Battle of the Bands finals spotlights Dayton’s musical diversity Saturday at The Brightside



Variety has been a key feature of the Dayton Battle of the Bands since its inception in 2020 but this year offers extreme eclecticism.

The finals, slated Saturday, March 11 at The Brightside, has jazz group Crabswithoutlegs, roots rockers Josh Webb & the Home Sown Band, soulful reggae act the Luv Locz Experiment, rapper R3G, folkie Sam King & the Suspects and pop-rock band Wreck League.

“This has definitely been our most eclectic year,” said Libby Ballengee of Venus Child Productions. “Rock is normally half of it, but we only had one rock week this time. That was a big change for us but it’s a good mix of music so people will be pleasantly surprised with the finals. It’s definitely not a garage band version of the Battle of the Bands. We had a lot of rock bands apply but when I went through the submissions, there was so much variety we were able to have all these different styles. I feel like we had really strong groups every round. But I’ll be honest, it was a relief it worked out.”



Carli Dixon, owner of The Brightside, was also relieved by the enthusiastic responses to this year’s slate of 26 performers.

“You never know how any of this stuff is going to work,” she said. “All you do is throw it out there into the universe and wait and see what’s going to happen. This is really a showcase of local music and an exploration of different genres. Every week somebody says, ‘Oh, now I see what’s going on. Now, I get it.’ That feels really good. I joke it’s the lineup you’d never book. You’d never mix six genres and say, ‘Come buy tickets.’ Yet here it is, and I’d wager it will be one of the highlights of the year in terms of just live entertainment.”



Expanding expectations

For Ballengee, the Battle of the Bands is an opportunity to spotlight underserved segments of the Gem City’s original music scene.

“Some people think rock music is the only thing Dayton produces because that’s kind of what tends to get booked,” she said. “I got some feedback from people who were pleasantly surprised there were musicians doing other things. Some people don’t participate in local music because they don’t like indie rock or whatever, so they think there is nothing for them. We’re trying to show Dayton has a lot more.”

The annual competition started its third year at The Brightside on Thursday, Jan. 12 and continued with weekly competitions into late February. Attendance was high each week, with groups performing to packed houses from the venue’s intimate bar stage.

“We had a very good response in 2022 but there has been more interest this year all the way around,” Ballengee said. “We had a pretty strong response even that first week. We were completely ecstatic we had such great turnout for a Thursday night even in January. People were really excited about checking out live music. We had more presale this year than in past years. I thought some of the weeks might be light, but it was really consistent this time. I hope that spoke to people enjoying the different bands and the diversity.”



Like the performers, the Battle of the Battles attracts a diverse crowd, age wise, racially and socioeconomically.

“You can’t put a demographic on it and that’s highly unusual,” Dixon said. “The kind of mass appeal is hard to come by these days. Things are so polarized now so there’s something very compelling about bringing different people together. It’s been much more powerful than I expected. When we started, it was a way to make sure we had programming January through March and that’s such a low bar compared to what it has turned into.”



Winners all around

In the semi-final rounds, the weekly winners are determined by a mix of voting from audience members and a panel of judges. The finals are based 100 percent on audience votes.

“Picking the winner is going to be hard,” Ballengee said. “It’s anybody’s game this year. We actually count points for first, second and third place and getting on everybody’s top three will definitely matter. The way we do the ranked choice voting, sometimes the group that wins is who got everybody’s second place. Even if you came out and voted for your buddy’s band in first place, if everybody votes for the same band in second place, they can win.”

“It comes down to who brings their A game,” Ballengee continued. “It’s a big stage and we’ve seen bands in the past that were really good on the small bar stage with a smaller crowd. It was cozy and kind of a safe space and then they get on the big stage, which is really high, and there are so many more people in there and that can be a little nerve-wracking for some newer bands.”



The winner of the finals receives a prize package from event sponsors that includes an EP recording session from Dayton Sound Studios, a paid performance at Levitt Pavilion this summer and custom T-shirts from Little Monster Printing.

“We have really good prizes for the winner, but all the bands win on a certain level,” Ballengee said. “They’re all getting live videos of one of their songs that will be on Sound Valley. A lot of times it’s hard for bands to have funds to put something professional like that together. They get a professional video, professional photos and a lot of exposure. We try to show some love to our finalists with future gigs but there are a lot of eyeballs on all the bands. There are usually people from Levitt Pavilion there and other people who are booking around town. We’re excited to be able to check out the bands in a live setting and also to extend that opportunity to other bookers.”

For music professionals and casual music fans alike, Saturday’s finale will offer a quick primer on the rich well of talent in the area.

“I’m excited to see these six incredibly different bands come together on the stage,” Dixon said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen Saturday. I do know every one of these bands that made it to the top are ones that electrified people in the crowd, so it’s just guaranteed to be a really amazing night of music.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or


What: Dayton Battle of the Bands finals

Where: The Brightside, 905 E. Third St., Dayton

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 11; doors open at 6 p.m.

Cost: $15 in advance, $20 day of show

More info: 937-410-0450 or

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