Of pig roasts & roots rock

Toronto stal­warts RAA re­turn Dec. 6 & 7

Thornhill Post - - Arts -

Ru­ral Al­berta Ad­van­tage’s (RAA) in­cred­i­ble drum­mer Paul Ban­watt has this amaz­ing story about play­ing a show with his old band Wood­hands at the Brick Works in Toronto be­fore the name Ev­er­green was added and it was trans­formed to a hip and hap­pen­ing fam­ily friendly des­ti­na­tion.

Not only is the story a solid yarn, but it also speaks to how much that part of the city has changed.

The show was a multi-me­dia fes­ti­val turned rave with bands fir­ing bot­tle rock­ets into crowds, floors cov­ered with bro­ken glass, and ob­scure acts play­ing in rooms hid­den down treach­er­ous al­ley­ways.

“I re­mem­ber wan­der­ing around, and all I can re­mem­ber was this group of shirt­less peo­ple roast­ing a pig in one of the kilns and just rip­ping meat off of it and eat­ing it. It was just so savage and ter­ri­fy­ing it was kind of amaz­ing,” says Ban­watt.

“At one point, the cops came, and lit­er­ally two po­lice of­fi­cers showed up and opened the door and saw this chaos and just left.”

Although it’s hard to match that level of up­heaval, RAA has un­der­gone some se­ri­ous change since its last al­bum in 2014.

Gone is long­time band mem­ber Amy Cole, re­placed by Robin Hatch. As well, singer Nils Edenloff saw his home­town of Fort McMur­ray, Alta., rav­aged by flames dur­ing a dev­as­tat­ing for­est fire last year — an event chron­i­cled in a cou­ple of tunes in­clud­ing the lead sin­gle “Beacon Hill” off the band’s new al­bum, The Wild, re­leased on Oct. 13.

“We al­ways take a long time, and we never plan to. It just sort of hap­pens, but this one was no dif­fer­ent,” says Ban­watt, who says the ad­di­tion of Hatch re­ally helped the band get its groove back and fin­ish The Wild.

RAA be­gan with Ban­watt and Edenloff host­ing weeks of ba­si­cally empty open-mic nights at the for­mer Winch­ester Tav­ern in Cab­bage­town, which gave them a lot of time to hone their unique high-en­ergy roots rock.

The band plays two sold-out home­town shows at the Dan­forth Mu­sic Hall this month.

— Ron John­son

L–R: Nils Edenloff, Robin Hatch and Paul Ban­watt of Ru­ral Al­berta Ad­van­tage

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