The Gateway, Calgary – April 2, 2015
The rock and roll life: hauling gear from the farthest depths of a strange building to the concrete bunker of a campus bar; getting little assistance from anyone save the one techie who may or may not be all that interested in life that day; assessing a stage that may fit aforementioned gear and leave a little room to move while playing; and then scanning the patrons on the scene and determining whether they are friend of foe-while they are doing the same analysis in return.
It was under these conditions, that I met Jackie Mohr, front woman, guiding light, and driving force for the band The Mohrs. After hauling her guitar case on stage she introduced herself with a warm smile and a firm handshake. Sitting with her back to the stage, she quickly launched into conversation. “It’s been an awesome tour,” she gushes after my initial question of how the band was doing. Ms. Mohr is ever-ready to fulfill the obligations of spreading the word about the band and album to whomever is willing to listen. I was ready to listen and latched onto her welcoming enthusiasm.
Pulling into Calgary, the 18th date of a 24 city tour that started on February 19th and has taken the band across central and western Canada, she appeared a little weary, but full of stories. “Lucky, in Victoria, was a great vibe-it’s a true rock ‘n roll club,” talking about the spirits that inhabited that place. “And the Biltmore in Vancouver was great. The record company, Light Organ Records, is based in Vancouver and they brought out so many people…so many friends came out.” On earlier tours that band only hit the major markets, but this time round they’re playing small towns with different kinds of bars. “The people have been amazing. Good fans.” She smiles then mentions the Golden show where they were part of a festival. All the performers were housed in the same hotel, “It was a raver. Hotel room doors were open and there was a real party atmosphere. Everyone was just wandering the halls and dropping by to say hello.”
With the mention of other bands and musicians, our conversation drifts to her influences which are varied and perhaps a little surprising. “I listened to male singers. My first cassette was ‘The Razor’s Edge’ by AC/DC.” And a little shyly she declares that she was a huge Poison fan and really into glam rock, admitting, “I never really listened to female singers, but I’ve been getting into them lately; Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde are influencing me now.” With a focused and intense look she mentions The Rolling Stones and declares, “They’ve influenced me as performers…how they handle themselves.”
Why ‘The Mohrs?’ “We looked at a lot of names, but so many have been used.” Hawksley Workman, early manager, songwriting partner, and producer of their first major release “Kings of Nowhere” liked her name, but Mohr was hesitant. “I didn’t want [the band] to be Jackie Mohr and The Somethings,” but Workman’s won out. “I like the name. Sounds a little edgy…like The Ramones,” she muses.
And the edge appears to be a comfortable place for the band. The video for “Better” presents the narrative of a relationship breakup between Mohr’s character and a scantily clad female showing more than just a little skin. “It’s a bit racy,” Mohr states with an obvious sparkle in her eye. “Her name is Laura Desiree and she’s a burlesque dancer in Toronto.” Noting the attention the video has received Mohr relates that discussions are underway for a video for the song “Youth.” “The director has a concept for the song that involves hot chicks, a motorcycle gang, and the desert…we’ll have to see…” It’s apparent that Mohr is tantalized with pushing limits.
Besides the next video, plans for the future include some time off and then writing sessions with Workman, though Eric Ratz has been slotted for the producer’s chair on the next album. On the change of producers, Mohr explains that the friendship with Hawksley became strained. “It was too intense-too much…,” The 18 months since the album was released has allowed the friendship to heal and Mohr is looking forward to writing with Workman once more.
Relationships are important to Mohr. She lavishes respect on her bandmates, Marc Girardin (guitar), Greg Markham (bass), and Max Trefler (drums), who at the moment were busy on stage assembling gear and looking more like exiled skateboarders than hard-working musicians. She’s been working with Girardin for a number of years and is grateful for Markham’s and Tefler’s contributions at keeping the bottom end solid-she trusts them to be there holding down the rhythm. Mohr’s work ethic kicks in as she begins to look uncomfortable with her bandmates doing the work; she ends our conversation and goes to help them. Such a Canadian rocker she. keeping the ego firmly in check.
Later that evening the band hits the stage without fanfare or comment and jump into “Erase Her.” A few people move to the front of the stage, but like a high school dance, everyone’s a little shy. There are a few fans off to the side mouthing the lyrics, but generally it’s a subdued crowd. After the song Mohr implores, “Come closer, I want to see you.” “Better” and “Lonely One” follow. A few males have moved to the front of the stage and are becoming animated, but that may have to do more with Mohr’s sexual electricity than the music.
Unfortunately, the venue’s concrete floor and the fact that the PA bins are resting on it, does not make for a great sound. The layered dynamics of the songs are mostly lost, but the band perseveres. It appeared that Mohr couldn’t hear her vocals and pushed her voice hard to compensate, causing her to scream more than just sing, thereby losing some of the subtleties that make the songs on the album so memorable.
Burning through a set that included most of the album, and working hard to engage the room, Mohr sounded a little frustrated when she didn’t think the audience was reciprocating, “You should be louder than this!” Mohr ups the ante and pulls out all the poses from the guitar goddess handbook. The aforementioned males at the front drink it all in in a kind of stupor; she is the tigress and these cubs have no clue.
“Perfectly Sane” and “Youth” draw good responses, but they still don’t match the band’s level of intensity. That’s too bad because The Mohrs deserve our full attention. Their quixotic songs and slightly cynical approach seem more honest than most of what is classified as rock these days.
Mohr expressed earlier that she wanted people to leave a show “sweaty and excited about the music.” She added, “I want them to take something away, and possibly be singing the songs in their heads.” At the end of the show, The Mohrs leave the stage heated and sweaty. Whether they captured a few hearts and minds remains to be seen, but they gave everything for their brand of music. The Mohrs seem happy to be living the rock and roll life and driving down that road to the next venue, the next show, and the possibility of bringing a few more hearts into the fold.
Photos by Charles Hope
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