Sam Roberts Band and Mother Mother @ Troubadour, 3/25/09
Photos by Jessi Duston /LAist
Rock from the great cold Canadian north conquered the Troubadour Wednesday night, starting off with Vancouver's finest Mother Mother, who took the stage fronted not by one person or even two, but three lead singers.The most obvious of the three was the lead guitarist who looked like a cross between Billy Idol and a storm trooper (and I mean that in a good way) was also dressed in black with a red vest. He was flanked on either side by two women, played the keyboards and synthesizer respectively, looked terrific in their little black dresses.
The sound that came from this trio killed the conversation I was having with my photographer stone dead. We both turned and stared at the stage in wonder. In most bands with three singers, the man usually takes the lead, and the women usually back up with some "Shoop shoops" and the occasional "Ahh." Instead all three singers blended their voices together into a high pitched, feisty, and rough sound that sounded like a tougher version of the Pipettes. If you closed your eyes, you would swear that they were all women singing at once.
Mother Mother's rock, for the most part, had a very abrasive tone that came in stops and starts and jerks and farts like an old jeep on a dirt road. The singing would come in harsh, jerky fashion that was complimented by rough and tumble rhythm. Like an old jeep it looks like a lot of fun to ride around in, but after you're inside it for awhile, your insides feel all bruised and scrambled. By the end of the third song, my eardrums were feeling very jumbled.
For further explanation of Mother Mother's old jeep on a dirt bumpy road metaphor please watch the video below.
Mother Mother - O My Heart
Just as the words "Stop jumping up and down, dammit!" came bubbling to my lips and I was about to give up on Mother Mother all together, the bass player, Jeremy Page, put down his axe and picked up a clarinet. All of a sudden the jerkiness stopped and a clarinet solo floated over like a cool wind smoothing the rough waters. With the addition of the clarinet, Mother Mother really shone. Their crunchy, rough rock contrasted beautifully with the mellow wind instruments and created a sound people could really groove to. If this is the new direction they're moving in, Mother Mother might be something really special in a few years.
You know a show is going to be loud when the roadie tunes the bass and you jump three feet in the air. The bass! Not even the guitar. It was like an earthquake, striking terror in the hearts of everyone in the front row. As if to calm us down the roadie handed out earplugs to everyone in the front row. I had never seen that before. Required earplugs before a show even starts...these dudes were going to be loud.
Sam Roberts Band arrived on stage like they were performing for a hometown crowd. A mighty roar went up when Sam Roberts, bleary eyed, clad in a jean jacket, grabbed the microphone. With his hoarse, gravelly voice, backed up by a resonant organs and monster guitars, Roberts and his band recreate the classic rock sound of the 1970s. It's not that they play with it and give it a modern twist. It was just straight up, by the book, classic rock. Which don't get me wrong, is a lot of fun. For all of those kids who missed CCR in their heyday and watch the aging Allman Brothers with their parents, Sam Roberts Band will fill in that void for a classic rock band. They will blow your house down.
But here's my one gripe...they don't have a sound that is distinctly their own. There is no Sam Robert's Band song where you turn on the radio and go "Hey that's SRB!" They haven't really explored beyond recreating this big bad retro sound. Well okay, that's not entirely fair. There is the one exception of their new single Them. The intricate guitar melody at the beginning of that song gives me hope for them because other than that, they sound like everyone else who has come before them.
However, don't think this tribute to the old 1970s sound isn't powerful in it's own right. When Sam Roberts got the whole crowd to sing "I think my life is passing me by," at the end of the gig, I realized that this sound was something that people are hungry for (myself included.) I just think that they could be so much more. I'm not sure what it will take...maybe a spirit journey in the desert, maybe some serious heartbreak, or a natural disaster...but I'm looking to them to lead the new classic rock revival.