For me, 2012 was a year of amazing concerts. I was lucky enough to see some fantastic shows, from City and Color in Jan. to The Shins in Sept., and after each one I was overcome with the familiar post-concert high, the feeling of “wow, that was the best show I have ever been to.” Seeing Mother Mother on Dec. 16 at The Port Theatre for their stopover in Nanaimo during The Sticks Tour was the perfect end to a year of fantastic concerts. Just as the others were, in its own way the tour for Mother Mother’s new, apocalypse-themed album was the best show I have ever seen.
There were a few determining factors that made the show different from others. The shrinking of the typical audience-performer gap created a new atmosphere for the band to perform in. The Port Theatre is a small venue, and the band is a local group (originally from Quadra Island) so there was a level of intimacy in the building that stemmed from the home connection. Many of those who attended were long-time fans from the band’s established following, so the energy was one of positive anticipation and familiarity. I should also mention that I was fortunate enough to score front-row seats, and so the gap was physically even smaller. Throughout the show, the band interacted with the audience as well, acknowledging fans as “misfits” like themselves, and addressing the constant dilemma of to stand or not to stand, encouraging everyone to enjoy the show in whatever position they wanted to. “We’re here to serve you,” frontman Ryan Guldemond said.
With this sense of shrunken barriers, the stage was literally set up for Mother Mother to deliver. And they sure as hell did. Recognized for their ability to be massively creative within a tight, controlled sound, each of Mother Mother’s albums, from 2007’s Touch Up to their latest The Sticks, presents invention and artistic development while maintaining musical authority: there are no weak places in any of their songs, no filler notes to get from point A to point B. Live, this was magnified.
The set-list was as controlled as one of their songs: Mother Mother balanced high-energy tracks from The Sticks, including “Bit By Bit” and “Business Man” with favourites from their previous albums, like “The Stand” and “O My Heart.” Transitions between songs were smooth and calculated. There were no jarring movements from track to track, no out-of-place silence or awkward waiting for instrumental shifts. They allowed the tension to build appropriately before launching into the up-tempo “Hay Loft,” and later when they pulled out the acoustic to gently move into “Ghosting.”
In the individual songs, the contrast of bridled artistic freedom that Mother Mother has mastered was amplified in each track. The tempo between Ali Siadat’s drums and Jeremy Page’s bass was tightened to perfection, and Guldemond’s guitar and vocals, which ranged radically from punky in “The Sticks” to haunting in “Little Pistol,” were timed—perhaps even more precisely than on the albums—with the dual power of keyboardist and vocalists Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkins. The energy on the stage was completely contagious, and as the audience danced, tapped, sang, or sat to each track, it was evident that Mother Mother is not only a group of uniquely talented individuals, but a hard-working, calculative, and well-rehearsed group that know how to put on a damn good show.
As the true sign of a fantastic concert, I lost all sense of time. Each track was its own little gift, and the end of one song meant only looking forward to the next. After finishing with the hit single from The Sticks, “Let’s Fall In Love,” the group graciously left the stage and waited a kind and appropriate amount of time before returning for the encore. Ryan Guldemond asked opener Hannah Georgas to join him for a duet in “Love It Dissipates,” somehow improving an already fantastic song. He graciously went on to thank Georgas, as well as the technical and management team on tour with the band, and finished the encore, to an enthusiastic reception, with the older favourite “Wrecking Ball.”
Georgas was a worthy opener. She’s already an established act on the Canadian music scene, with several awards and nominations under her belt, and she’s toured around the U.S., U.K., and Canada. However, as any good prelude act will do, the Ontario-born, Vancouver-based indie-pop singer kept her performance simple and modest, allowing the audience to appreciate the main draw to her music: her voice. Georgas’s alternative style, and the local aspect of her talent, served to set up the main set perfectly, and there is no doubt that with her Feist-meets-Emily-Haines style, we’ll soon be seeing Georgas commanding stages of her own.
After playing at The Port, Mother Mother went on to play another small show in Campbell River, and then, on Dec. 19, gave a sold-out performance at The Orpheum in Vancouver. I was lucky to wrap up my concert year of 2012 with an intimate, local-minded show from a home-faithful and incredibly talented band. As Mother Mother continue on their journey towards sold-out stadiums and headlining festivals worldwide, their show at The Port Theatre will always be at the top of my list. I can’t wait until they come back.