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The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Beacon Hill”

For over a decade now, the Rural Alberta Advantage have been making live-wire rock music with political underpinnings and a distinctive sense of place, mostly derived from the chilly and bleak landscapes of their Canadian upbringing. Later this year, the band is releasing a follow-up to 2014’s Mended With Gold, but in the meantime they’re sharing a few one-offs that started with “White Lights” last year and continues with “Beacon Hill,” both of which may or may not make the cut for the next album.

“Beacon Hill” was inspired by a wildfire that affected frontman Nils Edenloff’s hometown of Fort McMurray. While Edenloff’s relationship to the place that he grew up is complicated (as is the case for all of us), the thought of seeing that place completely destroyed struck a chord: “I’m holding out for you and then I never want to see you gone,” he sings, feeling completely powerless to help, but sounding emboldened to not let what once was be forgotten. Listen to the track and read Edenloff’s statement about the song below.

On May 1st 2016, a wildfire started just southwest of Fort McMurray, a city where I’d spent most of my teens growing up. While wildfires aren’t totally uncommon in the region, the dry and above average conditions at the time quickly made the situation unmanageable. By that evening, several neighborhoods were being evacuated and by May 3rd the entire city of more than 80,000 people was being evacuated.

I remember the evening of the evacuation, watching the images on the CBC’s news reports. Beacon Hill was one of the hardest hit areas and some of the footage that came out of there made it look just biblical- real fire and brimstone sort of stuff. The next day I actually heard rumours that the high school I attended burnt down (it didn’t) but because the city was empty, no one could really confirm anything. Everyone feared the worst.

Now, like a lot people who grew up in Fort McMurray, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the place. Growing up there, I knew it wasn’t the last stop for me but my life has become inexorably tied to the place and it’s shaped my life in more ways that I could have ever anticipated.

It’s been a number of years since I’ve been back to Fort McMurray and if I never go back then that will be my choice, but I knew the city would always be there. The idea that maybe there might not be anything to go back to one day wasn’t something that I’d ever prepared myself for.

Oddly enough, after the fire threat had passed and before the evacuation order had been lifted, there were two unrelated explosions one day apart which destroyed several houses and damaged a number of others in the area. Of the three places that I called home while living up there, I lived a stones throw from both of those explosions.

Tour Dates:
01/16 Berlin, DE @ Badehaus RAW-Gelände / Eingang Simon-Dach-Str.
01/17 Bremen, DE @ MS Treue
01/18 Düsseldorf, DE @ Zakk
01/20 London, UK @ The Lexington
01/21 London, UK @ Camden Assembly
01/23 Manchester, UK @ Gullivers
01/24 Glasgow, UK @ Broadcast
02/20 Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater
02/22 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill (Noise Pop Festival)
02/24 Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
02/25 Vancouver, Canada @ Fox Theater
02/27 Nelson, Canada @ Hume Hotel
03/01 Calgary, Canada @ Commonwealth
03/02 Red Deer, Canada @ Bo’s
03/03 Edmonton, Canada @ The Needle

The Rural Alberta Advantage have a new album out later this year via Saddle Creek (US) / Paper Bag (Canada).

RAA20163web_photo-by-Vanessa-Heins
CREDIT: Vanessa Heins