Peak performance finals leave Vancouver stunned

A sold out Commodore Ballroom rallied together Friday night for a showcase that capped off a long run for three of BC's up-and-coming artists. The journey began six months ago when a panel chose 20 out of 500 artists who submitted application packages to Vancouver radio station 100.5 The Peak. In a project sponsored by the Pattison Group among other smaller sponsors, artists are encouraged to try their hand at staking a claim at part of 5.29 million dollars that will be awarded to artists over the seven years planned for the project.

After taking part of a week long band bootcamp and completing various challenges, the top 20 became the top three a few weeks ago, and Friday's finale concert was the last showcase for the artists, and also the award ceremony for the winner.

Each of the three acts not only offered a completely different blend of sounds, but also showcased a different facet of live performing that their competitors lacked. Given the variety of the performances, the evening was an interesting flow of music that brought British Columbia together – and nearly divided it right at the end of the evening.

The first act of the night was Victoria's Vince Vaccaro, a folk-pop guitarist who dons a surfer-meets-hippie vibe onstage, rocking a bandana and wooden beaded necklace. Vaccaro's brand of upbeat soulful tunes had the packed crowd dancing in no time, charming the dance floor with his witty banter and personable demeanor. What Vaccaro brought to the table more than his competitors was an unmistakable personality that rose above his fellow performers. Vaccaro's guitar skills and confidence added to his tunes, which eased their way into the crowd's hearts if only because of how lovable Vaccaro presented himself.

Vancouver hometown heroes Said the Whale took the stage next and brought their biggest asset with them: the sense of community. The five-piece rock outfit slunk onstage looking somewhere between shy and nervous, but quickly shook off that misnomer by launching into a set filled with material that the Vancouver crowd were clearly quite familiar with. Shortly before the band's set, the outside skies poured down with the city's first winter snowfall, an opportunity that one of the two vocalists, Tyler Bancroft, took no shame in capitalizing on. "I don't know if you've looked outside," he said. "But it's snowing! This city's a mess." The band took that cue to launch into "This City's a Mess", a good display of on-stage spontaneity and use of intangible resources. Halfway through their set, the band invited all the top 20 artists onstage to join them for a sing-along tribute to The Peak. With easily at least 50 people on stage smiling and hugging, Said the Whale were showing some major love to their colleagues, almost silently representing all the artists who did not make it into the top three.

The final performer of the night was another Vancouver act, soul/hip-hop aficionado Kyprios, backed by no less than a near-dozen back up musicians including a DJ, a horn section, and two sassy back-up vocalists. Kyprios' greatest feature was the capability of creating a makeshift environment with very little material at hand. By dressing himself and his stage in matching black and white uniforms of crisp linen shirts, wife beaters and suspenders, he momentarily transported the crowd into an old-school swing club. With the appearance of a sticker-plastered DJ booth juxtaposing the retro-R&B-esque stage setup, Kyprios gave the impression he had planned this entire setup quite specifically. His music, like the visual element, was a great diversion from the other musicians of the night, offering a little something different. Halfway through his set, Kyprios put the rapping aside for a musical medley paying tribute to his “forefathers” of Canadian rock such as Bryan Adams and Corey Hart. He then went against this by insulting major radio stations (aside from The Peak, naturally) insisting he has something different to offer, calling out musicians like Justin Bieber and Fergie for being derivative.

After the three artists had wrapped up their sets, Peak on-air personalities as well as suited-up bigwigs came on stage and presented the artists with their cash prizes. The tension in the room was thick, with frantic fans updating their Twitter accounts in anticipation of the results. Vaccaro placed third, but even that didn't wipe the massive grin off his face. And why would it? Even though technically “last place” for the night, he still placed in front of hundreds of other acts who applied to be in his spot, and earned a massive cheque for $50,000. The panel then awarded first place (in the fashion of Miss America, rather than announcing second place next) to Kyprios, earning a shocked and mixed reaction from the crowd. Kyprios earned $100,5000, and second place winners Said the Whale received $75,000. While each act looked grateful and slightly modest, Kyprios held his massive novelty cheque above his head and entered front row center of the stage, while the crowd, quite boldly started chanting in unison "Said the Whale," showing their disapproval for the placement.

Though Said the Whale, hands down favourites for the prize, placed second, they proved that the display of community and human connection to their music will pay off down the road. If their live show says anything, they've got a lot to look forward to in the coming years, first place or no first place. The crowd quickly dispersed, and the only reaction I could overhear from countless audience members was "Can you believe it? How did they get second?" It seemed then, that, in Vancouver's hearts, Said the Whale were the real winners.

//JJ Brewis, Art Director

//author illustration

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