Peak Performance Project Finale @ Commodore -- 11/21/13

It was a night that would change the lives of three bands. It was, of course, the Peak Performance Project finale concert, with over $227,000 in money being awarded; $102,700 for first place, $75,000 for second and $50,000 for third. The three bands vying for the prize were Hannah Epperson, Rykka, and BESTiE, picked as the top three from the twenty bands competing in this fifth year of the promotion. All twenty bands took part in a week long rock & roll bootcamp, and were judged on their showcase at Fortune, a business report, online voting, and a few other challenges and projects.
Everything had been tallied up and the placement determined long before the show, but the finale was a chance for the top three to show off at one of the best and most revered venues in town, the Commodore Ballroom.

This year was probably my favourite top three since the very first year, with both Epperson and Rykka being my top two picks from the very start. While other years I have been somewhat... disappointed in the top three or the winners, this year I was looking forward to the whole show.

The night started with Hannah Epperson, taking the stage alone with her violin, barefoot, and hardly able to contain the smile on her face. She launched into a couple instrumental songs showing off her incredible talent and making great use of the looping pedal.
She added her soft vocals, fitting the beautiful "Murder of Crows" perfectly, and after a few songs was joined by the drum pad, adding a sexy bassy dancey vibe to "Shadowless". Near the end of the set, she dedicated a song to her brother who could not be there, and asked everybody to hug the person next to them, getting a video of the hugging crowd.
The set came to an end with the apocalyptic "Host a Party" before she invited the boys in Oh No! Yoko to come out and perform their bootcamp collaboration, "Soft Shoulder".
I admit, even though she was my favourite, I never thought a solo violin looper would make the top three of the Peak Performance Project; but Hannah's incredible talent broke that barrier, and that was one instance where I was thrilled to be proven wrong.

Up next was Rykka, coming out in an outfit that can only be described as The Road Warrior meets Cher (in the best way) very fitting of her dark, synthy electro-rock sound. The band exploded out of the gate with the first song, "Map Inside", and from the first song, Rykka hardly stood still on stage. She danced and bobbed back and forth, exuding energy.
Playing mostly from her recent album, Kodiak -- in which all of the songs are written from the perspective of various animals -- Rykka also threw in a couple new songs. Part way through the set she was joined by friend and producer of her record, Ryan Guldemond to play guitar for a couple songs, including the driving and intense "Down in the Depths".
She brought the tone down for a moment, with the softer "Grassland" before getting it right back up for "Shotgun", and ended with the aptly titled "Electric", getting Ryan back out once more, and the sold out crowd clapping along.

And finally, BESTiE took the stage to round out the night, and end off the fifth year of the project. Admittedly, they were not among my initial choices for the top three, and while there isn't a lot of variation in their songs, they put on a really fun live show. With beach balls (and later an inflatable palm tree) thrown into the audience, songs like the upbeat "Pineapple" got the crowd grooving to their fun tropical pop-rock, the band's energy infectious.
They brought a horn section out for a few songs, including the classic Canadian cover they learned for the project, a pretty solid version of The Payola$' "Eyes of a Stranger", and invited Rykka back out on stage to play their Bootcamp collaboration, "Together", before ending off the night by upping the energy even more with "Sriracha", joined by hula dancers on stage.

Fun way to end the show, but of course the night was not done; there was still the unveiling of the top three and the awarding of the giant novelty cheques. Third place went to BESTiE, second place to Hannah Epperson, and the winner of $102,700 to put towards her career, was Rykka. An outcome that I was very satisfied with.

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.