This is it. The final year of the Peak Performance Project. Now in its seventh year, 102.7 The Peak and Music BC have picked one last top 12. Are giving away three last giant novelty cheques. Are throwing five last parties.
The parties are the showcase series (plus finale) which have been running all month, and are just a part of the artists' overall experience. First, they went to 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 a band from the PPP Alberta Top 12 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.
I have only caught a little bit of the first two nights, but this was one I was certainly not going to miss.
Mike Edel was up first, no stranger to the Peak Performance Project. In 2012, he placed fifth, and is now back for another shot. I came in a little late, as Mike was already a couple songs in, with a stage of some familiar faces such as Shaun Huberts on bass and Alexandria Maillot providing backup vocals (in theory anyway... more on that in a second). With his rootsy, folky vibe and smooth voice, Edel played a collection of heartfelt and finely crafted songs.
His cover stretched the definition of "classic" a little bit as he chose "Caught me Thinking" by Bahamas. A great song, to be sure, but perhaps a little soon to call it a "classic"? He did a pretty straightforward cover, with Alexandria providing the backup vocals... except I couldn't hear her at all from where I was standing. Her mic was either too low, or just not on. Which was disappointing.
After a couple more songs, Edel took the band deep into the crowd for an unamplified acoustic song, which would have been really cool any other night, but I don't think it quite worked for a crowd like the PPP showcases. I'm sure it was great for the people in the immediate vicinity, but from where I was standing the din of chatter was as loud as, if not drowning out, his singing, despite people's vehement shushing.
That kind of hurt the momentum of the set for me, but he finished off with a couple more songs that picked things up again. Aside from that, it was a pretty enjoyable set.
If you follow this blog at all, you probably know I had a favourite going into this thing, and that favourite was Chersea. And as excited as I was to see her performing her showcase, I was equally intrigued, since it would be my first time seeing her with a backing band. Chersea usually does everything herself, with mountains of instruments and looping pedals, building layer upon layer for each song. And while she still did some of that -- playing keys, synth, and even the trumpet for a song -- she was joined by Adam Michael Dean on bass, and a pair of drummers, Chartwell Kerr and Timmy "Boom Bap" Proznick.
After playing her introduction video, moody blue lights covered the stage as music to match and the disembodied voice of Chersea filled the room. She was quickly spotted coming up through the crowd from the back of the venue, starting the set off with the dark and vaguely creepy "The Wolf", her current Peak single.
Chersea was very energetic and upbeat throughout the set; I am used to seeing her more or less tethered behind her equipment, and while she was always bubbling with energy there, the band setup allowed her way more space to move around the stage, which she used to her advantage. After a soaring and catchy pop song that I assume was called "Heartbreaker", she pulled out her Classic Canadian Cover, Chilliwack, a fun rendition of their song "My Girl" that included a keytar solo.
She also got the audience involved a few times, recording everyone clapping along and working that into the loop for "Comfort You", a danceable song that let her powerful voice shine. She also released large balloons into the crowd, to bound from person to person until they popped, showering those below with glitter.
I tried to step outside of my bias while watching it, and still captivated by the set. Chersea is a great performer, and I really hope she makes the top three (but will no doubt have a bright future regardless).
Finishing off the night was Little India. I had actually seen them just a couple weeks ago opening for 2013 PPP winner Rykka, and thought the indie-pop four-piece had a pretty similar set to that night.
They started off with a few songs reminiscent of the early 00's indie-rock/post-punk sound (or even the bands that inspired that movement), but as the set went on, they seemed to get more and more into their own sound.
Their Canadian cover was "Sk8er Boi" by Avril Lavigne (which made me feel a little old, that these young kids grew up on the song), and was a decent rendition, making it their own.
Much like last time, it was their last two songs of the set that really caught my attention. Both songs took interesting twists and turns, ending the set with an explosive finish.
They are still a bunch of young guys, and are definitely full of talent and potential. I would be a little surprised if they place in the top three this year, but if they keep at it, soon enough they are going to be big*. As I said last time, I am definitely interested to see how they progress.
*(Mind you, the last time I said that about a band in the Peak Performance Project it was Dear Rouge, so...)
All around, it was a strong showcase with all three acts bringing something different to the table. And next week is going to be the last Peak Performance Project showcase ever, with JP Maurice, Windmills, and Van Damsel.