The Peak Performance Project is a multi-year contest in which The Peak, along with Music BC, picks 20 BC musicians/bands a year and makes them stars. Past winners are We Are The City, Kyprios, and Current Swell with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.
Part one of the project was a rock & roll boot camp where they 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 The Red Room, 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, and 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 I am definitely looking forward to see who each act chooses (and, as in the past, I am going to keep a running tally on how many Arcade Fire, Neil Young or Leonard Cohen songs we get).
The penultimate showcase was another with mostly bands I was unfamiliar with, so I was looking forward to what the unknown-to-me bands had to offer. Every year of the project I've discovered at least one or two new bands that, while they had varying success through the project, ended up being a personal favourite of mine.
: After a bit of a long instrumental intro, Georgia Murray took the stage with a band comprised of a few familiar faces and PPP-vets; Tim Proznick (Kyprios) was on drums and Ashleigh Eymann
on backup vocals. Murray had a bit of a soul and R&B tinged rock, with a warm stage presence and a strong voice, but a lot of the songs blended together and sounded a bit the same. Though one did stand out, "Never Die", which sounded like it would have made a perfect James Bond theme.
Alanis Morissette made her second appearance in the showcase series as Georgia covered "You Oughta Know", which was a good, but pretty straightforward cover, and she ended the night with a bit of a slower and sultry number, "SRH".
: A last minute replacement this year, after another band dropped out, the four-piece from Ladner had a bit of that mid-00's indie rock sound with a retro twist. With a great energy on stage, Tough Lovers have some pretty catchy songs, but they didn't really stand out from each other. Even their cover,
a very fitting and fun version of Paul Anka's "Put Your Head On My Shoulders" (which actually wasn't the first time
that song was covered in the PPP) blended in with the rest of their set. That didn't make it bad, though; it was definitely an entertaining set, and were quite fun to watch live. But they're still only a couple years old, as a band, and they just need to keep at it, to "find their sound" so to speak. And I, for one, will be interested to see how they grow.
Fields of Green
: When I saw Fields of Green in last year's competition, I thought they'd have a good shot at winning... if they entered the next year. And here we are, one year later, with the Kelowna quartet back for another go. Their synthy prog-rock sound has indeed matured, and they've grown as a band, with a wildly energetic show; especially Johnny Jansen, who is the most fun drummer to watch, seemingly flailing erratically, pounding the skins with wild abandon -- but without being sloppy in the least.
With songs that swirled to psychedelic crescendos, burst into explosive endings, and feature some nice harmonies, they created an intricate yet catchy sound.
For their Canadian cover they did a pretty good job with April Wine's "Say Hello" and wrapped up with their current Peak single, "The Do Nothings", another highly energetic and rocking song.
I think they definitely have a well deserved shot at it this year, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they end up in the top five.
The Gay Nineties
: I had heard a lot of buzz and good things about The Gay Nineties before the show, so I was equal parts in interested to see them and apprehensive that they wouldn't live up to the hype. They started the set with a sheet up across the stage and an old movie playing on the screens with a musical number about "the gay 90's" before the curtain dropped and they launched into "In and Out of Style". I was immediately struck by their amazing energy and presence on stage; they were a well oiled machine with hints of psych-rock and grunge in their incredibly infectious rock. And both guitarist Parker Bossley and bassist Daniel Knowlton -- who share vocals -- had a great charisma, with a great back & forth, playing off each other really well. They broke out "Hot Child in the City" from Nick Glider for their Canadian cover, matching the energy of the rest of their set, and ended the night with a bang, with a song called "Handle It All"
The band definitely lived up to the buzz and ended up as one of my new favourites of the competition. Yet another act I am hoping makes the top three, and if this was any indication, they've got a strong chance of it.
And with that, the series is almost over. The final showcase happens on the 18th, and will wrap up with Dominique Fricot, Mike Edel, T. Nile, and Portage & Main (one of the bands I am rooting for most).