,” he shared. “And I was destined for discovery, but subsequently was not discovered. But it’s important to do things that are hard, even if the reward doesn’t seem like it’s anywhere in sight. To just keep at it, and keep at it, and who knows, cool things might happen.”
As is customary at his live shows, Dan took a moment to open the floor to audience requests. “I know this is a very civil place, but if you just want to yell out, is there a song that …” The engaged audience fired a barrage of responses back at him mid-sentence, overwhelming the artist with their intimacy of his musical past. “Basket!” “Indie Queens!” “Lynchpin!” I had to nod in appreciation when hearing a gentleman behind me holler “Journal Of A Narcoleptic” – now there was somebody well acquainted with the material. “Lynchpin? Oh wow, okay, okay, I bit off more than I can chew here,” Dan retorted. “Wish I Was Here!” “Oh geez, it’s a hard one,” Dan acknowledged. “I’ll give it a whirl. This new record of mine, ‘Being Somewhere,’ I worked on for two and a half years … and it was all long distance. I’m so proud of this work, and there’s a section of this record that I kind of think of as how can I help you to be still? How can I help you feel better? It’s a section about just wanting to help in someway.” Tuning his guitar prior to the song, he would add that he had never attempted this one solo. “It could be a train wreck,” he joked. “And it will be all her fault.” Laughter ensued, replaced by applause and appreciation following a flawless version of this new album track.
Honoring those requests, we were privy to some amazing interpretations of both “The Indie Queens Are Waiting” and “Basket,” before Dan decided to remove himself from the confines of the stage for a two-song encore out amongst the crowd, elevated solely by a spare chair made available to him. “This has been a blast. When I walked in here today, I didn’t know if people were going to show up, and you all showed up, so thank you very much,” he shared. “I imagine there’s probably some people here who are just here and don’t know my songs, and there are some people that do. Are you guys familiar with a song called Robots?” The response acknowledged his expectations, and after offering guidance for the uninitiated on their upcoming choral duties, Dan delivered a rousing, full audience participation version of this popular hit. And with a few minutes remaining for one final number, Dan and his choir repeated the exercise, closing out the evening with a trip down memory lane to his 2005 “Postcards and Daydreaming” album, for a perfectly timed performance of “So Much For Everyone.”
- Just Know It
- Cold In The Summer
- Road Regrets
- Lay Low
- About As Helpful As You Can Be …
- Leaves, Trees, Forest
- The Indie Queens Are Waiting
- Wish I Was Here
- Soapbox (*Unreleased*)
- Fire Escape
- So Much For Everyone
This event was professionally recorded and live-streamed by The Kennedy Center. The recording can be found here.