I got to the venue just as the Toronto five-piece July Talk took the stage, fronted by the pairing of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. Their whiskey-soaked blues-tinged rock & roll mixes Peter's rough growl and Leah's sweet (yet no less powerful) voice, and the two have a great energy and playfulness on stage. They would be constantly teasing and getting in each others faces, and frequently strutting up to the front of the stage. Especially Leah, who spent most of the set perched on the monitors. Part way through the set, Peter even leapt into the crowd to surf, while still playing guitar, which inspired guitarist Ian Docherty to do the same at the end of the set.
And the crowd was definitely on their side, singing along to many songs -- Leah giving the crowd the mic to join in on the frantic "Guns + Ammunition" -- and when they announced it was the last Canadian show on their current tour and joked they should sing "O Canada", the crowd not only complied, but couldn't be stopped.Other highlights of the set included the great vocal-interplay of "Headsick", and "Paper Girl", which somehow managed to top all the energy they had throughout the set for a fiery finale.
It's not hard to see why they won (mere hours before their set) a Casby Award for Best New Band, and I hope they're back soon enough, with a show of their own.
That was going to be a hard act to top, but The Rural Alberta Advantage were up to the task, the trio consisting of the distinct voice of lead singer and guitarist Nils Edenloff, Paul Banwatt's frantic and incredible drumming, and multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole playing about four or five instruments, sometimes simultaneously.
Starting off with the explosive "Stamp", they created a folk rock (emphasis on the rock) sound much greater than you would expect from just three people. From their newest songs like "To Be Scared" and "Terrified" off the new album Mended With Gold -- both of which written about the Evil-Dead-like cabin Nils wrote the album in -- to the moody "Don't Haunt This Place" from their first album Hometowns, they tore through their whole arsenal of songs. And even though the trio is from Toronto, they had plenty of songs about Alberta, the fan favourite and chaotic"Tornado '87" and the newer, intense and heartbreaking "Vulcan, AB" being standouts.
With a fantastic energy, the band had the crowd whipped into a frenzy, people furiously clapping, singing, and even crowdsurfing -- impressively, even during their slower and calmer songs.
After about an hour, they ended the set with "Drain the Blood" before Nils came back on stage alone for the encore, starting with "The Build" as the band slowly joined him and closed out the night with a few older songs. The eerie "Barnes' Yard" bringing the energy back up, and they ended off with one last rager, fan favourite, and Alberta-inspired song "The Dethbridge In Lethbridge" with the crowd singing along to the last note.
Stamp; Muscle Relaxants; Don't Haunt This Place; Our Love...; Runners in the Night; Tornado '87; Vulcan, AB; Luciana; On the Rocks; Two Lovers; 45/33; To Be Scared; Terrified; Four Night Rider; Edmonton; Frank, AB; Drain the Blood.
(encore) The Build; Barnes' Yard; In The Summertime; The Dethbridge in Lethbridge.