Bands battle for the big bucks

The prospect of a million-dollar contract brought 16 local bands and about 200 supporters to the Orpheum in Ybor City on Wednesday night. As the second in a series of three shows held at the Orpheum, this show was only a small portion of the Bodog Battle tour, which offers its grand-prize winner a signed contract with the Bodog record label. Of the 16 bands that played, half were selected to advance from the auditions to the next round, which will be held at the Orpheum on Dec. 10.

Bodog Battle is a nationwide search conducted by the label to find the most talented, unsigned bands in America and have them compete against each other for a contract on Bodog TV, its Web-based telecast. The battle is in its second incarnation, having already signed a Seattle, Wash., band called Fall From Grace earlier this year. This time around, Bodog has representatives in several cities at once, including San Francisco, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Wis., and Memphis, Tenn.

Of the bands playing, several stood out; Spontaneous Habit – a four-person ensemble – played with a unique and smooth electronic sound. Keyboard and synthesizer were a successful substitute for guitar sounds in delivering winning melodies over a vigorous bass line. The vocals were markedly female, coming on strong through a distortion machine. This gave the overall sound an otherworldly feel. The crowd voted for them to advance.

Another unique band was the dark and powerful Malkavian. No stranger to Tampa

venues, this five-man metal powerhouse brought forth the kind of death metal for which Tampa was once famous. With driving two-part guitar harmonies and vocals sounding like banshees’ shrieks, Malkavian delivered a great show that was unlike anything else heard that night.

Next, Justin the Red took the stage, a screamo/hardcore outfit that brought music more appropriate for the crowd. With songs like “She’s Dead Because We Killed Her,” the group got the crowd pumped and the kids dancing. Coupling powerful guitar riffs and an energetic vocalist, Justin the Red seemed to be just what attendees were looking for. The band warranted enough votes to advance.

Nous Rapport had a peppy female vocalist and lead guitar riffs with a distinctly vintage sound. This band also advanced, becoming a crowd favorite by the end of its three-song set. The foursome had impeccable timing and tight, fast rhythms that got the place jumping. The vocals were prevalent and reflected a moody, devil-may-care attitude. Nous Rapport sounded a little like the Australian rockers of Jet, but more influenced by jazz and blues.

The last band to play was perhaps the most unusual of the night – an act simply called Tim Walker. Lead vocalist and guitarist Walker is for the most part a solo act, but a bassist and drummer supported him for his set. The sound was funky and soulful, with blues and country roots. Songs like “Ghetto” and “Cars” gave a sense that Walker possessed a deep connection with his community and people. Everyone in the room was captivated by his playing, perhaps because of the sheer novelty of his soulful sound. After a night filled with screaming vocals and hard rock sounds, Tim Walker was quite a change of pace.

The bands qualifying for the next round were Justin the Red, Car Bomb Driver, Sense Offenders, Spontaneous Habit, New Season, Nous Rapport, Airshow Disaster and Black Zodiac. Each band has a full profile on Bodog Battle’s Web site at