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The Dadbods Came in Droves for I Mother Earth

We got to hear them play 'One More Astronaut' and it was awesome.

I Mother Earth vocalist Brian Byrne/Photo by Calum Slingerland

As a man currently in his early twenties, I wasn’t tuned in to Canadian rock music enough to experience the formative years of I Mother Earth. Having grown up in a time when the airwaves were dominated by the likes of Three Days Grace, Billy Talent, Finger Eleven and a younger, angrier Nickelback, stations in my hometown would spin the distinctive homegrown sounds of the nineties every so often, bringing names such as The Headstones, Moist, Big Wreck, Junkhouse, The Tea Party and more into my musical vocabulary.


As such, it was no surprise that I was one of the younger people in attendance at The Phoenix Concert Theatre for I Mother Earth’s Canadian Music Week performance, with those who were 30 years or older being more than ready to stir up some ghosts of Canadian alt-rock past once again. The crowd was populated with old IME tour shirts that had been kept in impeccable condition over the band’s hiatus from 2003 to 2012. A stage tech was wearing a Tea Party shirt. A concertgoer who was right up front at the guardrail displayed the Treble Charger logo emblazoned on his chest with pride. This important time period in Canadian rock music history apparently has an incredibly loyal following, still.

For those previously unacquainted, IME’s original lineup of guitarist Jagori Tanna, drummer Christian Tanna, bassist Bruce Gordon and vocalist Edwin released their debut Dig in 1993. What separated it from other alt-rock records of the period were its funk-influenced grooves, extended jam sessions and heavy incorporation of Latin-based percussion. Spawning a small crop of singles that received radio and video airplay in their native land as well as the U.S. and Europe, Dig won the 1994 Juno Award for Hard Rock Album of the Year. At the height of their popularity in 1996 with the critical and commercial success of Scenery and Fish, the band entered a transition period, replacing Edwin with Brian Byrne and releasing two more records (the incredibly textured Blue Green Orange and the industrial-oriented The Quicksilver Meat Dream) before being dropped by Universal and announcing their hiatus in 2003.


In opening the evening, I Mother Earth first took fans back to the era of MTV Unplugged with a quieter acoustic performance. Seated onstage with a variety of hand drums, cajons, and auxiliary percussion instruments, the band’s shorter set included some of their better known material. The crowd erupted in cheers when Jagori Tanna hacked out the recognizable opening riff of “Like a Girl,” and the hard-hitting “I Is Us” still retained its heavy metal edge in an unplugged setting. Vocalist Byrne encouraged the crowd to sing along at a handful of points, to which everyone enthusiastically complied, the lyrics still fresh in their minds after these many years.

Guitarist Jagori Tanna/Photo by Calum Slingerland

Returning to the stage later in the evening after a solo set from Finger Eleven guitarist James Black signalled the arrival of electric instruments. Turning the volume all the way up to 11, their lengthy set effectively covered material from their four studio releases, all in a little over two hours. It was an impressive showing of stamina from the group, anchored by the thundering rhythm section of drummer Christian Tanna, percussionist Daniel Mansilla and bassist Chuck Dailey who powered the band through the funk rock of “Rain Will Fall” and anthemic “Used to Be Alright.” No less impressive was the guitar work of Jagori Tanna, putting his impressive chops on display with two-handed tapping, percussive thumb slapping, and an incredibly emotive guitar face to go alongside his blues-rooted soloing.

While the drawn-out jams that populated the set’s back half began to get the better of the crowd, they were brought to life once again each time the band launched into a recognizable hit. I Mother Earth’s two-hour stay wasn’t solely a treat for listeners who had been with them since day one. It was also somewhat of a history lesson for the younger crowd, capturing some of the more inventive music to come out of the nineties Can-rock explosion.

Calum Slingerland is a writer and photographer living in Toronto. Find him on Twitter - @C_Slingerland