One more before Austin

Rural Alberta Advantage + Pepper Rabbit + The Loom – The Knitting Factory – 3/13/11

The crowd was a bit sparse when The Loom stepped on stage, but the early arrivers were well-rewarded for their punctuality. At six members strong (twice as many as either of the two subsequent bands), The Loom are quite powerful in a live setting. Over the course of their set, the French horn, trumpet, ukulele, and banjo would all make an appearance, in addition to the standard fare. If unraveled, each instrument would no doubt hold it own, but together they create a rich tapestry of sound.

The Loom's French horn

The Loom is rooted in the folk tradition, but unlike many of their contemporaries, their sound is as hushed as it is intense – an achievement in a genre that tends to skew either distinctly mellow (Noah and the Whale) or more rambunctious (Mumford & Sons) in its presentation. Graceful yet powerful, The Loom personifies both the lion and the lamb of March, and the play with an intensity as if they are determined to break into spring.

The Loom’s “Song for the Winter Sun:”

Up next was one of my favorite acts from CMJ last year, Pepper Rabbit. After quickly warming up with a Spoon riff on the keyboard, they kicked off their set with a bit of a slower tune before picking up the ukulele and diving into a more upbeat cadence with delightfully buoyant vocals. Though they numbered only three, the group managed to juggle an impressive number of instruments, which they effortlessly looped together.

Pepper Rabbit (photo courtesy of artist)

By the time The Rural Alberta Advantage began to play, the Knitting Factory was packed. With their well-crafted songs and quick pace on the guitar, the band easily matched the energy level in the room, while managing to project a warm and relaxed tone. Amy Cole paced the stage in stockinged feet when not at the keyboard, contributing both vocals and grace when needed. “We played this new material for the first time in January,” she admitted early into the set. “But we’ve now played it through four times, so we’re more seasoned.” Between songs, lead singer/guitarist Nils Edenloff often opened up to the audience and revealed the childhood memories (“old man Barnes”) or major events (the tornado of ‘87) that helped shape the band’s songs.

After delving into a series of more mellow songs, mid-set, The Rural Alberta Advantage signed off with a strong four-song encore.

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