Live music galleries: The Rural Alberta Advantage [2015]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

The Rural Alberta Advantage live at Dragonboat Festival, 2015

Artist: The Rural Alberta Advantage
When: June 27th, 2015
Where: Ottawa Dragonboat Festival, Mooney’s Bay Park, Ottawa
Context: It’s been almost six months since I’ve seen any live music and I’ve realized in the last couple of weeks that I’ve been (for want of a better term) seriously jonesing. Seriously. I’ve been habitually checking the concert listings, reading all the festival lineups as they are released, watching live videos on the YouTube, and I’ve even been finding myself wistfully flipping through photos of past shows that I’ve seen. And in so doing, I came across this series of pics that I snapped during a set by Toronto’s The Rural Alberta Advantage at Ottawa’s Dragonboat festival five years (!) ago. I’ve seen them a total of four times, each time was a riot, but this show was the last time I saw them. They were still touring their third album, “Mended with gold”, which like all their others, is energetic indie folk with a heavy percussion edge, this last provided by Energizer bunny drummer, Paul Banwatt, and bundle of dynamite, Amy Cole. She would actually leave the band the following year, to be temporarily replaced by a Robin Hatch, but is now back in the fold, and the word is there is new material in the works. Maybe I’ll see them a fifth time later this year. One can hope…
Point of reference song: Terrified

Nils Edenloff of The Rural Alberta Advantage
Amy Cole of The Rural Alberta Advantage
Paul Banwatt of The Rural Alberta Advantage
Amy Cole and Paul Banwatt going all percussion-like
Nils Edenloff rocking out

Best tunes of 2011: #3 Sloan “Unkind”

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Last summer after seeing Canadian alt-rock icons, Sloan, in concert for the first time ever, I shared some pics and a few words, for which if you missed the post, you can find here. I had mused, then, about how the group played pretty much every song, save one, that I would’ve wanted to hear. This is a quite a feat when you consider that I’d been listening to them for almost twenty-five years, a period during which they had released eleven full-length albums. In the comments section afterwards, I had a bit of jive with Geoff from 1001albumsin10years, comparing notes on our favourite songs written by each band member, and I admitted that the one song they didn’t play was perhaps my favourite of theirs of all time. And yeah, that song was “Unkind”.

In 2011, Sloan were celebrating twenty years together as a band so when they released their tenth album that year, they called it “The double cross” as a play on the Roman numeral representation for the number twenty. It was their shortest album to date at just under 35 minutes but it was typical in that each band member contributed their own songs to the finished product and that the album rocked in totality.

“Unkind”, a Patrick Pentland penned tune, was the only single to be released from the album but it was enough to get me to pick it up. It is the second longest track on an album of short quick hits but I personally wouldn’t mind it being even longer. It’s got this raunchy but ripping, guitar riff that was built for ‘raising the goblet of rock’. The drums are all over the place and yet definitely organized enough for you to nod you head and tap all your hands and feet, as if you’re frantically playing the air drums. The patented Sloan harmonies are here too, of course, all members jumping in to perfect the chorus.

This song brings me so much joy. It is an almost flawless rock song. And so close to hitting the number one spot in this list. Stay tuned to see what beat it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2002: #22 Sam Roberts “Brother down”

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According to our friends at Wikipedia, an “extended play record, often referred to as an EP, is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single, but is usually unqualified as an album or LP”. It’s a format that seems to have made a bit of a comeback in the last decade or so, likely as a result of and in conjunction with the return to relevance of vinyl records as a means of releasing music. In an otherwise digital sales and streaming world, the term would be rendered meaningless. Personally, and though I know a number of my favourite bands (see Belle & Sebastian) love the format, I’ve never been big on them, only procuring them in the cases of many of these same bands when I started to turn completist on collecting their musical outputs. It’s likely because for much of my early life, I didn’t have a lot of disposable income to put towards purchasing the music I loved so I had to be picky and found more value for dollar on full-length albums.

Sam Roberts’ debut release, an EP called “The inhuman condition”, was one of the few EPs I ever purchased brand new* on CD. I distinctly remember heading down to the HMV at the Rideau Centre one night after work with a $75 gift card burning a hole in my wallet. I remember wandering around the store many times with various combinations of discs in my hands, not wanting to waste such a rare opportunity in those days on poor choices. Of course, of the four or five CDs I walked out of the store with that evening, excited to get home to start spinning them, that EP was one of them, the relatively lower price and my enjoyment of this particular track whenever I heard it on X101 FM being the two main reasons.

The Montreal-based singer/songwriter has since gone on to great success nationally but I think Sam Roberts’ first single, “Brother down”, really paved the way. The version on the EP is the second version recorded (the first was a demo that you might find floating around) and he redid it a third time when he released his debut full-length the following year. It’s definitely still quite popular and has been a crowd favourite every time I’ve seen him perform live, which is actually quite a few times. It is a fun and funky number, the bongos, handclaps, and call and response vocals that run throughout providing the requisite groove. At the time, I honestly felt and described Roberts as Canada’s answer to Beck and though these days I can’t conscientiously make the same comparison, this particular song does smack audibly of Beck’s mid-90s “Odelay” days. It just makes me want to dance.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

* As opposed to secondhand, I mean.