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.
And while I know MusicBC doesn't purposefully "stack" the lineups for these showcases, there's no way that it was just a coincidence that the last ever Peak Performance Project Showcase featured these three.
Starting the night was Cory Myraas from the Okanagan, better known under his musical alias Windmills. Cory was alone on stage with a guitar, armed with a drum pad and looping pedal as backup, in front of a projection screen, sometimes showing beautiful scenery, sometimes showing abstract geometric animations. His ambient-pop (or "swoon-pop" as he jokingly dubbed it) driven by haunting guitars and his smooth voice, as he harmonizing with himself on songs like "Face To A Name".
I've seen Windmills a few times live, and while I have enjoyed his performances, one thing that always struck me was his set usually seemed to drag a little towards the end; but that was definitely not the case here, as he built to a strong ending. "Shame" had Cory lamenting "you're a mistake worth repeating" as it built in intensity, followed by a bit of a dancier song which saw him grab a megaphone and go into the crowd (and also completely bail getting back onstage, but he recovered nicely, even poking fun at himself after, with his charmingly corny stage banter).
He closed out the set with his Classic Canadian Cover, a strong rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Which was a good cover, to be sure, but I am just not sure the world needs any more versions of that song, especially since it has been perfected at least three times.
(It was, surprisingly enough, the first time "Hallelujah" had been covered in the entire run of the PPP)
Staying in the Okanagan, next up was Van Damsel, bursting on stage with a great energy & stage presence, and some fun indie-pop. They got the crowd clapping and dancing, as frontman Sebastien Ste Marie hardly stood still all night. He bound around the stage, even coming right up to the edge a few times, once reaching into the crowd during one song with the apropos lyrics "I just wanna reach you".
After teasing a cover early on by slipping in a little bit of Arkells' "Leather Jacket", their actual cover ended up being my favourite I have seen this year, a pretty badass version of "Romantic Rights" by Death From Above 1979. And that would have been good enough, but they even segued into Cory Hart's "Sunglasses at Night" in the middle, with Sebastien donning a leather jacket and shades.
And after a few more songs, they wrapped up with a catchy song called "Circular Symphony", and their big single "Best of Everything", which had people singing along.
From the buzz early on, they've been a favourite to at least place in the top three, if not win the whole thing, and would definitely not be surprised to see it happen.
Finally, to close out the show, the series, and the project, was a man who has been involved in it perhaps more than anyone else (not employed by Music BC) JP Maurice. It was not only his third year as an entrant, but he had also played with a couple other bands in the project.
He started off the set from the back of the room, weaving through the crowd (which was a sea of his own face plastered on glossy printouts, something he says he had nothing to do with) with a moody redux of "The Other One", before launching into his upbeat & catchy pop-rock.
His cover took us back to the 80s with "Innocence" originally by Harlequin, and he also pulled out his winning Bootcamp collaboration song, originally with Alberta band The Wisers, but this time with Bed Of Stars' Evan Conrad filling in.
After a older song, and still one of my favourites of his, "Mistake", and the full version of the heartfelt "The Other One", the set came to a finish with a (literal) bang; his current single, the huge, pop-rock anthem "Big Change". He brought out a small horn section, one of his pals from Mindil Beach for a rap verse, and a burst of confetti to close out the night.
As predicted by the lineup, it was strong showcase, and a heck of a way to end close this chapter. I am predicting we'll see JP and/or Van Damsel in the top three and wouldn't be surprised if Windmills is in there too.
The next step is the voting, which is open now, where you can go vote for your favourite (because everyone loves voting, right?!) and the wait until the top three are announced on October 29th. From there, it's on to the finale at the Commodore Ballroom on November 19th.