Tonight, Yale’s undergraduate bands will once again duke it out for a chance to open for Spring Fling. And this year’s battle looks to be one of the closest yet.

With large, solidly orchestrated, soft rock groups Jamestown and Gets the Girl having graduated, this year’s battle will be largely between smaller, more traditional bands—and who will take the honors tonight at the Crypt (438 College Street) is a lot less obvious than it has been in past years. Amongst a lineup of six bands, handpicked from demos submitted to the WYBC from 18 entries, three groups stand out to me here at WKND BLOG.

Third Place: The Rain Brigade. This band broke onto the scene at the 2011 Battle of the Bands under the name The Black Marias, surprising the audience with an energetic, coherent performance. Although the band has yet to gain a spot in the Spring Fling lineup, its creative instrumentation (which features Caitlin Pequignot ’14 on violin), blues-rock feel, catchy choruses and general accessibility make the group a strong candidate this year. The band has a strong dynamic, featuring more than one member on vocals rather than focusing on a single frontman. Each member, then, has ample opportunity to rock out.

Second Place: Nine Tigers. Both Nine Tigers and Sister Helen took home third at the 2012 and 2011 Battle of the Bands respectively. Both wowed the judges with high-energy rock performances, impressive guitar solos and intense stage presences featuring flailing, the throwing of drumsticks, and, in Sister Helen’s case, stripping. Tonight, they will go head to head for a slot in a three-band lineup that usually features one hardcore rock group. But Nine Tigers has an edge on Sister Helen for a few reasons. First, all of its members, rather than just one, are Yalies, and the crowd energy this builds will matter. While I sometimes wish the group would develop its vocal lines more, Nine Tigers achieves a blending among its instruments while maintaining off-the-chart tempos courtesy of superb riffs and drumming. Still, I’m looking forward to some rad guitar solos and rhythmically creative basslines from Sister Helen.

First Place: A Streetcar Named Funk. What started as a cover ensemble of musicians selected mostly for their talent by frontman Michael Blume ’13 has evolved into a funkified frenzy of original music by multiple members. The band, which took second at last year’s Battle, makes effective use of saxophone, guitar, keyboard and backup vocals to layer melodic material and incorporate call-and-response style jazz chords. The sheer musical and vocal talent of each member of the group, including Julliard-bound composer-guitarist Nathan Prillaman ’13, and the crowd energy the large ensemble builds, will help to put Streetcar on top. In order to clinch a first place finish, Streetcar would do well to showcase its strongest original numbers. To win, all the members of the 11-person band, not just the charismatic Blume, will need to keep hype up and funk out.

All six bands competing showcase different strengths. Nero, My Panda’s electronic style might be best suited to 17O1’s Spring Fling album, and The Teaspoons, which I’m naming best breakout group, has a softer, folkier style. Since this is Spring Fling we’re talking about, the judges at the Battle tend to prefer high-energy bands. (What you should know about the panel of judges: its members are musician-cum-songwriting professor Michael Errico, music professor Emily Green, former WYBC station manager Carl Chen ’13 and outgoing Yale College Council Events Director Bryan Epps ’14. Chen and Epps are making history in a way, as this year marks the first time in recent memory that students are included on the panel )

Teaspoons guitarist Jenner Fox ’14 said the band has recently added a drummer and bassist and is experimenting with more of an upbeat feel and layered riffs for tonight’s event, although it might be difficult to make the switch in time to please the four judges.

“There’s a lot of awesome bands,” Fox told WKND BLOG. “It’ll be fun no matter what.”

The Battle begins tonight at 9 p.m. Rock on.