There are only a handful of venues that I haven’t yet ventured out to for a show in Brooklyn yet, and I finally had the chance to head out to Warsaw, a Polish meeting hall/music venue, to catch Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, a folk-rock band hailing from Vancouver. Blacksmith trumpeter J.P. Carter did an amazing job filling in their sound with loops and ambient sounds. Dan Mangan’s voice held fragility, yet it was full and strong as he sang tunes such as “Basket”, which had me completely entranced. The song seemed to ebb and flow in a way that was heartbreaking and beautiful.
The mixed crowd warmed up to them very quickly, filling the room with applause after each song. I watched the show and wondered how it was that I’d gone so long without ever hearing one of Dan’s songs. The band had the crowd engaged, and even invited us to sing a long on one of their songs near the end of their set. Surprisingly, most of the crowd obliged, forming smiles on nearly everyone’s faces. Powerhouse guitar solos, inventive trumpet intros and lyrics full of imagery made their sound stick in all of our minds long after their set had ended.
Closing out the night, U.K. band Bear’s Den took the stage and having seen them multiple times from their inception to now, they looked sublimely happy and supremely confident. I was luckily staged directly in front of Andrew Davie, lead singer of the band and who I affectionately refer to as “Davie,” and his smile was infectious. Bear’s Den sounded just as crisp as they do on their debut album, Islands, each song effortlessly flowing into the rest. Plucky banjo from Joey Haynes and punchy drums from Kevin Jones combined with heartfelt, clever lyrics cemented the band into their rightful place well outside the shadow of Mumford & Sons, who they are often compared to.
It was no surprise that most of the crowd knew all the words to their songs, and happily sang along with “Isaac” and “Agape,” but “Magdalene,” the newest song to both the band and the crowd was played, it appeared Davie forgot some of the lyrics – earning him a loud round of applause and encouragement. Human moments like these help add to the emotion and atmosphere of the room, as well as the sound of a 5-piece horn section made up of members of Dan Mangan & Blacksmith, and an addition on percussion in the form of Remi Aguillela, drummer of Daughter. I must say – after hearing that horn section, I want to tell every band: If you have horns on your record, you must bring a horn player out on tour with you. It makes all the difference.
Winding down to the end of the night, Bear’s Den played crowd favorite, “Bad Blood,” acoustically in the middle of the crowd. It’s always this moment from the band that helps us stay connected to them, no matter how big they get. After a snack of pierogies, (yes, they serve pierogies, naturally), Dan and the band were more than happy to chat with everyone who wandered over, and take photos with anyone who asked, as well as all 3 members of Bear’s Den who chatted happily with friends, family and fans around the room and took photos with everyone well into the early morning hours. Seeing these two bands play together was probably the most well rounded set I’ve seen in months, and I hope to see both of them play again in the near future.
Article by: Lesley Keller