In these blog postings, I’ve been writing about the Music Series acts with the intent of introducing them to the theatre community, or perhaps reminding readers about where they might have seen the band previously (The Bicycles having played several theatre events, Bob Wiseman having acted in several past Summerworks shows, etc.). Claire Jenkins avec Band is one of the easier sells in this regard: her background prior to starting her band was firmly in Toronto theatre.
A graduate from George Brown Theatre School, Claire’s past theatre credits include “Essay” with Absit Omen at Summerworks, “Unity: 1918” at Theatre Passe Muraille, and “The Gambler”, the last play produced at the dearly missed Artword Theatre. For the past few years, however, her focus has been fixed on her band, and they’ve been making a real go of it. Claire plays to her strengths, utilizing her sense of the theatrical in her live performances, which incorporate props and costumes to lend an air of enchantment and whimsy to her musical storytelling.
It also helps that Claire’s enlisted a crack team of musicians, including the marvelous Treasa Levasseur, and veteran Rheostatic Don Kerr (who also produced her debut album “Crow’s Nest / Nie De Pie“), to participate in her stage shows. Claire and her paper hat attired voyageurs show off her bilingual repertoire to full effect; their music conjures a rich tapestry of Quebecois culture (with perhaps a smidge of Gallic je-ne-sais-quoi).
Similarly, The Rural Alberta Advantage wear their roots on their sleeves (or more accurately, on the crests on their chests), despite the fact that just 1/3rd of the band, singer-songwriter Nils Edenloff, hails from small town Alberta. Drummer Paul Banwatt and keyboardist Amy Cole both grew up in within a short drive of Toronto, and play in less specifically geographically focused bands, like Paul’s high profile drums and keyboards project with Dan Werb, Woodhands, and Paul and Amy’s own acoustic duo We’re Scared.
But for The RAA ‘s songs, Nils draws the subject material primarily from his experiences growing up in Fort McMurray and other communities in Alberta.
The references and places name checked in their debut album “Hometowns” are all firmly rooted in the Wild Rose province, such as Lethbridge, AB, and Frank, AB, which no longer exists, as it was buried by a rockslide at the turn of the 20th century.
Musically, though, their sound is very diverse, drawing on Nils’ love for such bands as Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco, and M Ward, Paul’s tremendous drumming ability, and Amy’s ethereal back up vocals.
All in all, this double bill on Thursday Aug. 14th will be not only a great night of music, but with all the out of province references, it will showcase fascinating aspects of Canadian culture from outside our own provincial borders; you could consider this night as the Music Series’ contribution to the Summerworks National Series.