When: April 23, 2011
Where: Radio Radio (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Headliner: The Rural Alberta Advantage
Opening act: Lord Huron
All along, my friend, Drew, and I had been planning to go to the New Pornographers show on a Friday night, then just hang out in Indianapolis the following night.
But as fate would have it, while doing research for one of my latest posts, I saw that The Rural Alberta Advantage would be in town that weekend. Not only that, but they were touring with Lord Huron, one of the bands I’d discovered at SXSW.
Needless to say, I was quite giddy.
And as an added bonus, the venue was located just outside of downtown in the Fountain Square district, a couple of blocks from a Thai restaurant Drew was a fan of.
The neighborhood, itself, looks like it was at one time cool and has since been a little rundown. But judging from some of the businesses there, I feel like it is on the brink of a resurgence.
If it happens, Radio Radio will definitely be a key component. The place is on the small side, but not too small. There is a circle of cozy sofas located on either side of the entrance. Past those were the bar on one side and an ample amount of tables and stools on the other. Then there was the dance floor leading up to the stage.
There is no real “backstage.” The artists’ area isn’t linked from the stage, so band members have to walk through the crowd to get there. It all just adds to the cozy quality of the place.
Within a few minutes of our arrival, a couple of dudes, who looked nothing like the guys I saw in Austin, took the stage and started performing. The guitarist was solid, but their music was mostly boring. I have no clue what their name was, nor did I care. I was just worried there was another band out there named Lord Huron and I got the wrong one.
As it turned out, that was not the case.
As I noted in my last post, Drew and I have pretty different musical tastes. So, when we discussed Lord Huron’s Mighty EP, it was no surprise when he described the title track — my favorite — as the most annoying one on the disc.
And much to Drew’s disgust, the band actually opened their set with “Mighty.” I found it surprising, as most bands will save their big single for later in the show.
But no biggie. It definitely grabbed the audience right off the bat and had it hooked from the onset.
I didn’t keep count, but they probably about five to seven songs. The one thing that really struck me was how different they seemed compared to when I saw them at SXSW.
I think it’s because during their Indy show, they stretched their songs out a lot more and did more jamming. That’s understandable, as they were on a pretty strict time limit in Austin and were probably just trying to play as many songs as they could in order to let the fans hear their sound.
While I could only pick out one particular song of Lord Huron’s, I recognized nearly all of the tracks in The RAA’s set. I suppose that’s because I’d listened to their two albums about four or five times during the weeks leading up to the show.
And although I was mildly torn on the awesomeness of their most recent release, seeing the songs performed live erased any doubt as to whether it’s one of the best albums of the year so far.
From researching the band, I knew that all or most of the songs were based on growing up in rural Canada. But I guess I didn’t realize the extent until lead singer Nils Edenloff gave us some background details before playing a lot of the songs.
Nils Edenloff sings his heart out while Amy Cole (left) bangs the tambourine and Paul Banwatt (right) pounds the drums.
The band had just played in St. Louis the night before, when some powerful tornadoes ripped through the city and did some major damage, including to the airport. Edenloff brought that up as he introduced the song “Tornado 87”, which was written about a tornado.
Another song of theirs is based on a natural disaster as well. “Frank AB” is about a landslide in Frank, Alberta, that killed nearly 100 people in 1903.
My favorite song on their second album, “Barnes’ Yard”, came to Edenloff when he thought back to his days delivering newspapers and the yard of one of his subscribers, Mr. Barnes.
That song was the second of four that the band played during their encore, which was prompted not only by clapping and cheering but also foot stomping.
The final song of the evening, and the most rocking, was “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge”, which, as one might guess, alluded to an actual bridge.
The show was definitely a rollicking good time and is one that should be seen.
But just as great as the show, was the after-party that Drew and I took part in.
At a lot of shows I’ve been to, bands will hang out at the merchandise table after their set and sell their wares and greet fans. But on this night, the members of Lord Huron and The RAA did more hanging out and fraternizing than I was used to.
Drew and I naturally took advantage of this to talk to most of the guys — and girl — about their music and backgrounds.
Drew decided he’d give the members of Lord Huron a piece of his mind and let them know that they should stick to the more melodic and downtrodden stuff and get away from the island sound.
Thankfully, they took everything with a grain of salt and seemed to actually be amused by Drew. We proceeded to drink some more with the bands and followed them to a nearby bar.
The RAA left a little early — probably because of Drew’s creepy obsession with percussionist Amy Cole’s ear lobes.
But it was definitely a solid night and makes me want to try to get to know more of the bands I see in concert.