Editor's note: We've sent Jonathan Sanders to every single round of Birdy's Battle Royale, where he's seen the finalists two – and sometimes three – times. In this expanded Battle Report, he breaks down Friday's finalists. One of these bands will win a massive prize package, including cash and equipment. Read more Birdy's Battle Reports here.
We've finally made it through a stretch of more than 45 bands in three months and now the finals are set. Birdy's Battle Royale has been a success by any standard, but with the bands we've got in the championship round, there remains room for explosive competition.
DEAD BIRDS ADORE US
Opening the night with a solid dose of progressive rock is an interesting move, but it guarantees you're in for a night of twists and turns. I'll be the first to admit I didn't see this band making it through to the finals, but I am glad they did — there's room for experimentation in the Birdy's Battle, and both times I've heard them live the Dead Birds won over crowds that weren't necessarily attuned to their style of music. They've been regularly referred to as a “musician's band” and I can understand why. This is the kind of band I could imagine R'lyeh gravitating toward as they attempt to add sonic zigs and zags to their sound.
Easily the band with the largest fan-base we've seen so far, they've been front-runners since the beginning. With the double threat of Kyra Waltz and Jeff Kelly on vocals to keep people guessing, plus Kelly's already well-documented ability to dominate a crowd whether on banjo or guitar, there's something for everyone with these guys. That makes them hard to categorize, but that's what works about having a sonic palate as diverse as theirs — audiences may think they know what they'll get, but until the band finishes playing, nothing's off the table.
BROTHER O' BROTHER
It didn't take much to get me hooked on Brother O' Brother's take on alternative blues, a high-stakes own-the-stage performance that demands you watch and participate, even if it's only trying to keep Chris Banta in frame on your video camera. They've been together for more than a year and will be releasing their second album in July, so they've got plenty of material to draw through and surprises up their sleeves. They won their semifinal battle by a wider margin than any band in the competition, while leaving the impression that there's still so much more depth they can mine.
AMONG THE COMPROMISED
The exact number of shows they've performed is a matter of debate, but I'm told it's no more than four. And two of those got them into and through the competitive rounds of the battle, and into this cushy finals spot. And if you're still thinking Among the Compromised are just a new-band-in-town, not ready to win a contest like this, ignore the dark horse at your peril. Eleadah Kemp has an unforgettable voice and the confidence to win over exhausted fans. Both their qualifying and semifinal wins took place at the end of the night, when everyone generally had their minds made up.
NASH WALKER AND THE DOCTORS
This band remains the enigma of the competition. I know I like their sound, even as I can't completely pin it down and dissect it. That's probably what makes them stand out from the crowd — their songs are hook-laden and instantly catchy, but they don't wear their influences on their sleeves. And having heard them twice, I can only imagine what they'd be able to do with an hour-long set, where covers would be in play. I'm looking forward to hearing what they still have in the tank now that it's winner take all.
CRAIG B. MOORE AND THE INVADERS
By day he lays down the law with students as an assistant principal, but at night Craig Moore is unleashed, fronting a band with legitimate chops. They adeptly covered Pearl Jam in the first round, a move that could have backfired, and their originals have lived up to that quality. I've heard their album, Life Matters, on repeat over the last two months. It showcases the band's deft ability to sound grat on tape while transforming the songs in a live setting. “Invaders” is an apt name — with hooks like these, they're a hard band to shake loose.