Musicians are preparing for their final battle in the fight to win a place at the 2017 Push Start Competition state finals next year.
The battle of the bands style event opened with heats on Sunday night.
Seven artists performed, with four winning a finals place, and the chance to perform in the regional finals.
Rapper EMBE secured a Ballarat finals place and will take to the stage again to display his hip hop skills.
He said competing as the only rapper, among a strong line up of punk, hardcore rock and funk bands, had been a great experience.
“Any chance to perform on stage is a big deal for me,” he said.
“I want to see how far I can take things with my performance.”
EMBE’s work extends beyond the stage and into the Berry Street School classroom, where he works with teenagers.
He said his music is mostly influenced by his own life, which makes it as real as possible for fans.
“I try to be as naked and as vulnerable as I can – I have a song based on family violence and on bullying and judging yourself,” he said.
“I am a skinny, short, white guy, so I have a song based about what it means to be a man in Australia.
Other bands competing include the nine-piece funk group Butterfunked, who debuted at the heats on Sunday night, acoustic soloist Cassells and rockers Good Wives.
Punk was also well represented with Falling Infinite, Lethal Sound Division and Trucks performing.
Butterfunked, which was fronted by 2016 winner Anna Oliphant Wright, was EMBE’s pick for likely winner this year.
"Butterfunked will be hands down the winner,” he said. “They were amazing with their timing, their sound and their performance together.”
He said he hoped to record an EP later this year. The Sonika and Ballarat City Council Push Start Competition ends on Sunday.
It will run from 2pm to 6pm at the Karova Lounge, with tickets available at the door. They cost $10 for single entry, or $15 for an event pass.