raa3.jpg
Dave Lake
The Rural Alberta Advantage

Sunday, April 10

The Tractor

It may be spring, but Departing , the sophomore record from Toronto's Rural Alberta

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Rural Alberta Advantage Is out of Season But on Their Game at the Tractor

raa3.jpg
Dave Lake
The Rural Alberta Advantage

Sunday, April 10

The Tractor

It may be spring, but Departing, the sophomore record from Toronto's Rural Alberta Advantage, is a winter record of the highest order. It's chilly and sparse, with urgent folk-pop songs about snowy prairies, saying goodbye, and letting go, which isn't to say it's depressing or morbid or difficult, but it is a breakup record of sorts, and a suitable companion to the band's 2008 debut, Homecoming.

With the rain sprinkling down, at the least the Seattle weather seemed in tune with the RAA as they headlined the Tractor Tuesday night. It was the trio's third time in Seattle, and the band seemed pleased by the increase in their draw this time around. "This is great," singer/guitarist Nils Edenloff said of the nearly full venue. "This is definitely our favorite show we've played in Seattle." With nontraditional instrumentation, the band had a nontraditional stage setup as well, lining up horizontally across the front, with drummer Paul Banwatt and keyboardist/percussionist Amy Cole flanking Edenloff, leaving only an amp and guitar cases behind them at the rear of the stage.

The crowd sang along and swayed in place to Banwatt's often-frenetic syncopated rhythms, which added tension to Edenloff's images of icy plains and failed relationships, and which draw frequent comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco, and The Arcade Fire. Cole, who played bass pedals, provided additional texture as well, harmonizing on most songs while adding keyboards and percussion. In their 75-minute set, the RAA played nearly every song from their two Saddle Creek releases, talking only a handful of times to the crowd and gulping water from paper cups between songs. Halfway through their set, the band broke things up slightly by letting Edenloff play a song alone, picking the strings in a difficult pattern on his acoustic guitar, which he confessed afterward had given him a "lobster claw."

After the RAA's penultimate song, the trio left the stage and headed to the center of the room--Edenloff carrying his guitar and Banwatt carrying a floor tom--where they stood atop three chairs to perform an acoustic version of Departing's closer, "Good Night." And if Departing is indeed a breakup record, "Good Night" is Edenloff's kiss-off to his band. "Good night to the Alberta Advantage," he sings. "I'm leaving just like I planned it. And you can still escape with your life, because I have just escaped with my life."

Footwear alert: Edenloff was the only member of the RAA to wear shoes onstage. Banwatt played drums in his socks while Cole shimmied around the stage barefoot.

Van reading: Cole seemed giddy to be playing in Seattle, which she explained was because she'd been reading an oral history of grunge (presumably this one) and was awed by the city's musical history.

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