The PEAK Performance Project BC - 2015 Finale
November 19, 2015
Review by Chloe Sjuberg, Photography by Jenn of Creative Copper Images
Well, here we are, at the end of all things. Or at least that’s how it feels to say goodbye to the BC Peak Performance Project. The innovative program has come to an end after seven years supporting the development of over 100 local artists, many of whom are now household names in the BC music community. With the placing of the “final final three” artists judged in advance based on previous performances and assignments, the stakes for this show may have been low competitively, but they were high emotionally. Energy ran high and plenty of enthusiastic fans turned up for all three artists. This was a night to remember.
Van Damsel took this opportunity to let loose even more than in October’s showcase performance at Fortune Sound Club. Their songs all had a similar energy – catchy and feel-good, with big sound from the vocals in particular (though they overpowered the rest of the music at times). They played a very similar set to their showcase performance, but seemed more confident while doing so. Songs included Caught, Sophia and Best of Everything – the latter, guest-starring Conan Karpinski from Little India, is the first single from their upcoming debut album and hence, understandably, their most polished.
Their sound channelled many influences: the high, peppery drums and guitar of Phoenix or Vampire Weekend; dramatic, let-it-all-out Killers-style lines; and watery, shiny hooks reminiscent of Boston and similar ‘80s groups.
Lead singer Sebastien Ste Marie let his big, upbeat presence run wild, dancing across the stage, throwing in a few lines of Hotline Bling, and taking every chance he got to get the crowd moving. I lost count of the number of times he asked us to “let [him] see those hands in the air.” It got pretty cheesy, but you have to hand it to the band for putting out huge energy and engaging the crowd. The less curmudgeonly in the audience, AKA almost everyone but me, were getting right into the fun.
BED OF STARS
Bed of Stars changed up the tone with his vulnerable yet powerful stage presence. Evan Konrad and his band’s confident rock instrumentals lend a strong backing to his dreamy vocals, and it’s easy to get as wrapped up in his music as he is. However, his set was plagued by audio issues – the sound seemed off balance and his normally strong vocals were dulled and indistinct. On Out of Touch, the string section that makes the song stand out got lost, although its triumphant sadness still leapt through.
While his showcase performance won my heart with its incredible tightness and professionalism, tonight Bed of Stars no longer sounded quite like he was playing to win, which, even though he didn’t need to be, was disappointing. The sound challenges no doubt contributed to a waning energy and enthusiasm on his part. Because I’ve seen what he’s capable of, I wanted to know what these songs would sound like at their best!
However, he began mounting a comeback with a very well-received cover of the Backstreet Boys’ Larger Than Life. Subsequent songs harnessed rocky feedback, otherworldly keys, and serrated guitar to create a powerful, hit-you-in-the-throat sound. As the set went on, Konrad let loose, jumping on and off the amps and and ratcheting up to the level of energy he deserved to bring to this show.
JP Maurice drifted into his set slow and quiet, but only for a hot minute before he blew up the Commodore with an all-out, shiny energy that didn’t let up for the rest of the night. He hit all tones, from moody and grungy to bright and soulful, but the ever-present element was fun. Even though tonight’s performance wasn’t a competition, Maurice was playing like a winner. He absolutely owned the stage with his joyful, confident presence. He and his band played so well together, and their sound perfectly filled the space.
The night culminated in epic performances of Big Change and Good Feeling. Neither song could have felt more appropriate. Giant balloons bounced through the crowd and Maurice invited up guest after guest until at least a dozen people filled the stage, including fellow Top 12-ers Mindil Beach, previous PPP all-stars like Bend Sinister, a killer horn section, and Bed of Stars’ Evan Konrad back again. Give it a few years, and the guest list to this party would feel like a top-notch BC supergroup. Mindil Beach’s Patrick Codere had a great guitar solo, and Cam Ainslie threw down some of his signature rap verses. This cooperative, community atmosphere really sums up the BC music scene at its best. It’s consistent, too, for Maurice, who earlier this fall spearheaded “Cover Up for the Planet,” a charitable event at the Biltmore which brought together an amazing lineup of local artists.
As closing act for the night and an entire project, JP Maurice did his role sweet justice. This was the most fun I’ve had at a show in a long time.
Before the winners were announced, thanks and awards were presented to Bob D’Eith of Music BC and Tamara Stanners, the Peak’s executive director. (Check out our interviews with both of these passionate people by clicking their names. Full disclosure: Tamara, if you’re reading this, it was me who aspired to be as cool as you in your interview with us…it made MY day to make your day!)
For the final moment of truth, Van Damsel was awarded third place and $50,000; second place and $75,000 went to JP Maurice, and Bed of Stars took home first place and $102,700!
JP Maurice was the star of tonight’s show without question, so it felt strange to see his name in second place while still riding the sparkly high of his performance. However, based on his innovative sound and the level of confidence, energy and polished professionalism in his earlier show, I feel great about saying Bed of Stars deserved to take home the top prize.
While the Peak Performance Project may have come to an end, I’m hopeful that our awesome local music community will find many ways to carry on its legacy.