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 every Monday.
The first night got off to a varied start as my wife and I settled in to hear the best of what Indianapolis music has to offer. The night's winner, Timeslip, made up for their difficult opening spot on the bill by packing Birdy's with fans of their eclectic blend of original songs, the best of which sounded vaguely akin to if Neil Diamond had initially fronted the Grateful Dead. They won based on crowd support, something other bands need to emulate if they want to progress in the competition.
The strongest performance of the night belonged to Brownsburg's The Breakes, who are known in part for the extra “e” they added to their name “just for fun.” These guys hit the stage after midnight and proved to be the only band of the night I would have immediately signed to a record contract on the spot were I to have the resources. Led by Adam Meyers on drums and lead vocals, who my wife insists bears a striking resemblance to Ben Savage with an afro, these locals brought the heat with a sound inspired by the blues rock of the Black Keys and Queens of the Stone Age.
That the first and last bands were the night’s winners did not mean the rest of the bands were a wash. Among my favorites was Evansville’s Downfall. Their self-described “angsty” sound was compared by several in the crowd to Linkin Park, but melodic hints of Alien Ant Farm shined through as well, making them a third-place finisher I hope will return. (Editor's note: the Battle Royale offers one opportunity to third place finishers to sneak back into the competition.)
Indy’s own Yarz Revenge was a bit tougher to pin down. They had serious-sounding alt-rock songs about “the good drugs they give you in the mental hospital,” but also enjoyed cutting their teeth on songs like “Chihuahuas and Fish Tacos,” which they feigned writing on the spot improv-style. They also wasted too much of their limited stage time on banter to which the audience did not respond.
Her Name Is Mercy, the night’s only hardcore metal act, seemed to confuse the remaining audience, mostly a holdover from Timeslip. That’s too bad, because their music, heavily inspired by Killswitch Engage and local legends Burn The Army, was actually pretty good. Get them a gig at the 5th Quarter and this Lebanon-based band could make serious waves.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Eric Pedigo, who took the stage as a one-man acoustic act around 11:30, filling in for a no-show band. Pedigo managed to liven up the proceedings with his originals that echoed John Mayer and Jason Mraz without sounding derivative. His music would clearly shine in a more intimate setting, but not having time to advertise his presence killed any chance Pedigo had of advancing.
If the bands continue to surprise like this every week, I'm in for quite a ride over the next four months.