Dan Mangan, Nat Jay, and James Lamb Rock The Penthouse

Well first things first. The Penthouse. You don’t usually find a live music event in the heart of strip central, but I have to say, I was really impressed by how the night turned out. No there were no strippers, and no there was no pole in the middle of the stage. Instead, we had a great trio perform that left the crowd awestruck.

This night was organized by the Vancouver Artists Collective Association, or better known as VACA. This organization was created in June 2006 that brings together a local network of photographers, painters, writers, dancers, models, and, of course, musicians. The artistic talent that dwells in the heart of Vancouver undoubtedly values this mini-society and greatly appreciates the hard work and dedication they have in promoting the pool of talented individuals that resides in our city. They help organize events, such as the one I attended, and do a great job of promoting it as well. Every Sunday, they arrange an affair known as the Circle of Songwriters. This show features performances by three local musicians and the one I was lucky enough to attend, included the likes of Dan Mangan, Nat Jay, and James Lamb. And better yet, this entire night was recorded by CBC Radio 2, which has a section for “Concerts on Demand,” and you can listen for yourself and decide if this review is total crap or if it’s bang on.

The format of the night consisted of each musician playing four songs each for the first set, rotating for each song. There would be a 15 minute intermission, while people, in the words of Dan Mangan, “who smoke went out and smoked and people who peed went and peed.” They would reconvene afterwards and play another four song set.

James Lamb

James Lamb James Lamb, the first of the rotation, played with the emotions of everyone in the audience. His lyrics were heartfelt and his voice was softer than a baby’s behind, while his finger-picking style of guitar provided the perfect melody for his voice. I actually had the opportunity to watch him play with his full band, known as The Liabilities, a while back at The Biltmore, another great local venue. But at this show, he shined through his music and provided the necessary intimate environment for every person to enjoy. There were two songs he played that truly impressed me. “Date with a wrecking ball,” being the first one, was introduced by Dan Mangan as one of his favourite songs to jam to. With lyrics like “I know I’m worn down/ but it’s so cold in this town…” and “Please give me one more chance/ I could be someone…” how can you not fall in love with this? The other song that really caught my attention was a tune with a title I just can’t remember, so I’m just going to pull some words out of the lyrics and call it that. We’ll call it “The Beard Song,” but please correct me if I’m wrong. A lighter side of James shines through, as he’s talking about the “east vanity” of our fair city. When introducing this song, James made a valid point about people who live on Main Street. They all seem to have beards. Upon this observation, Dan chimed in, with beard on face, that he currently resides on the beloved Main Street, and laughter ensued (yes I said ensued… I’ve been dying to use that word for a while now, and the opportunity finally came up!). There was also a very nice stab at an unmentionable website that tries to tell you which bands are “cool” and that website, which we will not name, rhymes with “Bitchfork.” Not only is James a singer/songwriter, but he’s also a talented musician. On more than one occasion, he busted out the Mandolin as well as the Glockensphiel, a xylophone type of instrument. “Cute” is how Dan would describe it. With all of these elements combined, James Lamb is a pleasure to watch. I highly recommend catching any of his shows, and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Nat Jay

Nat Jay Nat Jay was next on the rotation. To be honest, I had never heard of her before so I was anxious to see what she would bring to this circle of songwriters. And she sure didn’t disappoint, as she absolutely blew me away with her strong voice. I couldn’t help but compare her on occasions to a younger Jewel, prior to her attempt at sexual promiscuity, with a mix of Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pills days and not the dancy fancy stuff of her past. Her “Alanis” quality can truly been heard in her song “Day Dreaming,” which can be sampled on her Myspace page. Nat is an accomplished musician in her own right. With an education from the music department at the University of British Columbia, she used her knowledge and brought it into her song writing. And this musical understanding brought her to write “Love When I Can,” which is an amazingly serene track that was featured on ABC’s hit TV show “Men In Trees.” With this much deserved success, she received more than 10,000 track plays on Myspace in the following weeks. But enough of her accomplishments, let’s get back to the show. I still can’t get her voice out of my head. At times during the show, I closed my eyes and just listened, as her voice is strong enough to stand on its own. I can only imagine how amazing she would sound with a full accompanying band. She digs deep down into every song she performs and you can honestly feel the passion she has for music. Nat has a very old soul for someone so young, and what she’ll produce in the future should scare you, if not scare, than please (either or).

Dan Mangan

Dan Mangan Dan Mangan was the final in the rotation of three. As some of you might remember, I did a nice little show review for Dan a while back and since then, he has gone on to do great things. He has toured Canada extensively, as well as the United States. But most importantly, he has gone outside of this fine Continent and reached Australia. He has gone on to sign a record deal with FU:M in North America, as well as ABC/Warner in Australia. I have been to his shows since, and each time he amazes me even more. This intimate environment was a great change from the noisy bars that I’ve seen him perform in before, and this was genuinely a great treat. His voice echoed throughout the attentive crowd while his finger-picking guitar riffs were the perfect accompaniment. It was really nice to hear some of his new material and it truly showed his maturity as a musician. There are not enough words to describe how great Dan is, but let’s try anyways. Great, amazing, professional, beautiful, composed, raw, breathtaking, and the list continues (feel free to add on to this). One of his new songs that I truly love, and which he plays at the end of every set, is a nice little track titled “Robots.” If any of you have been to his shows, you can attest to the insanity of the crowd when it comes on. At the finale of this song, the audience is urged by Dan to sing-a-long with him by chanting “Robots need love to/ they want to be loved by you…” If you don’t believe me, take a look at his Youtube video, which is conveniently placed in his Myspace profile, where he plays to a huge crowd at The East Coast Blues & Roots Fest in Byron Bay. If you can only catch one concert in your entire life, please for the love of Buddah, Allah, or whomever you worship, go watch Dan Mangan and I guarantee you will become his follower instead.