PEAK Performance Project Showcase #2 @ Red Room, Vancouver; Sept. 20, 2012

Time for Round 2! (Round 1 HERE)

This past Thursday was yet another PEAK Performance Project Showcase Series at the Red Room.  The lineup featured some of BC’s finest folk rock—and I do mean FINEST—with the likes of The River and the Road, Headwater and The Fugitives.  But opening up the grand affair was the dirty, sweaty blues of the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer.  This band—or duo, actually—are best described as the result of throwing the Black Keys and Muddy Waters into a blender and setting it to “liquify”.

Well, for their showcase as in their recordings, Shawn “The Harpoonist” Hall’s  gritty vocals and explosive harmonica chops layered wonderfully with Matthew “The Axe Murderer” Rogers’ blues-driven guitar licks and drum kicks. Yes—Rogers plays both guitar and drums simultaneously; not a full kit, mind you, but a kick and snare drum—one for each foot—that bares the brunt of Rogers’ time keeping. The duo rocked the opening set that included their best (read: my favourite) tune, Roll With the Punches as well as their Canadian cover of Big Sugar‘s Turn The Lights On.  The HAM boys spiced things up a little more for the end of their set by bringing on stage 3 lovely and über-talented ladies, Hilary Grist, Hannah Epperson, and Chelsea Burden for some sultry vocals.  A good call, fellas.

Next up were the charming, soulful talents of The Fugitives.  Opening with a beautiful, sorrowful tune called Blue Belle Lament, Adrian Glynn and gang immediately had the packed house at the Red Room’s attention.  The audience’s attention didn’t diminish, either, as the tunes flowed energetically and joyfully.  For their Canadian cover, the Fugitives whipped out a flawless medley of classic Canadian tunes: Keep the Car Running (Arcade Fire); Ain’t No Cure For Love (Leonard Cohen); Let Your Backbone Slide (Maestro Fresh Wes); You’re Too Cool (The Zolas), and Northwest Passage (Stan Rogers).  If you were wondering who was rapping the Maestro Fresh Wes tune, it was the slam poet master, Brendan McLeod, and he kind of killed it—in a good way.  If that amazing musical pot-pourri of a Canadian covers wasn’t enough, the band finished their set off with a stunning, crowd-engaged gang vocal version of All This Trouble.

I was wondering how the final two bands could successfully follow-up these first two stunner sets. Clearly, I underestimated the sheer popularity of The River and the Road.

It was nearly impossible to get into the pit—front-and-centre—when TRATR hit the stage. I had to meticulously weave my way through swarms of die-hard fans to snap a few shots from one side of the stage.  After a few shots, I figured I’d go around the dancefloor to the other side of the stage to get some shots at a different angle—nope. I couldn’t even get to the dancefloor from the other side.  It was at this point I realized that, 7 bands into the PPP showcases, the River and the Road were THE fan favourite.

Their set went off without a hitch as the band opened with a fabulous, boot-stompin’ version of Child With A Gun and really didn’t look back. The hairy gents also played their hit single—and my favourite of theirs—Elisabeth and covered a Stan RogersNorthwest Passage, all leading up to their mega let’s-get-everyone-in-the-PPP-who’s-here-on-stage-to-sing-gang-vocals final song of their set.  The whole Red Room was in awe and swaying and cheering. It was a great moment to be The River and the Road, I’m most certainly sure.

The final band of the night was the always entertaining and terrific Headwater.  Although the dancefloor had become somewhat manageable, I still had to squeeze to the front of the stage where Jonas Shandel and gang were set to impress.  They opened with the mandolin-infused blue-grassy Freight Train, and even with Jonas’ fly down, they rocked ‘er pretty damn good (he was informed of his fly issue by the ladies beside me between songs).  The kept the freight train of tunes coming as Pat Steward (The Odds) thumped out the subtle-yet-effective 9/8 beat for Your Love, one of my favourite tunes in the whole PPP.

The boys had a trick up their sleeve, too, with their tantalizing cover of Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman! I’m not sure how hard it must have been to convince lead singer Shandel to sing the tune that contain the lyrics, “the best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun,” but I’m sure it wasn’t the easiest of feats. They finished off their strong set nicely with the purdy All Good Things.

And that was the evening. Great times, great bands, great people. Not-so-great beer. Can’t win ’em all, though…



~ by DR on September 22, 2012.

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