PEAK PERFORMANCE PROJEct 2015 BC SHOWCASE #1

@ Fortune Soundclub - Vancouver

September 24, 2015

By Chloe Sjuberg


A sizeable, enthusiastic, dance-ready crowd came out for the first showcase of the seventh and final Peak Performance Project, despite it being a rainy Thursday night at Fortune Sound Club in construction-site-plagued Chinatown. 

JOY DISTRICT

The night kicked off with Denman Island rockers Joy District. Loud, punkish vocals and guitars were coupled with complex drum rhythms with non-stop energy.

Most songs, like opener I’ve Been Watching, had catchy choruses, with lots of energy and emotion, but I found they got too repetitive and weren’t very interesting lyrically. At times their sound was also a little messy and the vocals unclear.

The standout song, Play the Fool, was catchy, assured and fun, with their strongest melodic riffs yet. According to the band, it’s about “having fun and being foolish in the summertime,” but rather than the laid-back feel this might imply, grungy guitars and Eli Hilberry’s deeper and rawer vocals gave it a dark, reckless energy and an almost-country, garage-rock sound.

The theme of their closing number, Burned, was “sticking it to the man,” and it was a suitably rousing, militant singalong. Here is one instance where constant repetition of one line (“always play with fire”) for the bulk of the song worked.

Joy District sounds best and most confident when they’re playing in their harder, punchier punk-rock style, rather than their more melancholy choruses, as long as they keep their sound polished. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do as they develop a tighter musical identity.

BED OF STARS

Bed of Stars (AKA Evan Konrad of Abbotsford) has an electro-pop sound that is far from lightweight. Konrad’s strong, clear, emotional vocals – at times reminiscent of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine – are balanced by rich, powerful guitars, drums and basslines with interesting rhythms from his accompanying musicians.

With his deeper-than-deep-V-neck, heavy eyeliner and mop of curly black hair, Konrad has a wonderful stage presence and a great voice to match. Confident and passionate, he seemed so engaged in the moment as he gestured and moved around the stage. Instrumentals and vocals both have a big, wide sound with an impressive range. Songs moved from harder and rockier to gentler and synthier, vocals belt-it loud to introspectively soft, but always full of soul and energy.

Standout number Out of Touch started out with synthy strings, giving it a majestic, harmonic sound and making use of interesting key changes. After that, Shane Stephenson (of PPP 2014 second-place winners Derrival) joined Konrad on stage for a slower, poppier song they collaborated on.

At the outset, I wouldn’t have pegged Rush’s Tom Sawyer as the cover song of choice for Bed of Stars, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that damn, it worked, and it was perfect. It was a fantastic cover, with huge energy, gritty and clean at the same time. It was a very faithful rendition of the original, and although it was awesome, I would also have loved to see what new spin Konrad could have put on it.

Bed of Stars has found its sound and already has a very polished and professional feel. I was absolutely wowed by this set.

MINDIL BEACH

An intro video involving a cartoon Braveheart set the stage for these Sunshine Coast guys’ infectious onstage rapport with each other. They were having a ton of fun, bopping around while playing and throwing down funny banter between songs.

Their opener, Oh Rosie, immediately set the tone, and the fantastic Running Wild followed suit and quickly had me singing along. Mindil Beach has that perfectly old-yet-new, vintage-y blues-rock sound with a tinge of country, a style that’s also worked for bands like Blitzen Trapper, the Sheepdogs and the Black Keys. Lead vocalist and guitarist Patrick Codere has a great voice for this: gritty, warm and textured.

The set also included a few breezier, beachier pop numbers, as well as Brand New Mind, an epic, genre-jumping song about the zombie apocalypse. They were solid, but ultimately didn’t leave me as satisfied as Mindil Beach’s grittier, rockier offerings. (However, they also covered the iconic Safety Dance by Men Without Hats, which was glorious and I don’t think any more words of mine can describe it.)

Their most introspective song was The Darkest Knight, a piano-laden cover of a song by late former band member Daniel Kingsbury. Even though they’d certainly have the right to, given the context, they never lapsed into maudlin, keeping up the confident guitar licks and those turns of tune that just grab you around the back of the heart. Sparklers were passed out among the crowd during this very special, touching tribute.

While the ability to move between diverse styles is a great talent, the challenge most of these up-and-coming bands need to tackle first is finding a strong direction for their sound. Mindil Beach is at their best when they embrace their new-old-school blues-rock identity, rather than the beachy-pop sound that is becoming close to formulaic these days.

While the crowd clamoured for encores, Peak radio host Tamara Stanners described the night as the best and most exciting start to any Peak Performance Project to date. We really look forward to seeing more of these artists and the rest #PPP2015 has to offer!