Dan Mangan + Blacksmith stoked to play Calgary
Band shows off honest and opinionated sound of their latest record, Club Meds
“You guys have been so gracious to us every time we come here. We always look forward to Calgary,” said Dan Mangan atop the stage looking out to the tiers of balconies at the Jack Singer Concert Hall on March 10, lit up with blue light, fog streaming from behind him.
The audience cheers madly to this greeting from the bearded and award-winning Vancouver musician and songwriter, who is backed by his band members. Dan Mangan + Blacksmith is Mangan’s newest and main project, and this east coast to west coast tour started just one month after their new album Club Meds was released on Jan. 13.
Blacksmith, which consists of Kenton Loewen wailing on the drums, Gordon Grdina on the guitar, John Walsh on the bass, JP Carter playing the trumpet and delivering an electronic solo and Tyson Naylor on the keyboard. They were joined on the tour by the bands Hayden and Astral Swans.
The Reflector joined the band earlier in the day in the X92.9 Calgary’s Alternative studio along with a few fans during their takeover and interview with daytime host Matt Berry. The four members (Mangan, Loewen, Grdina and Walsh) admitted their tiredness as a cause of being in Banff the night before, but they did not let this hinder their performance.
Berry asked Mangan about the new sound and influence behind the new album, to which Mangan explained that though he is typically an opinionated person, he did not choose to put it in his music until now.
“I started to kind of feel like, if you aren’t saying something, at all, what’s the point of doing any of this?” said Mangan. “I hear a lot of music that is about fun and that’s ok. But just to purely have fun has never been a need for me to express. I’ve always wanted to try to explain ideas in my head or something like that.”
This refers to Club Meds in particular in how he has previously described the ‘sedation’ feeling of it. Especially with the songs “Mouthpiece” and “XVI”, both of which are opinionated songs that comment on the present media and politicians, people being willing to be held accountable to questions and the ‘pack mentality’ fear of rocking the boat that society seems to have.
“Life is chaotic and there’s so much going on in the world, it’s insane. So we cope with it in different ways, you know, some of those are chemicals, some of those are booze, some of those are just in self-denial or isolating yourself from it or forcing yourself to not think about it if it’s easier. And some of that’s ok,” explains Mangan.
“But it’s that fine balance of going between this synthetic, day to day mundanely self and this super tapped-in living in the moment, spontaneous self. I think you kind of have to wander between those worlds.”
The other members seem to agree with the mind frame that Mangan has about society, as they work intuitively together.
“It’s a pretty organic process,” says Loewen. “When we’re all working together it comes pretty naturally. We’re also all really hard minded so we’re all throwing ideas at the other, like it’s insane.”
“There is a lot of intensity, we’re all intense people,” Mangan adds while laughing. “Being in the studio this summer was amazing! We had our moments when we were fighting it all out but then at the end of the day, I felt like the songs just got better and better and better the more we kind of massaged and punched them around the room and figured out exactly what they were.”
“Which is essentially what we did with each other, punched each other around the room,” pipes in Loewen mockingly.
“It’s a love/hate thing,” Mangan responds.
Their witty dialogue was highlighted while they performed at the Jack Singer. Even though the audience remained in their seats bobbing their heads, and clapping after every song it did not diffuse the bands energy at all.
Until the encore came and woke up the audience with the old and clearly adored song “Basket”, after which Mangan exclaimed, “I see some people have broken out of their seats!”
Mangan even asked the two other bands to join them on stage for the last bit of the encore to have one big happy musical family on stage for the ending, which he sweetened with telling the audience how beautiful they are.