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. Read more Birdy's Battle Reports here. The great thing about Birdy’s Battle Royale is the platform it provides for brand new bands to perform in front of an audience, in a venue built to showcase professionals. Of course that also creates a real wild-card situation when one of those new bands brings tons of fans, on a night when every band put on A-level performances.
That was this week in a nutshell. Unsigned local folk-hop act The Rhaspers opened the night with a solid Flobots-esque performance, building from a slightly shaky start to prove by the finish that they’d earned their spot on the Birdy’s stage. The jazz-inspired arrangements set them apart, with upright bass and saxophone providing the backdrop for fiery folk and hip-hop delivery. Their fans then immediately voted enough to put them in the second place.
Rockville’s Against The Clocks made the 60 mile drive to play last, earning the first-place designation with a heavy dose of synth-pop. Their on-stage setup featured six keyboards played by the band’s two lead vocalists, creating a sound akin to if Journey and the Allman Brothers teamed up to record an album produced by Ryan Tedder.
(Editor's note: A previous version of this article transposed the places of first and second place. We've made a change noting that Against The Clocks was voted first place.)
No third place band was named, due to the tight nature of the vote and the larger-than-usual crowd for an early round. It is quite possible that half of the remaining bands could still advance to the wild-card round on April 10. Among those remaining, I’d say Indianapolis’s synth-metal act The Venom Cure stands the best shot. They played right before Against The Clocks and really amped things up with a performance that was already stadium worthy. They’ve been frequently compared to Bon Jovi and Queensryche, among others, and for good reason — this was the most polished performance of the night.
Mardi Belle, another unsigned Indianapolis rock band, stole the show midway through the night with their blend of '90s alternative rock that immediately brought to mind a combination of Jack White and the Strokes. Lead singer Tylyr Burdine dominated the stage with the casual confidence of someone who has been doing this for years, and his band backed him up competently.
Desevren brought plenty of heavy rock sound to the competition, drawing comparisons among fans to Godsmack, Nickelback and Jason Newsted as they showcased their heavy melodic riffs. Their powerful vocals made them stand out, and I’d be surprised not to see them building a sizable following among hard-rock fans in the city.
Of the heavier bands, however, Muncie’s Hell Came Home made the biggest impression early in the night almost purely on intensity. The hardcore metal act has already made waves in the area in just two short years, with shows at the 5th Quarter Lounge and throughout Central Indiana. They were the first heavy band I’ve seen during this Birdy’s Battle Royale to really get fans crowding the stage, showing why they’re a big draw in the area even if they don’t sneak through to round two.