How do people know Mother Mother? They are a Canadian rock band from Vancouver with little to no airplay in the United States. The band just completed a tour opening for on-the-rise rockers AWOLNATION, but is that enough to justify a headlining set in a decent sized room in a not-so-easy-to-get-to part of town?
These thoughts were stunted by the dimming lights and smoke pouring onto the stage. The members of Mother Mother walked on, saluted the crowd, and tore into “The Stand” off of the band’s album Eureka. This odd call-and-response number features a psycho analysis of lead singer Ryan Guldemond by the bands two singer/keys players, Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parker. The result of the therapy session? “Everyone’s fucked, and they don’t even know Chicago!” a stand-out lyric that the male Guldemond shouted to greet the crowd. “The Stand” is one of the band’s more upbeat and rocking tunes from its records, but set the pace for the first half of the show, which featured pumped up, amplified versions of Mother Mother’s songs.
The first batch of songs blended seamlessly into another, bridged by guitar riffs and synth effects. At the first break in the music, Guldemond talked about Chicago’s importance to the band, and though they were proud to be from Vancouver, this next song was about “getting the fuck out.” The barely featured rhythm section of Jeremy Page (bass) and Ali Siadat (drums) then broke into the slow pulsing rhythm for “The Sticks,” the title track from Mother Mother’s newest record.
Throughout the 90-minute set, Mother Mother displayed its excellent proficiency for perverting the pop format; blending folk harmonies with riffs, bizarre lyrics and rock-star charisma. Guldemond is a rare breed. He has all the makings of a true to life rock-star, the kind the early ’90s decided wasn’t cool anymore and kept away until a few revivalists in the early 2000s. Guldemond would fit in with the likes of Julian Casablancas or Jack White; he’s got the looks, the chops, and just enough mystery and charisma to draw listeners in and keep them there.
And speaking of the genre that killed rock stars, Mother Mother paid tribute with two covers, “Gouge Away” by the Pixies, and a fantastic version of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” “If you don’t die by 27, you know your music is average,” Guldemond admitted. “This next song is about that terrible feeling.” Without elaborating if his concern was over dying young or his band’s legacy, Guldemond played the first few notes of the song “Dread in my Heart,”a folky number with lyrics that go against its grain. Confusingly the lyrics “There’s a god-awful shitty feeling of dread in my heart” were sung in a light, upbeat voice, but the crowd smiled and sang along.
Every song in the set featured perfectly executed harmonies from the Guldemond siblings and Parker. Molly Guldemond, Ryan’s sister, sang lead vocals on a couple of songs, but mostly complemented her brother’s melodies. Ryan switched from guitar to banjo and back to guitar, depending on the tone of each song. Mother Mother was perfectly in-sync for the entire set, only pausing to make observations about the crowd and address how special it was that this select group was all together tonight at Reggie’s. “Come back soon!” a potentially Canadian member of the audience (it was becoming clear that a lot of home-country love was in the room) yelled at the stage just before their last song. “We would love to, but we don’t want to over-saturate the market,” Guldemond replied. After a lengthy set, the band returned for an encore to perform the delicate song “Ghosting” before exiting a final time.
The half-capacity crowd of Vancouver-ites seemed perfectly saturated, and cheered for the impressive set, before rushing to the merch booth to buy the new record and new t-shirts. Walking out of Reggie’s, new CD in hand, back on the seedier section of State St., a new question arose. How do more people not know about Mother Mother?