Dan Mangan at Fairmount Theatre, Jan 28 2019

Outside the venue, a large tour bus with a trailer is parked on the street. It’s unusual to see one outside of Fairmount Theatre. Dan Mangan doesn’t strike one as a tour bus artist. The indie rock outfit doesn’t seem like it would need much. I guess after a decade and a half in the business, one might splurge for extra comforts.

Mangan might be playing in what is essentially a large bar, but there’s a feeling he’s above this kind of gig. The stage backdrop is a large banner of his new album. The stage is overflowing with gear, spilling over off to the right.

The crowd was almost comically stereotypical of what you’d expect at a successful indie artist show. Mid thirties, lots of flannel, parents with their young kids, parents with their babies. There was even table service, something I have never seen at Fairmount before. People were there on time, attention was paid to the opener. The show even started on time, the time between the opener and main act was brief. The opener had the time to sing a handful of forgettable songs before his time was up. This is a Monday night show with a crowd that would probably like to make it home by eleven. There’s no time for unprofessionalism.

The band finally arrives on stage. Mangan wears a pristine work shirt. The band looks like a backing band. It’s almost underwhelming. Every part of the stage was so carefully arranged. The amps had custom mic stand, tape kept everything where it should be, multiple guitars were neatly placed upon stands. In the end, they still look like the kind of band you’d see at a local pub. Just a bit cleaner They don’t sound like it though. Here’s where it pays off. The successful 15 year indie rock career. The hundreds of shows. The Juno awards. Mangan performs the way you would expect. It’s nothing revolutionary. It never was. I don’t think it ever tried to be. The songs are sufficient. Lyrically forgettable, thematically insufferable, and with as much soul as you'd expect from an artist who owns a home in Vancouver. The short quips between songs rarely helped. The song partially inspired by Trump was as trite as one would expect. However, it’s easy to gloss over these things live. Despite all the effort that went behind this performance, it’s a live show and the vocals just never quite come out right. It's easy to be oblivious about what he sings. That didn’t bother the audience though. Many could be seen mouthing along. Others were belting out along with him. Even the most cynical of concert goers found themselves toe tapping along to the music.

The show ended with Mangan stepping out into the crowd. Armed with what can only be described as a light hammer, he makes his way to the middle of the crowd to sing the last one among his fans. He orders all the lights off, hands over the LED Mjolnir to a spectator, and coaches the crowd into singing the final song. It didn’t matter whether they knew it or not. It was an easy progression to teach a crowd. The communal send off tied it all together. Dan Mangan didn’t seem so lofty anymore.