Size doesn’t matter, according to Dan Mangan.
The two-time Juno Award winning musician has played some big festivals in his day – Glastonbury, Osheaga and Sasquatch, to name a few – but he’ll tell you the size of the crowd has nothing to do with the success of a performance.
“Scale doesn’t dictate the experience,” he said.
“I’ve played a lot of small gigs in my life to less than 50 people. Those can be either really special or really terrible.
“And sometimes the really big gigs can be the most life-affirming experiences.”
Mangan said he has fond memories from his only two performances in the Yukon, which took place in 2010 at Frostbite and the Dawson City Music Festival.
Four years later, the Yukon Arts Centre is bringing him back. He’s been added to its 2014-2015 lineup and will be performing a solo show in Whitehorse next month.
“There’s a really great community of folks up there,” he said about the Yukon.
“It’s funny how every festival has its charm but it’s a special thing when you can go to a tiny place. You get a sense that you’ve been somewhere a bit wild, outside of the urban framework and you experience something special.”
At Dawson City, he remembers standing with Fred Penner, the well-known Canadian children’s music performer, watching indie rock band Constantines.
“We’re watching this show and it’s screechingly loud and awesome, and I’m watching this blue-collar band singing protest rock songs,” the 31-year-old said.
“At some point Penner turns and says, ‘I think the decibel level in here is approaching potential hearing damage.’
“Later on I recounted that to Constantines’ sound guy and he told me that if I could hear him say that, it wasn’t loud enough.”
Over the years Mangan has run into Penner a number of times and they’ve developed a bit of a friendship.
“When my son was born he sent me an email with a song he’d written just for him,” Mangan said.
Dawson City holds a special place in the Vancouverite’s heart. He said the festival is unique because you know a lot of people travelled a great distance just to be there.
Before leaving the area he remembers being taken to a scenic spot overlooking a vast expanse of land, and being truly impressed by the view.
“That’s when you get smacked with a dose of humility, of just how small you are in the scope of all things,” he said.
He’s looking forward to getting back on the road after a well-deserved break.
Mangan and his band, Blacksmith, are back in the spotlight after a two-year spell in which the musician co-produced a film soundtrack, created a new album and had a son.
Club Meds, out Jan. 13, is Mangan’s fourth full-length album and a departure from his earlier material, he said.
After years of playing with the same musicians, he decided to acknowledge their contributions to the band by adding Blacksmith to his moniker.
“We’ve been together in such a clear ensemble that it doesn’t seem like me surrounded by a backing band,” he said.
“It seemed weirder and weirder to show up and it was just my name on the ticket, or just my picture in a magazine. It’s a bit of a new beginning for us.”
For a while the group was touring non-stop, trying to build up an audience and make a name for itself.
It was working, Mangan said, but they got to a point where they were exhausted and burnt out.
“We were just hustling all the time,” he said, “riding a crest of momentum and you get to a point where you’re just trying to juggle all the plates at once.”
The break has infused new energy into the band, the music and the performances.
Mangan says the new material is a “massive galloping leap” from Oh Fortune, the album he released in 2011.
It’s the strongest thing he’s ever been a part of, he added.
“The lyrics, songs and arrangements are better, I feel like it’s been elevated to a new level,” he said.
He’s since discovered that life is about balance. You can only rev the engines for so long, he said.
Mangan’s solo performance at the Yukon Arts Centre Mainstage is on Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. The show will include a local opening act, which is yet to be determined.
Contact Myles Dolphin at