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.
Blues, rock and punk ruled the night at Birdy’s during week five of the Battle Royale, led by the deft envelope-pushing psychedelic blues of The Fuss who won the competition by changing the minds of many in attendance, evidenced by a larger than usual number of second-place votes. This band captivated me from the very first incendiary guitar solo, and Black Keys, Led Zeppelin and Jack White fans should be clamoring to add this up-and-coming Indy band’s record to their collection as quickly as possible.
Indianapolis pop-punk band We Are Gentlemen came in a close second, by which I mean they lost by literally a single vote, competing from the final performance spot. Veterans of the Melody Inn punk scene, the band brought crisp bass-fueled melodies and strong choruses to the table, making for memorable songs like “Shut Up!” which reminded me of a more guitar-oriented Jack’s Mannequin, with nods to the Clash and '90s alt-punk.
The Tommy Baldwin Trio opened the night with what fans in the audience described as a harder-edged blues performance than is typical for the guitar phenom. I felt he lived up to the heady Stevie Ray Vaughn comparisons frequently lobbed in his direction, proving he’s a truly classy performer ready to go national. Being that he’s still underage, he had to leave immediately following his performance, which may have hurt him in the lobbying for votes.
Straight-up punk rock band Good Guy Bad Guy played second, providing proto-punk in the vein of the Ramones. Their set, built on short songs, fit seven originals into just over twenty minutes, giving a great sampling of their sound while showcasing they’ve got more ammunition if they sneak back into the contest’s wild-card round. “Where Are You Going” is a good example of their sound — mostly four words repeated amid a fistful of chords.
Haughville brought the lone dose of hard rock. The Indianapolis band ended its set with an ear-catching cover of “No! Jesus Christ” by Seether, which perfectly highlighted their blistering bass and double-guitar onslaught. Originals with hints of Hellyeah and Godsmack and a bent toward more metal influences like Killswitch Engage or All That Remains won the crowd over. They fit in well with the burgeoning local rock scene, and I expect to hear more from them beyond this contest.
My pick for best band of the night, however, goes to The Failers, an Indianapolis band hypes their “three minute blasts of big hooks, loud guitars and no apologies,” and their live set delivered. Hedging their bets between the best of Drive-By Truckers and the Gin Blossoms, “Lenore” was a perfect sample of their unique brand of alt-rock. Their debut All The Dirt and All The Doubt is available on Spotify to stream freely, and they’ve built up a solid reputation playing Birdy’s and the Melody Inn regularly. Odds are you too will fall under their spell soon enough.