Peak Performance Project Showcase #3 @ Fortune Sound Club -- 10/08/15

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. 

Peak Performance Project Showcase #5 @ Red Room -- 10/18/12

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 CityKyprios, 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 final showcase of this year's Peak Performance Project, it was a bit of a bittersweet night. The Red Room was packed with fans and other musicians alike, all soaking in as much as they could, like the last days of summer camp. It was also a showcase I was looking forward to, with three acts I haven't heard as much as I'd like from, and one of my favourites from this year's crop of bands. 

Mike EdelI missed the first couple songs from Mike Edel (the Red Room is notoriously slow letting the large lines in), but luckily caught the majority of the set. He had a few familiar faces in his band, Colin McTaggart on guitar and Kiana Brasset on violin & helping out on vocals. With a bit of a low key, folk driven sound, his set was good, and he has well written and heartfelt songs, but I didn't think there was much to set him apart; either from the rest of the top twenty, or from his genre.
He chose "Heart of Gold" from Neil Young for his cover, which was a fine interpretation, and just when I was thinking he needed a bit more of an edge, he wrapped up with the two most dynamic songs, "The Country Where I Came From" and "More Than The Summer". The former starting soft and slow and burst into an energetic ending, and the latter keeping that energy up; a good pair to end off on.
(Disclaimer: I have considered that, since I missed the beginning, I started in a bit of a mid-set-lull, which was the basis my opinion)

T. Nile: With a banjo in hand, a sharply dressed band, and a large parasol at the back of the stage with images and videos projected onto it, Tamara Nile took the stage for her set. She had a darker folk sound, with a bit of an electronic tinge, and a strong voice to drive the songs. She is definitely a good musician, but I didn't think anything really stood out from the set; it could have been that the Red Room can be merciless to the acts that sway on the folk or quieter side, but I didn't find myself drawn in. 
She brought out Graham Madden from Tough Lovers to help out with her Canadian cover, Byran Adams' "Cuts Like A Knife" (which has shown up in previous years) and ended the set with her current Peak-single, "Running", which was a good example of her electro-folk sound, and my favourite of the set. 

Dominique Fricot: No stranger to the Peak Performance Project, Dominique Fricot was in the first year as part of The Painted Birds. But now Dom has struck out on his own and is in this year as a solo act, backed by a band with some notable Vancouver musicians. The main members included Rob Tornroos on guitar & Niko Friesen on drums, and he also had Hilary Grist helping out on backup vocals and members of Four on the Floor on strings for a few songs. 
There are a few bands or musicians this year that I thought have been talented, but just need that extra edge, or just a little something to set them apart, and Dom is one of them. He has a great stage presence and charisma, and you can tell he pours his emotions into his songs, but they just need a bit of a kick to set them apart. 
His sound has a strong 90's alt rock influence, and there were a few songs, such as "Burn and Start Over", that were quite catchy. He didn't stray too far from that 90's influences with his cover of "You Don't Love Me" from Philosopher Kings, which featured Adaline out on backup vocals. The duo's voices mixed very well together, and Dom was at his most outgoing and energetic on stage during the cover. 
That being said, Fricot does have a certain appeal, with huge supportive fan base (which is well deserved) and I would not be surprised (or disappointed) to see him in the top five. 

Portage & Main: I've made it no secret that I have clear favourites in this year's competition, and Portage & Main was one from the get-go. They've been my pick to win it from the start, and their set just strengthened that opinion. The folk-roots-rock band kicked off in high gear with the rocking "Sweet Darling" and hardly looked back.  Even with some of the slower songs, they managed to keep up a high energy, especially both John Sponarski and Harold Donnelly, who play off each other so well.
Their cover was another Bryan Adams tune, "Summer of '69", which was not really a bold choice, but a good interpretation, slowed down and rootsy, more geared towards their style; and they had a good chunk of people singing along with the chorus. 
They brought the set to a big ending, inviting nearly everyone involved in the PPP on stage to belt out the chorus of "Oh Carolina" -- as well as the crowd -- for a huge singalong, and a great showing of camaraderie for all the bands. Some of the musicians even didn't want the experience to end, staying on stage chanting "Oh Carolina" after the band was done. 

And with that, the showcase series is over. Now is when the the business side of the competition kicks in, with the bands each having to write a business report -- showing it's not just about how well the musicians play, but how industry savvy they are as well, There is also the voting process, which counts towards their "final grade". So head over to the Peak Performance Project website to vote for who you think should take the top stop, and cross your fingers. The top five will be announced on November 1st, and the top three will play the grand finale on November 22nd at the Commodore, to find out who wins $102,700.

Steph Macpherson with Mike Edel and The Ruffled Feathers @ The Railway -- 06/22/11

Even though I've seen Steph Macpherson a few times this year, it's always been opening for someone else. So when her co-headlining tour with Mike Edel stopped at the Railway, I was excited. And add Ruffled Feathers to the mix, and you got yourself a show.

Up first was The Ruffled Feathers, with their rich chamber-pop sound and usual assortment of instruments, from slide trumpet to ukulele, megaphone to mandolin -- which was at one point played with a bow! I have had the chance to see them a couple times this year already, and the have been improving each time. The songs, and each member of the band, were brimming with energy.
Most of the set had (the adorable) Gina Loes on vocals, but there were a lot of group vocals, as well as other members, Andrew Lee and Charley Wu (both only slightly less adorable) taking over from time to time. They ended the set with their new one, “Blueprints for a Failed Revolution” and and older one I didn't catch the name of, but started slow and soft and built to a great big ending.

Victoria's Mike Edel was up next, and he had an upbeat and energetic folk rock vibe going. His voice, at times, reminded me of both Colin Meloy or Marcus Mumford, or a bizarre cross between the two, but didn't sound like a copy of either. He had a good mix of faster, upbeat songs mixed with a few slower ones, and part way through the set, he broke out a Gretsch White Falcon, which is a guitar I want, even though I don't, and probably never will play. He also brought out another secret weapon near the end, Steph Macpherson for backup vocals on a song, and getting the crowd to join in as well.
His set did seem to go on a bit long, though. While the set was enjoyable, it definitely dragged on a little toward the end.

And rounding out the night was Steph Macpherson, whose band included Edel on guitar and Savannah from Redbird providing backup vocals. Her set had a good mix of older songs – the emotional “Letters” was a highlight -- and new. The new ones sounded really good, especially the last two; the first I didn't catch the name of, but was quite good, and the final song of the night, Steph's entry in the Shore104 Song Search Competition, was “Summer Salute” which is a fantastic song, very upbeat and insanely catchy ; definitely my favourite of the night and a great song to end the show – and start the summer – with.
(In fact I decided then and there that it would be my “summer jam” of this year).