Peak Performance Project Showcase #1: Jon Bryant, David Newberry and Good For Grapes

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For this small town girl heading out for a night in the big city, this show couldn’t have fulfilled my hopes any more.

Having seen each of the night’s headliners perform before, I was curious if the environment of the “competition” would impact their performances and what they would choose to highlight from their repertoires.

Jon Bryant took the stage first and immediately greeted the audience with his unique charm as he spoke to the crowd without a mic to set the tone for his personal performance and bring everyone closer. For anyone who has been to a Jon Bryant show, you will know that he is incredibly intimate and hands on with the audience; he has an ability to connect in a way I have seen few others do while on stage in the right setting. Opening in a venue like this is typically a tougher slot for a singer-songwriter as people are filing in and just getting warmed up for the night, but Jon kept his cool, held his own and even graciously invited his fellow Peak finalists to the stage to share in a rousing arms linked acoustic sing-a-long of Stan Rogers’ “Northwest Passage.” For a moment he made a downtown club feel like a living room and gave all of us a taste of what the Peak Performance Project Bootcamp may have been like (aside from the nightly pool parties and zipline extravaganzas). Undeniably, this east coast boy with a gentle heart is impossible not to adore.
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David Newberry is a treasure. After seeing him a little over a year ago perform more of an acoustic set, his albums have been playing steadily in my home ever since. With his latest EP “Desire Lines” garnering him increased national attention, it was a moving experience to watch him play with a full band and see his music come to life in such a remarkable way. His performance was exquisitely planned as he built on the audience’s growing energy with each song. Highlights were his original “Observer” that had the crowd glued to every note, and the finale performance of his recently re-recorded and released single “Slow” was the fitting pièce de résistance. Simply put, he had my heart in his hand the entire set (and entire night to be quite honest).
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Good For Grapes. My goodness. This was the fourth time I’ve seen them in just over a year, and the first seeing them as their evolved incarnation which now includes drummer Will Watson and cellist Alex Hauka. The cello was a genius move for the band as it lends itself beautifully to their sound. Not only that, having the added touch of inviting multi-instrumentalist Greg McLeod to join them on stage for a few fiddle and trombone medleys was the candle on the cake (speaking of which, how fun was it that it was lead guitarist Graham Gomez’s birthday!). At the end of the day, the band blew the roof off the place with a performance that was executed to perfection. Their song line-up was just the right blend of old and new, as they dispersed crowd favourites they have mastered with some touching new songs (like “Time and Time Again” written by lead singer Daniel McBurnie for his sisters that stripped away much of their instrumental fanfare and featured their sometimes hidden beautiful harmonies) and an off-the-charts cover of “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats which was easily the best surprise of the night. I’m not going to lie, I will have an eternal soft spot for this band which goes back to the beginning of starting this site, but putting the personal back story aside, Good For Grapes never disappoints a live audience, and if the crowd’s reaction to their performance was any indication, forget the Horse, 2014 is the year of the Grape.

Jon Bryant, David Newberry and Good For Grapes performed at Fortune Soundclub on September 18, 2014.

This was the first of four showcases as part of BC’s 2014 Peak Performance Project.

To stay up to date visit where you will find links to these artists and the rest of this year’s top 12.

Photos courtesy of Creative Copper Images, Peak Performance Project BC and David Newberry’s facebook page (thanks David).

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