In its second year, The Edge Next Big Thing (NBT) opened its virtual gates to up-and-coming artists hoping to reach a wider audience through the contest exposure, as well as the prizes worth tens of thousands of dollars aimed at furthering their musical careers. Hundreds of bands entered the contest, aiming for a spot in the top 20, which Edge listeners voted on, leading to the 6 finalists: The Honest Heart Collective, Thrifty Kids, Midday Swim, Spells of Vertigo, Ivory Hours, and Small Town Lungs. These talented bands gave it their all on Friday night at The Phoenix Concert Theatre, performing in front of a crowd of excited fans, as well as a 10-piece jury that included record company representatives, and the winner of last year’s NBT, JJ and the Pillars’s JJ Thompson.
The venue was filling up quickly from the moment the doors opened, almost an hour away from the start of the performances. Some fans opted to increase the celebratory feel, by arriving in a party limousine (prompting a shushed “Oh, no…” from security), cheering as they made their way to support their favourite band, as well as discover some quality new music from emerging artists.
The Honest Heart Collective started things off with a powerful performance of energetic and highly danceable folk-rock, with an emphasis on the rock. Lead-singer Ryan MacDonald even squeezed in part of the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You”, hoping he had made Dave Grohl proud. They utilized the entire stage, often dancing their way to the front of the stage, the tips of their feet off the edge, literally connecting with the audience.
Thrifty Kids brought a more mellow sound, getting the audience swaying and swooning over lead vocalist Sarah Cogan’s beautiful voice. While their beach-pop sound makes for easy and engaging listening, their live performance packed a punch that captivated the crowd throughout their set.
In between performances the imposing red velvet curtains were closed to allow for gear changes and provided some time for fans to cleanse their musical palate from one genre to the next, as well as adding a theatrical feel. Furthermore, it provided a great opportunity to recharge on drinks, ensuring arms were free to be raised high for the following act.
Next up were Midday Swim, who continued the summery vibe with an effortlessly tight instrumental performance accompanied by frontman David Krygier-Baum’s crooning vocals. Their song “Summer Eyes” has already been getting airplay, allowing new fans to sing along and put a face to the band behind this catchy tune.
As if being part of this incredible set of performances was not exciting enough, JJ Thompson delighted the crowd with a surprise acoustic rendition of JJ and the Pillars’s “The Wolves”, ensuring that the energy of the night never dipped below its initial electrifying levels.
The aptly named Aurora band, Spells of Vertigo, got bones and ribcages vibrating with hard rock’n’roll booming from their amps. Their songs sound both contemplative and rebelliously loud, with the live performance showcasing their talent and dedication.
Ivory Hours explored relatable relationship struggles with their infectious indie-pop flair. They had the crowd jumping and their danceable tunes lingered even after they had left the stage. Yet another band that elicited smiles and cheers!
Fans wearing “Small Town Lungs” t-shirts chanted their name as soon as the curtains had closed after the previous band. An older gentleman in the crowd, who had seen them perform at The Rivoli, described their sound as “syncopated and ethereal,” while his friend added “and we’ve seen a lot of bands in our lives.” Their style is reminiscent of ALT-J, yet less dark and more uplifting, creating a unique sound that must be experienced live due to their complementing stage presence.
As the last band wrapped up, the audience still lingered, hoping for an encore or at least a hint as to which band might be crowned the winner (listen Tuesday morning at 10:15am to find out!) and gets a shot at opening The Edge CASBY Music awards a mere two months away at the same venue. One thing is clear; the Phoenix Concert Theatre had hosted a night of incredible performances by these highly talented six finalists. While nervousness was part of the atmosphere, as fans pined for the success of their favourite band, the artists did not let anything stop them from showcasing the passion for what they do. While they were hoping to impress the judges, the bands focused on captivating and delighting the audience, thereby proving their showmanship. An incredible amount of work must have been poured into their practice, in order to deliver such seemingly effortless performances. All six bands represented different genres that overlapped just enough to create a continuous party atmosphere, making the contest feel more like a collaboration to entertain, rather than a battle for the crown. Impressive and fun, these bands need to be checked out live, as their performances promise continued and soaring success.