Monday, December 1st, 2008
The Acorn, Ohbijou and The Rural Alberta Advantage at Lee's Palace in Toronto
Frank YangI try not to be too “rah rah home team” when it comes to music – if it’s good, it’s good wherever it’s from – but sometimes I can’t help but feel so proud of the stuff that’s coming out of my own backyard. Case in point, Thursday night’s lineup at Lee’s Palace which, for my money, represented some of the very best new artists that Toronto/Ontario/Canada has to offer. The Acorn and Ohbijou alone made it a must-see, but the addition of The Rural Alberta Advantage as opener simply put it over the top. And I wasn’t the only one who thought so – the show was completely and utterly sold out.
I’d seen the RAA a number of times but never on a stage this large, and the environs seemed to be as foreign and novel to the band and it was to me. Any worries that they wouldn’t be able to adapt to the setting were immediately put to rest, however – the charm and appeal of their simple folk-rock songs came across loud and clear. It never fails to amaze me how the trio are able to do so, so much with so little. Behind the kit Paul Banwatt (celebrating his birthday) continued to demonstrate why he’s one of the very best drummers in the city, Amy Cole was indispensable on percussion, keys and backing vocals and of course Nils Edenloff, who pens the songs and delivers them in that plaintive, Mangum-esque bleat. It’s heartening to see that the band is finally finding the attention and success they deserve – I’ve long said that people simply need to hear them to love them, and I think it’s finally happening. The RAA play next on December 9 at Sneaky Dee’s.
Under normal circumstances, having the bar set so high by the openers might have me worried that the following acts would be a let down, but with Ohbijou I wasn’t worried. They’d proven time and time again that they would turn in a sublime performance and again, they did. Their sweetly lulling orchestral pop was a fine fit for the season, the ideal soundtrack for either hiding under the covers or pulling on the parka and boots for a gentle romp in the snow. Amidst songs from Swift Feet For Troubling Times were scattered a few new compositions which frontwoman Casey Mecija revealed would appear on their sophomore effort, entitled Beacon and targeted for a March release. They also brought out Rolf Klausener from The Acorn to help with “Darcy”, which Ohbijou covered on the split-12″ the two bands released to mark their joint tour. Though they weren’t closing things out, it was impossible not to feel the intensity of the hometown love for the band, every bit of it deserved.
So obviously, The Acorn had to bring their A-game to keep the night from ending on a lower note and for the first while, I wasn’t sure they were going to be able to do it. Not because they played poorly, far from it, but by opting to stick largely with the gentler textures of their breakthrough Glory Hope Mountain, the Ottawans kept the show’s dynamic on the slow burn when some jump was what was called for (as well as proving they remain the kings of the awkwardly endearing stage banter). As things progressed, however, it became clear that the band was working on the slow and steady build, and by the time tracks like “Blankets!” from the EP of the same name and Tin Fist‘s “Brokered Heart” made their appearances, it was obvious the show was reaching its apex. That peak came in the encore when Ohbijou joined the band onstage for an absolutely rollicking “Low Gravity” and finally as the show’s denouement, the Acorn’s half of the tour single, their cover of Ohbijou’s “Steep”… though with more members of Ohbijou onstage than The Acorn, I’m not sure that it could still be called a cover. But that’s semantics. It was stellar, and capped off a night that was every bit as good as it was expected to be and then some. Oh, Canada.
BlogTO talks to The Rural Alberta Advantage about their recent eMusic-powered profile boost. Ohbijou’s Casey Mecija discusses their new record with The Silhouette and Rolf Klausener discusses what’s next for The Acorn with NOW. And no less than Mercury-prize winners Elbow tell The Guardian that Glory Hope Mountain is one of their favourite albums of the year. Now that is props. Furthermore, IndieRockReview got both The Acorn and Ojbijou to record an acoustic session for them while they were on tour last month. Also note that The Acorn have a brand-new animated/live-action video for “The Flood, Pt 1”, linked below.
Photos: The Acorn, Ohbijou, The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Lee’s Palace – November 27, 2008
MP3: The Acorn – “Steep”
MP3: The Acorn – “The Flood, Pt 1”
MP3: The Acorn – “Crooked Legs”
MP3: The Acorn – “Blankets”
MP3: The Acorn – “Plates & Saucers”
MP3: The Acorn – “Darcy”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Don’t Haunt This Place”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Luciana”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Frank, AB”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Sleep All Day”
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “In The Summertime”
Video: The Acorn – “Crooked Legs”
Video: The Acorn – “The Flood, Pt 1”
Video: Ohbijou – “The Woods”
Stream: Ohbijou / Acorn split 12″
MySpace: The Acorn
MySpace: The Rural Alberta Advantage
CityNews has an interview with Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning. I was quite interested to see how this Toronto Sun review of the BSS show at the Sound Academy on Thursday night regarded it as a coming out party of sorts for Land Of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell. I’d like to hear how she sounds on the BSS stuff – are there any recordings from this last tour circulating? Chart reports that bassist Chris McCarron has officially left the band to be in The Dears, which means that when Land Of Talk play the Horseshoe on January 15, it’ll be with 2/3 of a different lineup from when I saw them last. Crazy.
Haligonian singer-songwriter Jenn Grant will be at the Rivoli for a three-night stand from December 11 to 13 opening up for Danny Michel. CBC Radio 3 also reports that her new album Echoes will be available on January 27.