Peak Performance Project Showcase #2 @ Fortune -- 09/19/13

The Peak Performance Project is a multi-year contest in which The Peak, along with Music BC, picks 20 BC musicians/bands each a year and makes them stars. Past winners are We Are The CityKypriosCurrent Swell, and Dear Rouge with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.

Part one of the project was a "rock & roll boot camp" where the musicians went on a week long retreat to get lectures and advice from industry pros, to help them refine their craft. Phase two is a series of shows at Fortune Sound Club; four artists a night for five weeks, each playing a 45 minute set. The bands are rated by a panel of judges, which will go toward their final score in the project. They've also been tasked to learn a "Classic Canadian Cover" to play during their set. I always love hearing bands play cover songs, and it's always interesting to see who each act chooses, if it's someone obvious to their style, or something way outside the box.

Starting off the night was Vancouver folky singer/songwriter Lydia Hol. Her and her backing band -- whose dress code was "meet the parents" -- included Mike Fraser on violin and Georges Couling on keys. With Hol's occasional mandolin, it gave the folk songs a rich sound.
She had a really nice voice, smooth and strong, with good songs, but nothing really stood out. It was an enjoyable set, but there wasn't anything that made me clamour for more.
Members of Head of the Herd came out to help Lydia with her Classic Canadian Cover, a pretty straightforward version of The Tragically Hip's "New Orleans Is Sinking", and she ended with a big sing along, handing out a tambourine into the crowd.

Next up was a trio of musicians who go by The Lion The Bear The Fox. All three of them had solo careers, to various degrees of success, but Christopher Arruda (the lion), Cory Woodward (the bear), and Ryan McMahon (the fox) joined together for something much more than the sum of its parts. Their set began with a funny introductory video, and began with a mighty roar as they launched into what may best be described as "stomp rock".
Though technical difficulties after the first song slowed things down, the trio vamped and covered well enough that they didn't completely lose momentum -- the charismatic Woodward talked and joked with the crowd before requesting a danceable beat from their drummer -- and before long they were back in the swing of things.
The trio had great harmonies, their voices blending together really well, and they had my favourite cover of the; they started off with Arcade Fire's "Wake Up", but swerved into "Hand In My Pocket" by Alanis Morisette. Previous years, other bands had done medleys, but this was the first time I had heard a mashup, which was a really interesting take. By the end, they had most of the crowd singing along to both songs.
After their cover they ended with a pair of hugely energetic numbers, "Freedom" and their cover of Ray LaMontagne's "Henry Nearly Killed Me"
I have to say, I have been pleasantly surprised by the trio, and I hope they do well in this year's competition.

Vancouver's Rolla Olak was up next, joined by some familiar faces; namely John Sponarski and Erik Nielson to round out his band, and Lydia Hol came out to help him on vocals for a couple of songs. He had a boot stomping, bluesy folk sound, and a clear passion, but he was lacking a bit in stage presence.
For his cover, he chose to "take back" the Brice Cockburn classic "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" from the Barenaked Ladies, for a solid cover; you could tell it was a song close to his heart.
Near the end of the set he invited all the other musicians on stage -- some from bands partaking in the project, others who just happened to be in the crowd -- for another big singalong, getting the crowd into it too. That wasn't the end, though, as he finished with one last song, a fiery blues rocker.

I fully admit, going in to this year of the Peak Performance Project I had some biases. Bands I already knew I did not care for and bands I was already a fan of, and Rykka definitely fell into the latter category. I liked her when she first went through the Project the first time, under her real name Christina Maria as a folk-pop singer/songwriter. But she has since reinvented herself with a more dark, synthy electro-rock sound, and is all the better for it.
Rykka's incredible voice drove the catchy songs like "Blackie" -- which relied on Rykka thumping her chest to get the vocal effects rather than any electronic trickery -- and "Shotgun" which she got the crowd singing along to.
Her cover was a synthed up version of The Guess Who's "American Woman"; of all the bands that night I would have expected a Guess Who cover least from Rykka, and her version perfectly straddled the line of making it her own and not straying too far from the original.
The set came to an end with the very appropriately titled "Electric", perhaps the most high energy song of the night, ending the showcase with a bang.
Rykka had a great confidence and energy on stage, putting on the best showcase I have seen so far this year; I will be very surprised and disappointed if she does not at least make the top three.

Overall, it was a strong night of showcases; it would be hard pressed for another one to be as "all around good" as this one, but they'll have to give it a shot next week with Luca Fogale, Fallbrigade, Van Damsel, and Good For Grapes.