The Peak Performance Project is a multi-year contest in which The Peak, along with Music BC, picks 20 BC musicians/bands each a year and makes them stars. Past winners are We Are The City, Kyprios, Current Swell, and Dear Rouge with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.
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. Phase two is a series of shows at Fortune Sound Club; 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. 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 it's always interesting to see who each act chooses, if it's someone obvious to their style, or something way outside the box.
Starting off the night -- and the showcase series -- was Vancouver's Melissa Endean, who has the distinction of having the first all-female band in the Peak Performance Project history. Her strong voice and sultry passion on stage (and also maybe her backup dancers) immediate captured the crowd's attention, and her sound was fleshed out with the addition of a violin and keys in her band.
The highlight was a song called "Enemy" which more that showed off the raw power of her voice, and for her Canadian Cover, she chose an appropriate song for both her sound and attitude, "Lucky" by Bif Naked; a strong cover of an already gorgeous song.
Based on what I had heard -- the one song that The Peak was playing -- I was very pleasantly surprised by her set. Much better than I thought she would be.
Next up was Towers and Trees from Victoria. They brought a big, folksy, anthemic sound with lots of opportunities to sing or clap along, and were definitely having a blast on stage. Their energy was infectious as they got the crowd into it. Most of the set was filled with similar songs, though there was one gospel-inspired song part way through, with the highlight being "Montreal" (and not just because if may contain a subtle Doctor Who reference in the lyrics).
Despite teasing a little Hey Rosetta! early in the set, with "Red Heart" slipped into a song, their Canadian Cover ended up being"Crabbuckit" by k-os. I am always impressed when a band can take a song so far out of their wheelhouse and make it sound like their own; and Towers & Trees definitely did that, walking that find line between staying true to the original and making it their own. Probably my favourite cover of the night.
The night moved right along with Greg Drummond up next. The Port Moody singer/songwriter also had a big band with him, instruments like stand up bass and accordion rounded his sound out. His set wasn't by any means bad, but nothing really set him apart from the myriad of other singer/songwriters. Nothing really stood out, either good or bad. Drummond and his band are good musicians, and he had a strong energy, getting the crowd to clap along a couple times and even going into the crowd
He dedicated his Canadian cover song to Jay Smith, the guitarist from Matt Mays & El Torpedo who passed away earlier this year, and launched into "Tall Trees". It was a nearly spot-on cover, not straying much from the original.
And finally, wrapping up the night was Willhorse. The four piece rock band from Golden was joined by JP Maurice, who is no stranger to the Peak Performance Project, and from their first song they hit the proverbial gas and never looked back. Their dirty, swampy rock sound may not be anything revolutionary, but they do what they do very, very well.
Amid the high energy songs, they took a moment to bring it down when part way through the set, the band took a break for lead singer Jeremy Borschneck to start a song solo, only to kick in and join him at the end.
They had fellow PPP member Lydia Hol out to help them with their cover of "Poets" by The Tragically Hip -- which was a solid rendition -- and another past Peak Performance Project person joined them for their last song, Matt Rose of The Matinée shredding on the banjo.
They played right up until their time limit, even having to cut their last song -- either they weren't watching the clock close enough, or it was a shrewd move to get the crowd clamouring for more (which they certainly were).
The night was a strong start to the showcase series, and it'll keep right on going next week with Lydia Hol, The Lion The Bear The Fox, Rolla Olak, and Rykka.