Mother Mother @ the Commodore Ballroom

This show was a major coup for local music. The Commodore Ballroom is the biggest and best rock club in Vancouver, with a capacity of 900 (according to this website). So when Mother Mother announced that it would be playing the Commodore along with Said the Whale, Hannah Georgas, and Gang Violence, some eyebrows were raised. But the show sold out—weeks in advance no less—meaning that the street outside the venue was littered with scalpers and assorted poor saps asking around for extra tickets.

Dance punk trio Gang Violence got things off to an energetic start, with feedback-laden rave-ups that evoked You Say Party! We Say Die! and the Rapture. Rob Andow was particularly impressive, splitting duties between guitar, keyboard, and synthesizer—often all within the same song. Unfortunately, the set got derailed after only a few songs when the synth malfunctioned. After several minutes of tinkering, the band gave up and abruptly left the stage. It was especially baffling considering the guitar was still in full working order; apparently the group doesn’t subscribe to the “show must go on” axiom.

Things turned around quickly once Said the Whale took the stage, starting things off with an epic take on “Love Is Art/Sleep Through Fire” (a mashup of two songs from the EP Let’s Have Sound). Beginning as a gentle acoustic ballad, the song suddenly exploded halfway through, with heart-stopping crescendos and cascading drum fills. “B.C. Orienteering” was another standout, an upbeat folk song with lyrics that read like a survival handbook for a backwoods game of capture the flag.

During the set, local singer-songwriter Hannah Georgas played Feist to Said the Whale’s Broken Social Scene, joining the band mid-set to contribute backup vocals. The collective also played a cut from Hannah’s upcoming album called “The Deep End,” which featured choppy banjo strumming and dazzling group harmonies.

Mother Mother took the stage near 11, with large screens on either side of the stage showing videos of swimming fish and still-beating hearts, shot entirely in black and red. In previous years, Mother Mother’s arrangements were almost entirely acoustic, but the group’s setup now features a keyboard and a synthesizer, which provided an atmospheric backup for the group’s recent new wave-inspired direction. “Touch Up” was reinvented as a Pixies-style rocker, with a lumbering bassline and sing-song boy-girl harmonies, while “O My Heart” featured squalling electronics and a distorted drum pad. Bassist Jeremy Page doubled as a horn player, offering up a jazzy sax solo during a haunting version of “Try to Change.” But it was the group’s three-part harmonies that stole the show, particularly during a chilling take on “Angry Sea.”

By the end of the show, it no longer seemed so remarkable that the venue was sold out; in fact, it seemed stupidly obvious. The guys and girls of Mother Mother came across as fully-fledged rock stars, every bit as charismatic and overpowering as you’d expect Commodore headliners to be. By selling out and blowing away the Commodore, the group has graduated from its previous status of local secret; Mother Mother, welcome to the big leagues.
 
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