Peak Performance Project Showcase #3 @ Fortune -- 10/09/14

Can you believe it's already the sixth year of the Peak Performance Project? This year they've changed the project up a little. 102.7 The Peak and Music BC have pared it down from a Top 20 to a Top 12, but that was only to make room for a Top 12 of Alberta bands through the newly launched 95.3 The Peak, and Alberta Music.

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, and team up with an Albertan band for a collaboration song. Phase two is a series of shows at Fortune Sound Club; three artists a night for four weeks, showing off what they learned to not only an audience, but a panel of judges. They've also been assigned 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. (And yes, I do have a running tally of bands that chose Neil Young)

They took a week off showcases last week, so everyone could celebrate Break Out West and the Western Canadian Music Awards in Winnipeg, but they were back last night for showcase number three.

Jodi Pederson: The Vernon BC native started the night off with a few small sound issues; in fact, the sound the whole night wasn't the greatest, but Jodi's set seemed hit hardest with a muddy mix. But that aside, a good stage presence and great voice drove her set, with a smokey and soulful pop sound. But while she was a great performer, I don't think her songwriting was quite on the same level. From what I could tell, a lot of her songs were about the same thing -- love -- and certainly none of the songs were really bad, few stuck out. One that did, though, was a darker song called "Boys" that really let her voice soar.
She brought things down in the middle of the set for a couple slower jams, including her classic Canadian cover, "Born To Be Wild" (as I found out, while Steppenwolf is still American, the song was written by a Canadian Mars Bonfire) which was a really interesting, almost jazzy, take on the song.
Jodi wrapped up her set with the single, "City Lights", with what I thought was a slightly out-of-place drum breakdown in the middle, and ended with a number of her fans in the crowd holding up and spinning glowsticks.
She's definitely got the performance aspect down, and I think given a little more experience writing, she'll take off.

The Tourist Company: No stranger to radio competitions, the self described experimental folk-rock band was the Vancouver finalist in this year's CBC Music Searchlight contest. The took the stage joined on & off by some familiar faces, Michelle Faehrmann and Stephanie Chatman from Four on the Floor String Quartet (every year it seems at least one band makes use of members of the talented Quartet, and this year it was The Tourist Company).
I've said a few times before on this blog there's a certain type of prevalent folk sound that I just no longer care about, and while they are not the worst offender, they fit in to that category. Which isn't to say they are not objectively good, with solid harmonies, and tight, catchy songs, all greater than what you would expect from just four members. Stand-out songs were the driving drums and jangling glockenspiel on "Irrepressible Future", and "One Giant Leap" with Jillian Levey on lead vocals, instead of main singer Taylor Swindells.
Their set hit a lot of the expected beats of a folk-rock set, including breaking out the floor toms, and their cover was, a little predictably, a soaring folksy version of "Wake Up", closer to the acoustic version Arcade Fire did recently. They ended off with a big, high energy song that I didn't catch the name of, leaving a good chunk of the crowd cheering for more.
While I can not deny they are very good at what they do, what they do is just not for me.

Shred Kelly: On the other side of the "folk coin" is the Fernie BC stoke folk band. They were the one of three bands I was rooting for going into the project, having been a fan of them for a couple years now.
The five-piece started off with a newer song that encapsulates the band perfectly; Tim Newton starting the song slowly plucking his banjo until he picked up the pace to a blurry hand, joined by Sage McBride's lovely voice, the song building to an explosive crescendo. From there they kept up the energy, getting the crowd clapping and stomping along, before it came to a head with another new song, a bit of a darker song for them and my favourite of the set, and "Tornado Alley", culminating in a frantic storm of instruments worthy of the title.
They brought the set down for a moment, for a couple of their (relatively) softer songs, and then wrapped up with the perennial singalong, "I Hate Work", letting the Thursday night crowd blow off steam. That then segued nicely into their Canadian cover, Loverboy's "Working For The Weekend", during which they not only got a surprising number of people to "get low" and crouch down, but also split the room for the singalong: one side singing along with Sage "Everybody's working for the weekend" and the other with Tim, chanting "I Hate Work", to wrap up a set that reinforced my desire to see them in the top three.

And with that, there was only one more showcase to go, spotlighting the last three of the Top Twelve. Next week will be The Wild Romantic, Dearrival, and Damn Fools.