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.
I’ve been warned by many that as this Battle Royale progresses I may regret signing on to cover it for four months, but week two proved to be even better than the first, talent-wise. Nash Walker and the Doctors, the night’s winner, proved the point as they took the stage right at midnight and blew the already solid competition away with their funk-rock originals. Don’t be surprised to hear more from them in the future. They’d be a hit playing any bar in the city, or perhaps as an opening act at the Vogue.
Phil Sloan, lead singer for Coup d’Etat, took to the stage as the night’s fifth contestant, but his band chose not to show (“when they do shit like this to me, I call them Coup d’Twat,” he told the crowd). So he played stripped-down versions of the band’s rock-edged punk folk tracks, winning the crowd over and finishing second. This wasn’t your everyday singer-songwriter act; Sloan knew how to control a crowd, and his searing performance of “Butt Fuck Blues” was the strongest song of the night by any act.
Speedway’s own Speedbird finished third while performing fourth, proving it’s worth staying late during these competitions. Until I heard Nash Walker I would have picked these guys to finish first, as they were the hardest-rocking band of the night. Strong melodies helped them stand out, and they did have a great deal of crowd support for their “songs about fast cars, loose women and B-movies.”
Fontaine (or The Fontaine, as there was serious name confusion here) played in the opening spot of the evening, and they were definitely a tough nut to crack. I loved how they played with expectations, sounding like a mix between Blues Traveler and Phish while mixing in lyrics about cold Octopus and plastic tweezers. But they didn’t stand out enough to be remembered for long in this setting. And this, judging by their CD, was their best material, leaving them nowhere to go.
Louisville’s Ghost Holler played a bluesy blend of alt-rock that was heavily influenced by early Pearl Jam, and any other night they’d have been a top-three finisher. There were too many solid acts tonight, however, and they didn’t bring enough people up from Louisville to cheer them on. I’d encourage people to check them out though next time they come through Indianapolis.
Scarlet Raven, meanwhile, brought their Evanescence-inspired take on Christian Rock down from Fort Wayne, and though they weren’t up to the task of winning the competition, they certainly played like they wanted to be here. Their keyboard-focused melodies stood out, as did their two lead singers, giving more depth to the songs than I would have anticipated. They weren’t entirely my cup of tea, but they spoke to the variety this contest has to offer. Bring on week three!