Editor's note: Birdy's Battle Royale pits 48 bands against each other in a months-long competition for cash and prizes. Each week, the top two bands progress to the next round. NUVO sends music correspondent Jonathan Sanders to survey Birdy's Battle Royale weekly. He reports back here. Read more Birdy's Battle Reports here.
On the final week of first-round competition, the bands were geared up to impress from the first moment. After tonight we segue from discovery to familiarity, as bands must continue to impress in order to fight for that $5,000 cash prize. This week’s winner, Brother O’ Brother, should be right in the heat of the fight from here out. The two-man blues-rock act built upon shades of White Stripes and Black Keys, bringing the crowd to life via an explosion of pent-up energy, guitars drenched in fuzz and thundering percussion. It was a dominant performance that will definitely raise expectations in the second round.
But second-place band Among the Compromised actually proved to be more of a surprise, as this was their first live performance as a band. They could have fooled me; this was a confident performance from a group of musicians who will be terrifying in this competition once they tighten up their set. Their lead singer is the perfect match for Tina Turner, if Turner had fronted Alabama Shakes, and their straight-up rock sound was all the more refreshing with that subtle sonic twist.
The Trip opened the night with blues-tinged rock that reminded me of Filligar, though their vocalist owed more to Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon fame. The band focused on long songs and wasted no time on banter with the audience, but that gave them time to let loose meaty guitar solos that would have made Wax Fang proud. Their bluesy cover of AWOLnation’s “Sail” capped their set perfectly, and though they are not advancing in the competition, I expect they’ll continue to do well playing around Indianapolis.
Decibel then brought us some hard rock from Avon, heavily influenced by KISS, AC/DC, Van Halen and Def Leppard. Their originals were strong and they clearly had done this more than a few times — original song “I Need Some Lovin’” off their new album sounded as professional as anything their influences released in the 80s. I was hoping they’d advance so we’d see a potential Decibel / Stackhouse showdown, but it apparently was not meant to be.
My favorite band of the night based purely on originality anchored the middle spot. Noblesville alternative band Indien brought out the best of what I like to call “90s Weird” — Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies heard through a Beck filter and punk energy. It was fun stuff, almost surf-rock in places, which had me yearning to hear what they’d do with Ween’s “Ocean Man.”
Next week is one I’ve been looking forward to, as the top six non-winning acts return to fight for a spot in the second round! Mardi Belle, Haughville, Downfall NSB and DysFUNKtion Brass Band are already confirmed, which guarantees an eclectic night regardless of which bands fill the remaining spots. It’ll be great to see which bands step up to the challenge and prove we were wrong not to put them through the first time.