all words: Andy Hess
all photos: Francis Chung
I was reading an essay on some random music blog regarding Hipster Runoff and Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion the other day and I came across a passage that stuck out from the rest:
There is this cold and dizzy feeling that overtakes me sometimes, when a song or a passage of a song happens to gun it to my heart. And I am addicted to this feeling — I seek it out, sludging through days upon days of music, much of it very objectively “good”, for those moments capable of the cold and dizzy.
I get that same cold and dizzy, almost sickly, feeling. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that “cold and dizzy” feeling at a live show. Sunday was one of those nights where it was to the point of choking back tears. And I consider myself only a casual fan of Toronto’s The Rural Alberta Advantage.
Neutral Milk Hotel comparisons were in full form Sunday night as The Rural Alberta Advantage played their intense, overwhelming acoustic based indie rock to a full room with the majority of their material coming off their self-released and then Saddle Creek released Hometowns. But as the night progressed, it was clear that The Rural Alberta Advantage have a style and mythos of their own.
Songs like “The Dethbridge In Lethbridge”, “Don’t Haunt This Place” and “The Ballad of the RAA” kept the momentum going throughout the set with the heavy drums and aggressive acoustic guitar. The songs were tight, but the band was loose and fun. Multiple times drummer Paul Banwatt (who absolutely killed!) and multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole (who was equally inspiring!) left the stage to watch singer Nils Edenloff play the most unironic covers of ABBA’s “S.O.S.” and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” I’ve ever watched. Actually, it was the first I’ve heard from any touring act other than ABBA and Survivor now that I think about it. Cole mentioned later that they used to play those songs at Open Mic Nights and that it was great to be able to share the songs with us.
The set ended with a more than intimate closer on the club floor. Titled “The Goodnight Song” by singer Nils Edenloff, the band played the sweet and tender ballad before returning to the stage to thank the crowd for showing up despite the late start and that we’ll see them again. Judging by the amount of people that showed up to the Rock And Roll Hotel on a Sunday we will. And soon, but in places like the 9:30 Club.
On the other hand, fellow Canadians The Lovely Feathers — who are touring a solid album in Fantasy Of The Lot — were quite a juxtaposition to what The Rural Alberta Advantage was playing. I was expecting a night of epic folk rock and we’re greeted with a dance band. I’ll take it normaly, but I wasn’t in the mood for dancing. The Lovely Feathers played a 45-minute set full of dance punk influences and even crossed into Ska territory on occasion. It was enjoyable, but the people at the Rock And Roll Hotel were there to see The Rural Alberta Advantage.
It’s always a tough gig to be the opening band, but The Lovely Feathers played a confident and loose gig that I’m sure won a few people over — just not this guy.