Even Rusty Pipes Can’t Derail the Rural Alberta Advantage

January 11th, 2010

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Mercury Lounge – January 9, 2010

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Mercury Lounge - January 9, 2010
The Toronto-based trio the Rural Alberta Advantage had a busy 48 hours in the Big Apple this past weekend, opening for Passion Pit at Terminal 5 on Friday and then playing back-to-back shows at Mercury Lounge on Saturday. By the time the late show rolled around, the whirlwind of performances seemed to have taken a toll on singer Nils Edenloff’s voice, rendering his pipes a bit rusty as he belted out the groups’ emotive songs. The RAA’s debut album, Hometowns, paints pictures of fear and loathing in rural Canada, full of plaintive, country-inflected acoustic rock songs, à la Okkervil River or Neutral Milk Hotel, simmering with tension until they boil over into urgent, anthemic choruses. It’s surprising Edenloff doesn’t lose his voice more often.

As the band prepared to play a new song, halfway through the set, Edenloff told the crowd that it might destroy his throat, describing it as “a fucking killer.” Over drummer Paul Banwatt’s intense drumbeat, Edenloff sang variations of the repeated refrain, “I let you die/ I let you go,” with vocal chord-shredding fury. It was almost uncomfortable to watch the man seriously struggle to get out these words, but at the same time, as promised, the song was fucking killer. (“Someone get the man a fucking Ricola,” said the woman next to me.)

As Edenloff summoned the vocal power to belt out “Oh, I’m really trying to make it through the night,” during the cathartic “Drain the Blood,” the line had clearly taken on a double meaning. Yet the RAA did manage to make it through the night, and where Edenloff’s voice fell short, the packed crowd was always happy to fill in the blanks, singing along with gusto. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Jared Levy