Dan Mangan has changed his tune about the Olympics.
The Vancouver folk-pop musician, who is heading to Whitehorse this weekend to play at the Frostbite Festival, used to be skeptical of the Games.
Last year he criticized the province’s decision to cut arts funding and saw the Olympics, as many artists did, as one of the reasons money was disappearing for arts grants.
But now that Mangan finds himself right in the middle of Canada’s largest party, he’s caught the Olympic bug. And he knows it.
“I have a lot of conflicting opinions about the Games – politically and economically – but it’s a very electric time at the moment, it’s kind of magical.”
Earlier in the week he played the athlete’s village where he was bumping into NHL players like Sergei Federoff and Ryan Cussler in the cafeteria.
“It was interesting being in there, everyone is a specimen of human fitness – there’s some seriously big and impressive human beings walking around.”
Mangan could say the same about his own musical prowess.
The catchy sound of his latest album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, rocketed him to indie stardom last year at the age of 26.
In September he won the CBC Radio 3 Bucky Award for Song of the Year and Best Vocals as well as artist of the year at XM’s Verge Music Awards.
A lot of that has to do with hard work, he said.
It also has to do with his ability to channel the late novelist, Kurt Vonnegut Jr in his writing.
When Mangan was 16 a good friend handed him a copy of Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. It was a book that would later influence a lot of his work, he said.
Even the title of his latest album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice is a nod to the outrageous religion of Bokonism that Vonnegut invents in Cat’s Cradle.
“Vonnegut has an amazing ability to criticize and poke fun at everything, but he’s not a jerk about it,” said Mangan.
“He’s making fun of himself more than anyone else.”
In Mangan’s song, The Indie Queens are Waiting, he rips on the hipster scene that has exploded in the Main Street area where he lives.
“Bus down to the local record store/buy something to make you love me more/ Indie queens and tattie’d East Side punks/ They are listening and always waiting/ Are you watching or just waiting
The song hit a vein in the very community that crowned him the indie king of Vancouver last year.
But only because his observations were so spot on.
“The area can be too hip for its own good at times. But it’s still one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Vancouver,” he said.
Mangan will play one more gig for the Olympics before he flies up to the Yukon to play the Frostbite Festival Saturday.
Hosting the festival at the same time as the Olympics has been both a boon and a loss for the festival, said artistic director Eric Epstein.
The Games have bled larger acts from the Yukon, like the Sophisticated Cave Men, down South, but they’ve also allowed the festival to capitalize on bands who are travelling from the East to perform in Vancouver.
That includes Prince Edward Island’s dance-pop band Two Hours Traffic and Jason Plumb, a singer-songwriter from Saskatchewan.
Other acts playing at the festival include folk-rock heavyweight Dan Bern, Montrealer John Southworth who’s been referred to as the “Guy Maddin of music,” and Brazilian-Canadian instrumentalist, Celso Machado.
The Frostbite Festival is also luring back Yukon’s own Hammerhead, which broke onto the Whitehorse music scene in 2002 as Pro-Decibel.
Yukoners Etienne Girard and Marc-Andre Hamelin left the territory for Nelson in 2008 to attend a music college in Nelson, British Columbia.
The move was so quick they didn’t even have enough time to do a proper launch for an album they put together that year.
The prog-rock group is looking forward to the opportunity to bring their music back up to the Yukon and show off their new record, said Hamelin.
The Frostbite Festival kicks off on Friday night with B.Y.T.E’s annual Battle of the Bands and runs until Sunday evening.
Check out the schedule of events at www.frostbitefest.ca
Contact Vivian Belik at firstname.lastname@example.org