Photos from the Mother Mother-Monowhales show in Ottawa

[Before the storm hit and the power went out, Ross MacDonald (photos) and Karen Coughtrey (text) caught this show in the nation’s capitol. -AC]

The young crowd at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa were on their feet immediately when Mother Mother took to the stage Friday night and would remain there until the end of this incredible show, the final Canadian performance on their Inside tour.  “We’re going to spill a little extra blood tonight” lead vocalist Ryan Guldemond promised the crowd and they delivered, delighting the crowd with numbers like ‘Let’s Fall in Love’. ‘The Stand’, ‘Bit by Bit’ , ‘Hayloft’ and ‘Hayloft II” which all had the crowd loudly singing or screaming along. The alternative rock group also had their versatility on full display with the country jamboree stylings of ‘Dirty Town’ and ‘Oh Ana’, the dance vibes of ‘It’s Alright’ and the hip-hop-type beats of ‘Verbatim’. 

Mother Mother reflected on the fact they’ve been playing shows in Ottawa for 17 years. The band is very much aware that they have a new generation of fans who discovered them during the pandemic and they thanked the old fans and welcomed the new ones to the fold telling them “the old friends can attest for the new friends that a Mother Mother show is a place where you can be yourself, you can love how you want to love, you can identify how you want to identify. It’s a place of radical acceptance and we welcome you all.” The album Inside is a pandemic album and it was clear that songs such as ‘Sick of the Silence’, ‘Life’, and ‘Pure Love’ really resonate with the younger generation.

Like at many concerts this spring, the return of live music and the challenges of the last few years was a theme of the night and Ryan had deep but uplifting words to share with the audience. On the hard times brought on by the pandemic he said:

“There’s a lot of different stories in this room and you just never know what the person next to you is going through, or the people on stage and the world has been crazy the last couple of years so I’m sure the stories in this room vary from entertaining to heartbreak and if anyone here is still going through a tough time, I’m sure there are some of you who are, we just wanted to say thank you for investing in yourself, getting out of the house to hang out with us, it takes a lot of courage to do that stuff.”

And on the return to live music (and other crowd gathering activities we love):

‘It’s such a drag to be deprived of the thing that you love for so long but in a way, it’s kind of beautiful because it shows you, it illuminates how much you need the thing when you know it’s taken from you and I think there’s a lot of beauty to that. As hard as these times have been I think they’re beautiful times because they are bringing us closer to our needs and our humanity. I’m feeling that tonight; I’m feeling the humanity, and the love, and the strength. The strength after the storm.”

As the crowd left the auditorium at the end of the show, eagerly sharing stories of their favourite parts of the night it was clear they too were reveling in the humanity of the event and perhaps had seen a rainbow at the end of the storm. 

Mother Mother had nothing but good things to say about their opening act, even complaining the band of wonderful humans and formidable musicians made them step up their game every night and inspired them. No one in the crowd would blink at these attestations because recent Juno winners (Breakthrough Group) The Monowhales started the night off perfectly, putting on an incredible show.

Although all three members are dynamic musicians, lead vocalist Sally Shaar is one hell of a frontwoman, impossible to keep your eyes off of. She has undeniable stage presence complete with sharp hand movements and dramatic hair flips and the Monowhales had the crowd engaged from the first notes of opening song ‘Take it Back’. They entertained with new songs ‘ CTRL^^^’ and ‘New Threads’ and the energetic back and forth sound of ‘He said/She Said (I wait)’. The crowd went wild when Sally ran through the audience during ‘All or Nothing’ and was on their feet for the closer, a cover of  Nine Inch Nails song, ‘The Hand That Feeds.’ 

Before the show, A Journal of Musical Things had an opportunity to chat with The Monowhales’ Zach Zanardo and Jordan Circosta about their career, the tour and to ask what’s next.

AJOMT: You have a new single tearing up the charts CTRL^^^ (aka Control). Will there be a new album/EP soon?

Jordan: “Yes, There’s a new record called Tunnel Vision coming in the fall. Should be cool we made it during the pandemic with producer Dave Schffman out of LA. The name of the record is based around us all getting sucked into our computers and into our own little universes when we were so isolated from one another [during the pandemic] it seemed like a fitting title.”

AJOMT: CTRL^^^ has a very industrial sound, it seems quite natural for you. Is this the direction that you are heading musically?

Jordan: “Ya, I think we’re trying to get a little edgier, to take more risks, be a little more harder edge than on Daytona Bleach.”

Zach: “If you listen to ‘He Said/She Said’ off Daytona Bleach there are other elements that are leaning in that direction, I guess we just a bit more topsy turvy on this record.”

Jordan: “I think a lot of the anger and frustration we were all feeling during the pandemic, it wasn’t really a choice but I feel like it came out on the record a little bit. There’s a bit more angst to [the themes of the album].”

AJOMT: You started this tour with Mother Mother about a month ago in Victoria, any memorable stories about the cross-country tour?

Jordan: “We had to drive back to Winnipeg after driving for a while when we were trying to drive overnight to Dryden to cut the drive down then realised there were no gas stations open and we wouldn’t make it and had to drive back on the windiest night. Winnipeg is the windiest city, that was a rough day… and a fight broke out at a Victoria show.”

Zach: “I think all the shows have been super memorable because audiences have been losing their minds. We’re playing to people who haven’t been to a concert in years and then there’s a lot of people, because Mother Mother has a younger audience, this was their first concert. So we were their first band they’ve ever seen live. I remember my first concert, it was amazing, a lot of people were having that experience and we’re happy to be that.”

AJOMT: Was Toronto especially memorable being back home? You played History and Massey Hall.

Zach: “Yes, two iconic places, a brand new venue which was spectacular and Massey Hall speaks for itself, legendary. It was nice to play in our hometown.”

AJOMT: Last year your song All or Nothing was featured by the Toronto Blue Jays, and this year Hockey Night in Canada featured CTRL^^^. Did Sportsnet approach you because you are a high-energy band that fits sporting events?

Jordan: “Honestly, we just got an email from our team saying they’d used it. That stuff usually goes through our team and we try to say yes to things when we can.”

AJOMT: It may be early, but did winning the Juno generate interest in a new record deal?

Jordan: “We’re still in the midst of this record, which we’re distributing through Warner. we’re still independent.  We don’t have a new record to discuss record deals about just yet, we’ll see.”

AJOMT: Any last words for your fans? 

Jordan: “Keep your eyes out for a new single dropping in June. We have new music we’re really excited about.”

The Monowhales
Sally Shaar – lead vocals
Zach Zanardo – guitar, bass, synthesizer, vocals
Jordan Circosta – drums, synthesizer, vocals

Mother Mother
Ryan Guldemond – lead vocals, guitar
Molly Guldemond – vocals, keyboard
Jasmin Parkin – vocals, keyboard
Ali Siadat – drums, percussion
Mike Young – bass

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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