Peak Performance Project Finale @ Commodore -- 11/17/11

It was a night that would change the lives of three bands. It was, of course, the Peak Performance Project finale concert, with over $225,000 in money being awarded; $100,500 for first place, $75,000 for second and $50,000 for third. The three bands vying for the prize were The Matinée, Current Swell and The Boom Booms, picked as the top three from the twenty bands competing in the third year of the promotion. After all bands take part in a week long bootcamp and a series of showcase shows, the winners are chosen not just on musical talent, but a number of other things, including a series of challenges, fan voting, a business plan, and a mysterious "x-factor".

Going into the finale, I fully admit my bias was with The Matinée as my clear favourite, and to be blatantly honest, I wasn't really into either Current Swell or The Boom Booms all that much. But that being said, they are all hard working bands who I am sure will put the money to great use.

But on to the show itself. Kicking off the night was The Matinée, slowly taking the stage to "Also sprach Zarathustra" (the opening song from 2001: A Space Odyssey) building with a bit of instrumental before lead singer Matt Layzell took the stage, just oozing charisma as he grabbed the old fashioned microphone and got down to it. They got the crowd into it early, getting people to sing along with "Sweet Water", and several times throughout the set getting the crowd to clap along, leading to thunderous clapping/stomping and making the Commodore's floor bounce. The incredible presence had the audience eating out of their hand the entire night, and not to mention their insane talent -- especially Matt Rose who gave several guitar clinics throughout.
A couple highlights of the set were "The Sinking of the Greenhill Park", their Vancouver 125 song -- a challenge to all bands to write a song about Vancouver -- where they were joined by a small string section to back them up, including Michelle Faehrmann and Hannah Epperson and "The Road", which featured THE drum breakdown, with guitarist Geoff Petrie jumping behind a second kit, and the rest of the members on floor toms just pounding away.
They brought the set to an end with the explosive song that culminated in Rose, again, smashing a guitar on stage. If they weren't already a favourite, this set would have definitely cemented that as, even with bias aside, I thought they were the strongest of the night.

Next up was Victoria's Current Swell, who were my practical prediction to win it. I have never really been a fan of the whole "island rock" sound that they have, but I will admit they know how to put on a show and their live set is a bit more energetic and harder rocking than expected. Their set consisted of a number of new songs, from their recently released Long Time Ago as well as some older material, including what was definitely the highlight of the set, "Cursed", my favourite songs of theirs which features a incendiary guitar riff. There wasn't much chatter from the band, but they, too, have a good stage presence and the crowd was really digging them.
They wrapped up with only a couple of the members out for a more acoustic number, giving the set a bit of a softer ending. Much like I thought at their showcase, I like them live a lot better than any of the recorded material I have heard, and even though I am not a fan, I certainly thought they put on a damn fine set.

And finally, rounding out the night was The Boom Booms. The bands reggae groove is, again, really not my thing but while they are not the best technical musicians, I can not deny that they are incredibly tight and absolutely know how to work a crowd. Getting a huge section of the floor dancing and singing along, moving, grooving and even almost all of the dance floor to taking a knee at one point, they had an incredibly high energy. That said, I thought a fair amount of their songs had a similar vibe to them and kind of blended together -- and there seemed to be one member whose sole job was shakers and backup vocals. 
The set also included a cover of Nelly's "Must Be The Money" and featured Simon Kendall from Doug & The Slugs out for a few songs. 
Again, it may be just a personal preference, as they clearly have a legion of fans, but despite their fun, high energy set, I wasn't really turned around on my opinion of them. They are good at what they do, but what they do isn't for me.

After the three bands played, it was time for the big announcement and handing out the oversized novelty cheques. As I am sure you know by now, Current Swell took top dollar, with The Boom Booms coming in second and The Matinée rounding out the top three. While it certainly wasn't the outcome I wanted, it was actually exactly as I predicted -- which makes it the first year of The Peak PP that I've not only successfully predicted the top three, but placement as well.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for two of the bands playing, I still thought it was an incredible night, with the crowd buzzing for the entire show, and all three bands putting on phenomenally energetic sets. And while I think that overall, the contest was not as strong as it was last year (which is more a testament to the insane amount of talent involved last year than anything) it was still a great ride; I definitely was made a fan of several of the bands taking part and I am already looking forward to next year.

Major kudos is deserved to both The Peak and Music BC and all the people involved in this incredible yearly contest, especially for their support and nurturing of local music. I hope the bands involved go on to keep doing what they're doing, and I hope The Peak continues to support them, even (or especially) the ones that didn't make the top five.