Rural Alberta Advantage headline downtown’s Phog Phest
At last year’s sold out show at Phog Lounge, Rural Alberta Advantage provided an emotional roller coaster for their fans.
They mixed energetic songs and ballads with ease. Fans danced and swayed as the room steadily got sweatier. The end of that night featured the band unplugged, in the middle of Phog’s cramped room, performing the appropriately titled “Good Night.” Concert goers enthusiastically asked the band’s members to come back to Windsor soon. With Rural Alberta Advantage’s return to Windsor for Phog Phest Sept. 15, their wish will be granted.
It’s been a slow build for Rural Alberta Advantage since forming in 2005, after lead singer Nils Edenloff and drummer Paul Banwatt (who also plays in Woodhands) hit it off while hosting an open-mic night.
Edenloff reflected on how far they’ve come. “We played with The Tragically Hip in Niagara for, I think, something like 10,000 (people) … We never expected to be selling out venues across the country, or headlining festivals like Phog Phest.”
Despite major festival performances and two Juno nominations, Edenloff feels the band is still grounded. “I think everyone envisions themselves as the kind of band they were when they started. We see ourselves as a scrappy bar band.”
“Everything we get we appreciate. That being said, it’s not like we’re going to just stop and say, ‘Alright we’re done.’ Going to the Junos … it was so inspiring to see so many musicians there who’ve worked so hard.”
With a very-prairie name and folksy disposition you’d expect Rural Alberta Advantage to be playing a corn field in the county, not a converted parking lot in the heart of downtown Windsor. The band is physically small, but packs a big sound. Powerhouse drummer Paul Banwatt plays one of the smallest adult drum kits you willlikely ever see and Amy Cole multitasks by playing the keys in addition to adding low end on a Moog Taurus. Edenloff considers the band’s limited size an advantage. “We think big and travel small … we make the most of what we have.”
There are a few similarities between this year’s Phog Phest headliners, The Rural Alberta Advantage, and last year’s Elliot Brood. The bands share a record label, Paper Bag Records, feature only three members, lack a traditional bass player and call big bad Toronto home. The bands even share similar musical influences, roots music and anthemic rock. The difference is in the execution. Where Elliot Brood veer towards a gritty, almost punk rock styles, Rural Alberta Advantage are cleaner, with lush vocal harmonies and feature on many tracks a frenetic, dance-like rhythm.
“We’re an amped up folky kind of band, said Edenloff. “We like to get people moving.”
Thinking forward, Rural Alberta Advantage are currently busy writing their next record and preparing for a fall tour with crooner Dan Mangan. The plan is to try out the new songs in front of live audiences so there’s the chance Phog Phest attendee’ s may hear some new songs before the band hits the studio. “There’s only so much you can do in the vacuum of a studio space.” says Endeloff, “We feel we do best trying songs out in front of people.”
He describes the band as careful when developing material. “We’re not powerhouse song writers, we’re not pounding through material, but we’re meticulous.” An appropriate approach for a band that gets the most out of limited resources.