A few miles away from the Masshysteri-a at the Wedge, The Rural Alberta Advantage played a short but sweet set culled from its 2008 album, Hometowns. (Flickr set; critpick) In front of a small, appreciative crowd, the bass-less trio spun songs about everything from rockslides to running away. Acoustic guitar, keyboards, the occasional double drum and random percussion laid the groundwork, while vocalist Nils Edenloff's softened nasal-twang drove the songs forward. Think the Decemberists in Creative Writing 101 instead of Advanced Fiction Workshop.
(Yes, that's a good thing.) The RAA is doing something countless other bands are doing: playing thoughtful folk-pop based on the tiny realities of everyday life. But the group's set was never boring; little flourishes -- Cole alternating banging on a tambourine atop a drum and the drum itself or shaking maracas, and Banwatt's take-no-prisoners drumming -- added spice to the songs, while Edenloff's emoting was passionate without being overwrought or trembly. Above all, the band's songwriting and its instrumental chemistry stood out: Both things were honest and to-the-point, a nice balance between the sentimental and pragmatic.