In a town that’s often characterized as the territory of country artists and singer-songwriters, the four groups competing in Battle of the Belmont Bands 2019 reminded their audience that Nashville is home to so much more.
Jungle Tooth, Charlie Belle, The Thing With Feathers and Secondhand Sound played for the Battle of the Bands title and a prize pack from local radio station Lightning 100. Alumni band Betcha headlined the event with a professional-quality set that represented Nashville’s growing indie rock scene well.
Secondhand Sound walked away as the champions Saturday night — winning a live in-studio performance feature and artist of the week spotlight from Lightning 100 — but Charlie Belle delivered an equally memorable performance, and The Thing With Feathers and Jungle Tooth brought impressive energy and passion to the stage.
Though rain made Belmont’s South Lawn unusable, the Showcase Series team successfully moved the event into Massey Performing Arts Center, with occasional audio issues as the only noticeable hiccup in an otherwise well-executed concert.
Jungle Tooth took the stage first, and though the band struggled through its first two songs — an original and a cover of “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure — the members seemed to hit their stride by the third and final song. “Hunny” gave Jungle Tooth’s instrumentalists room to shine, as a driving bassline and drum beat coupled with an eerie synth line to create a sound completely different from any of the night’s other performers.
In a lineup otherwise filled with alt-rock bands fronted by men, Charlie Belle brought a refreshing and unique energy to the Battle of the Bands stage with a set that showcased lyrical songwriting and beautiful vocals. Lead singer Jendayi Bonds delivered a nearly flawless performance, but her band’s chemistry made the set even more enjoyable. With a cover of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” and a performance of “Essay,” a song Bonds wrote about the college admissions process, Charlie Belle’s charm came from its lighthearted, almost effortless attitude toward the set.
The Thing with Feathers brought a new level of intensity to the stage with the bold decision to open its set with The Rolling Stones’ iconic “Gimme Shelter.” In performances of the original songs “Figure It Out” and “Song of the Nighttime,” lead singer David Welcsh’s over-the-top energy made him a clear crowd favorite, and the band’s chemistry took its members’ skills to the next level.
Secondhand Sound powered through difficulties with the audio — quipping that they’ve dealt with worse, though not in front of such a large audience — to perform a set worthy of the Battle of the Bands victory. Though the band took an unconventional route, performing four original songs and no covers, it delivered impressive vocals and the most memorable guitar playing of the evening. The band members clearly had a blast while performing, and their energy carried over into the crowd, garnering them the loudest applause when audience members were encouraged to vote for their favorite band.
As some of Belmont’s most seasoned showcase performers, Betcha was the perfect choice for the evening’s headliner. The band, which went by the name “Wilder” during its Belmont days, won both Battle of the Belmont Bands and Rock Showcase in 2016, earning it a performance in Best of the Best 2017.
Though a name change, a record deal and multiple tours separate Betcha from its past showcase performances, the band still embodies Belmont’s music scene, and its members cracked jokes about freshman dorms, meeting at Belmont and dropping out to pursue their musical careers.
Betcha’s set opened with its 2019 single, “Coincidental” and featured an interesting mix of originals paired with covers of songs by Kacey Musgraves and Childish Gambino, but the band skillfully pulled it off, giving the evening’s student performers something to aspire to.
This article written by Bronte Lebo. Photos by Colby Crosby. Contributing reporting by Abigail Bowen.