Thursday night marked the end of a seven year journey that put millions of dollars into supporting locals bands and talent. I am talking, of course, about The Peak Performance Project. As usual, everything wrapped up with this year's top three playing the grand finale at the Commodore, and the reveal of the winner. First place would take home $102,700, $75,000 went to second place, and $50,000 for third. The winner had been long decided, known only to a select few, and the night was just a celebration for the top three, to play at the legendary Commodore Ballroom.
Starting off the night was Kamloops' Van Damsel who were, from the beginning, my prediction to take it (though I'm more often than not wrong when it comes to predictions). I have seen them a few times recently, and I think they were on top of their game Thursday night. The band was obviously happy to be playing the Commodore, in front of friends and family that had flown in just for the show. And that joy bled through into their bouncy and upbeat upbeat indie-pop. Especially lead singer Sebastien Ste Marie who hardly stood still, getting everyone to clap along several times, and even leaning into the crowd, arm outstretched, with the apropos lyrics "I just wanna reach you" during "Sophia".
Other highlights included the swirling intro to "Something Gold", and their big single "Best of Everything", which saw them invite out Conan Karpinski from follow Top 12 band Little India, and had the dancefloor singing along.
I thought that would have been the perfect ending, but they had one last song, an instrumental intro spotlighting bass player Matt “Renny” Rennehan building to a bit more of a mellow song.
Second up on the night was Bed of Stars, Evan Konrad and his band taking the stage to moody lighting and smoke, starting with the soaring single "Nothing Left to Lose". From there, they filled the room with alt-pop songs that matched the mood of the lightshow.
I had missed their showcase set and it was hyped to me as one of the best, which may be part of the reason I was surprised that the set this night seemed flat. Which isn't to say it was bad; from a technical standpoint it was a good, Evan and his band were on point, and his vocals strong. But there was just something about it felt like it just didn't connect.
There were a couple songs I really liked, though, one that came midway through that I didn't catch the name of, but was a lot heavier and more rocking than the rest of the set, and near the end when he brought some of Smash Boom Pow on stage to help with a very unexpected cover, "Larger Than Life" by Backstreet Boys. It seemed like at that point in the set just getting into it, but it came just a bit too late, as there were only two songs left, ending with a with some bone-rattling bass.
And finally, I couldn't think of anyone better to end off the night than the man that feels like the unofficial poster boy of the Peak Performance Project, JP Maurice. It was his third time through the program (not counting the couple times he was a hired gun for other bands) but clearly his most successful.
With a band comprised of some familiar faces (members of Fields of Green, Willhorse, and Bend Sinister) he started with a bit of a slow and moody overture of "The Other One" before ramping up the energy. The set was full of JP's emotion-filled, heart-on-his-sleeve songs like "Get Some" and the unabashed "The Other One". One of my favourites, "Mistake" even saw large balloons bounce around the crowd until they popped, showering everyone below with confetti.
Midway through his set he started an almost nonstop parade of special guests, first packing the stage with even more members of Willhorse and Bend Sinister, as well as some of The Boom Booms, Benjamin James Caldwell, and Savvie, for a song about touring the vast country of Canada. Some of which stayed onstage for the rest of the night, as he then brought out a horn section for a straight up throwback pop song, Evan Konrad for his bootcamp collaboration, and Roderick Campbell of Mindil Beach for the huge finale to the set, "Big Change" ... at a certain point it was almost easier to list who wasn't on stage.
And then, of course, came the big announcement. Third place going to Van Damsel, and second to JP Maurice, which meant Bed of Stars took the grand prize of $102,700 in money for artist development.
And of course, none of this would not have happened without all the hard working people at The Peak and MusicBC. They did an amazing job in their seven year run, and while -- if I'm being honest -- I disagreed with the some of their choices more often than not (for bands in the Top 20/12/3), I can't deny that the last seven late summer/early autumns have been a great time. A great time for musicians. A great time for music fans. A great time for the local music scene in general. I have discovered so many amazing bands and musicians through the project, even made some friends along the way, and I will be more than a little sad when this time next year rolls around, and it feels a little empty.