The Drake Underground in Toronto, ON
August 20, 2012
Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Pete Nema
The indie rock five-piece took to a very small Toronto stage to support a very big new album.
On the night of the 19th, Vancouver-bred indie act Mother Mother found its way to the bright and broad stage at Echo Beach to support fellow Canadians Our Lady Peace for what was probably a pretty stellar set. We weren't there. Instead, Sticky Magazine managed to catch the act one night later in a more intimate setting – packed tight on the dimly-lit Drake Underground stage for an invite-only exploration of their upcoming album, The Sticks.
Those special invites made the whole affair feel pretty exclusive, and industry names big and small were a majority in the loosely-filled room. But, flecked among the pros busy taking notes, there was a small cluster of massive fans that managed to get their hands on a ticket, and those folks spared no shame and behaved in all forms of weird and wonderful at the front of the stage. For some, that chaos could very well have detracted from a stunning set by this band that's too big to offer this kind of intimacy. Luckily, Mother Mother knows how to cut the tension.
You see, the Mother Mother personality is big, and a lot of that comes by way of the larger-than-life lead Ryan Guldemond, who didn't struggle to wax lyrical on the yin and yang contrast in the crowd. No matter what the focus though, Guldemond's banter was full of over-the-top poetics in jest, like some facetious rock and roll Hunter S. Thompson. And, while it got progressively harder to know just how serious he was as the night rolled on, the words never trumped the heights he could reach on lead guitar – a side of the performance that was a frequent highlight alongside other instrumentals that also never came short of soaring.
Pairing those instrumentals with strong vocals from the occasionally deceptively-pitched lead and his two female counterparts (Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin), the act did justice to their work on stage in a generous set blended with old tracks and new. For the most part, those tracks were bold and tight and begging for bursts of dancing, well exemplified by the teeming energy of "Let's Fall In Love". Tempo aside, some of their work hosts heavy themes that may or may not be touched on with tongue in cheek - Guldemond explained "Dread In My Heart" as “a song about the dread of the existential crisis" – so Mother Mother might just offer something worth listening to when you're laying about and thinking deep thoughts. But hell, it can be hard mope and dwell when a sound makes dancing so damned irresistible.
With that said, a set needs variety as much as an album, and Mother Mother obliged last week with a scattered gentle low, like the sax-boasting "Love It Dissipates". Whether the elements were upbeat or slow, this night's whole first exposure to The Sticks could have me singing plenty more praise all over this review. And, though first impressions aren't known for being reliable, it won't be long until we can all make some well-informed opinions when the album is unleashed in all of its retail glory later this month.