SAN FRANCISCO — File The Rural Alberta Advantage under the tag of good bands that are even better on-stage. Guitarist-vocalist Nils Edenloff, drummer Paul Banwatt and newer member Robin Hatch (keys) headlined a Noise Pop show at the Bottom of the Hill Wednesday and the indie folk (rock? tribal?—it’s hard to define its sound) band catapulted a sold-out room to another level.
At least a handful of attendees were quickly brought right back down afterward in the wake of broken auto glass and missing property, but that’s another story.
Edenloff and his bandmates took the stage just after 11 p.m. after fine-tuning their instruments themselves—like a true indie headliner—and demanded immediate attention: “It’s a school night, so let’s get this show on the road!”
And over roughly an hour, The Rural Alberta Advantage led a rollicking adventure, told stories about growing up in small towns—something previously iterated by opener Travis Hayes.
“Beacon Hill” was preceded by a story about “Fort McMurray, Alberta, where 80,000 people were forced to evacuate due to forest fires last year. I got away before anybody else by about 20 years,” Edenloff said, straight-faced.
The Rural Alberta Advantage played tracks new and old. The old were highlighted with a blistering “The Deadroads.” A newer track got a test run and was greeted with praise from fans as well.
But back to that sound. It’s difficult to draw comparisons to other artists. Maybe an Anglo version of Rodrigo y Gabriela? The Rural Alberta Advantage is a mostly acoustic-powered band, but their songs are delivered, especially live, as rock tunes. Banwatt is a robotic beast behind the kit, while Edenloff is no slouch on guitar, delivering electric power riffs with an acoustic.
Travis Hayes, meanwhile, gave the headliners a run for their money. His take on anthemic rock and punk isn’t as deep as Bruce Springsteen, nor is it as rough around the edges as The Gaslight Anthem. It’s more polished, and Hayes’ sandy voice flows like molasses. His too-short set of drinking and reminiscing songs brought out the best in his three-piece backing band, including guitarist Brent Curriden.
Curriden was also lead guitarist for Cave Clove, woozy, dream-pop and jangly indie rock band. The four-piece band’s brief set consisted of tracks off their recently released album. Twenty minutes in, however, the band switched to a more aggressive straight-ahead rock sound that suited all four members better and foreshadowed Curriden’s abilities with Hayes.
San Francisco resident Kevin Patrick Sullivan, known for his work as multi-instrumentalist in local favorites Rin Tin Tiger, opened the show with a solo set as Field Medic. The set was equal parts earnest songs about alcohol abuse and failed love, with deadpan humor, like non sequitur, “Follow me on Instagram. I’m underscore Field Medic. The actual field medic name was taken. But not for long. Once I make a million dollars. But he’s not a doctor like me.” It was funnier in person. You’ll have to take my word for it.