Then & Now @ Wise Hall -- 10/10/14

Now in its third year, Then and Now is a simple concept; take a handful of local artists, and get them to play a brand new song & an old song -- their newest, shiniest song, and one of their first songs -- and tell stories about both. Put on by Altered By Mom's Devon Lougheed, and Leigh Eldridge, the night was also a fundraiser for Megaphone Magazine, a local publication that is sold by the homeless or low income people, who get to keep the profits of their sales.

Even though Devon was absent from the event, the night was hosted by Caitlin Howden (The Sunday Service) and Stu Popp (SADCAST, Fat Kids On Basketball), who kept things rolling along and even started an impromptu auction of things they took out of the musicians pockets. Such wondrous items included a guitar pick, an unused bus pass, an american $10 bill, and a partially used Earl's gift card, all of which helped earn over $40 more for Megaphone.

Each of the eight acts was slotted two songs, so even with a little bit of setup in-between a few of them, the night never seemed to drag on.

The night started with the husband & wife duo The Wild Romantics and the first song they sang together, a cover of "Valley of Decision" by The Horse Thieves. Their 'now' was a new one called "Memphis, TN", fitting of the duo's alt-country twang, as they ended the song forehead-to-forehead, sharing the microphone, their voices blending together beautifully.

Badgerchild made some of the crowd feel old as she told the story about her then-song, the first song she put up on YouTube as a teenager, Vince Vaccaro's "Costa Rica" after being inspired to pick up the guitar after a breakup. She followed that up with breathy vocals on a new song called "Out of my Head".

Next was CityReal, supported by Tonye Aganaba on guitar, for some acoustic hip hop. He said it was the first time he had ever performed his songs acoustically, as he played on a djembe with Tonye's voice mixing quite well with his rapping.

The first half of the night wrapped up with Hot Panda. Lead singer Chris Connely came out alone on guitar, singing a cover of the first song he ever performed live, "Steak For Chicken" by The Moldy Peaches. Their 'now' turned into a hilarious performance art piece, after Chris claimed guitars were done, and technology was the future. First he pulled out his phone to get Siri to play the sick beat they made, then once that failed, he went to the tablet... which was out of power. And finally just went to the laptop for some (acceptable) backing tracks and brought out the other two band members in their DJ personas, on "synth" and "instagram video". No text description can live up to the performance, but the song itself was ridiculously catchy.

After the intermission, the second half began with CAST, a really interesting and unique performance by the jazzy drum & vocal duo, with Ben Brown on drums, who were accompanied by a tap dancer.

Tonye Aganaba returned to the stage next, taking the concept to heart with her first song being how she felt about love then -- raw and unbridled emotions -- and her now being how she more currently felt, her amazingly impressive voice silencing the hall.

Going to the very extremes of "then and now" Wide Mouth Mason singer Shaun Verreault -- like a few others during the night -- played the very first song he ever performed in front of people, Black Crowes' "She Talks to Angels" while his 'now' was the most 'now' he could have gotten, a brand new song which he had just finished writing while at the show itself, as he silenced the hall with his effortless and amazing guitar playing.

And finally, after one more short break to set up her gear, the night came to a close with Chersea. The singer/songwriter/looper went back to the very first song she wrote on a loop station, a gorgeous a capella song called "Classy" that showed off her own incredible voice, and her new was also the newest song she had in her arsenal, an upbeat and high energy dancy song.

Like the first two iterations, the night was fun and eclectic, zipping through genres with stories about why each performer chose the songs they did. It's always interesting hearing the change in artists over time, or seeing some of the influences of their work, and I hop it'll be back again for a fourth year.

Peak Performance Project Showcase #2 @ Fortune -- 09/25/14

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)

While the first showcase was more of a folksy affair, this one was a little more rockin'.

Altered By Mom: This is the second year in the project for Devon Lougheed. His previous band beekeeper competed a couple years ago, but have since broke up, leading the way for this new band with an unabashed 90s alt-rock influenced sound, who were one of my early favourites this year.
With a stage adorned in balloons -- including a large A, B, and M -- the band started as Devon made his way through the crowd, pumping people up, before jumping on stage. And then jumping around the stage. Devon has always had an unlimited reserve of energy on stage, and this was no different. At one point he even brought Peak DJ Carly Walde up on stage for a faux proposal during "Small Joys", and later ran through the crowd to hand out Altered By Mom cootie catchers/fortune tellers.
Their cover was a grunged out version of "Old Man" by Neil Young, which they had in their pocket from before the project, and they closed the set with some of their strongest songs; a slower, more heartfelt song called "Larger Than The Ribs" dedicated to all of the bands' moms, before doing a 180 music- and lyric-wise into the very cheeky "Cup Of Coffee, Babe". They brought up a couple guests for their last song, their first-place-winning Bootcamp Collaboration song, Kevvy Mental from Fake Shark Real Zombie and Jasmin Parkin of Mother Mother, the set ended with a giant singalong, Devon splitting the crowd for duelling vocals, for an amazing finish to their set.

Miss Quincy & The Showdown: Another one of my favourites going into the project this year is the all-girl blues rock band from up north. Miss Quincy's raw, powerful voice drove the set as they started with "What Is Life If It Ain't Strange" off their recent album Roadside Recovery (produced by PPP alumni Matthew Rogers of The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer). They didn't say too much through the set, mostly letting the music speak for itself, from badass & sultry songs like "Bad Love" to the almost hymnal "Take It To The Well", which had the crowd stomping and clapping along -- and singing by the end.
Miss Quincy teased a few old standbys for her cover, someone you might expect a rock band to play, before subverting expectations and launching into "Boys Wanna Be Her" by Peaches. I never would have guessed a Peaches cover, but as soon as they started, it made the most sense in the world. It was a great cover, and unexpected, which made it my favourite of the night.
(side note: the other two covers of the night were the third time each song has been covered by PPP bands over the years)
And finally, they wrapped up the set with the my favourite of the set, "Wild Fucking West", a gritty garage blues rocker that was the perfect way to cap off the set.

Goodwood Atoms: The final band of the night, they were a bit of an anticlimax compared to the first two. From Vancouver, the band was the only one of the night I wasn't familiar with, and had a pretty generic folk rock sound. They started with lead singer Francis Hooper out alone, moody back lighting casting him in silhouette, before the rest of the band joined him for what was a pretty by-the-numbers folk set, shaky harmonies and all. I wouldn't say it was bad, but just did nothing to grab my attention.
Their Classic Canadian Cover was a pretty obvious choice as they did a pretty straightforward version of "The Weight" by The Band, trading off verses, joined by fellow PPP'er David Newberry.
They also had an inexplicable and superfluous belly dancer come out intermittently throughout their set to dance back and forth at the front of the stage. I'm not against backup dancers in general, but they have to make sense in context, and be backup dancers. She was neither, out in front of the band, and there did not seem to be any reason for her to be there other than boobs. It didn't feel like part of the show, it just felt exploitative.

Aside from that, it was a good showcase with two of my three favourites from this month's project. They're taking a break next week, but will be back at Fortune in two weeks with a showcase that includes my third favourite, Shred Kelly, The Tourist Company, and Jodi Pederson.