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— by James Montgomery, with additional reporting by Corey Moss and Meridith Gottlieb

LAS VEGAS — Consider it a blood feud — at least four weeks in the making.

The Killers, the platinum synth-rockers with a formidable sense of purpose (just ask them), have been trading jabs with the Bravery — those scruffy, synth-rock challengers with terrific hair. They may not be putting it on wax, but these two have managed to reflect their beef in the press.

Killers frontman Brandon Flowers got the ball rolling in late March, dismissing the Bravery as second-rate wannabes and mocking their ska roots (see "Killers' To-Do List: Lawsuit, Long-Form Video, Beef With The Bravery"). The Bravery's Sam Endicott, taking the high road in an interview with San Francisco radio station Live 105, called Flowers "a little girl" and "a kid in a wheelchair." And since then, both sides have been sticking-and-moving their way through the media, landing potshots at every available opportunity.

So perhaps the time has come to settle things once and for all, the way that mustachioed noblemen and muscle-bound miscreants have for centuries: inside the squared circle. Yes, boxing — the sweet science, the sport of kings — can show us the way. Truly, it would be a spectacular display of semi-fisticuffsmanship that could shake the towering casinos of Vegas down to their foundations! So we've made our way to the beautiful Buccaneer Bay restaurant in Las Vegas' Treasure Island Hotel and Casino (because Duran Duran went through a pirate phase, too) for tonight's main event, an unsanctioned, three-round, fictional battle royale — but with real quotes! — between two of the most fashionable, least intimidating acts in recent memory. The Killers versus the Bravery: Two bands enter ... one band leaves!

As you can tell by the hush that's fallen over the crowd, our combatants are making their way to the ring. In keeping with tradition, the challengers enter first ... so here come the Bravery! They've emerged from a pile of broken Casio keyboards and empty aerosol cans, and it's all scowls and studded belts for the NYC-via-Vassar College quintet tonight, with Endicott leading the way (he looks especially angry, like he's just heard the 15th Skabba the Hut joke of the night!).

Entering from the other side of the arena, rising from a bath of shooting stars and blasting lasers, gliding to the ring on a cotton-candy cloud of nostalgia, it's the Killers! The champs look confident tonight — and why wouldn't they? This hometown crowd is hugely behind them, cheering wildly as Flowers thrusts a velveteen fist skyward.

Now both sides are eyeing each other down; the crowd is buzzing with nervous energy. And after some last-minute instructions from the referee (no smearing of the makeup, no stepping on the Prada shoes), and a quick touch-up of the lips and hair, Endicott and Flowers touch gloves and return to their neutral corners. And with that — the bout is under way!

* * *
Round 1

Since he started the war of words, it seems only fitting to have Flowers kick off the festivities with a vicious deluge of punches. Coming out of his corner like a hurricane, he lands a savage blow on Endicott's ample chin.

"I think the Bravery should appreciate that we are here, whether or not they like us. We were here before them and helped pave a way for them, so they should just grin and bear it," he said. "We've never met the Strokes or the White Stripes, but they definitely opened a door and started to help change radio, which helped us. We appreciate them, and we happen to be fans of them. And whether the Bravery are fans of ours or not, we were here before them and helped pave a way for them, so they should just grin and bear it."

But Endicott is not about to take those jabs lying down: He returns fire with a salvo of his own.

"[Flowers] obviously gives himself a lot of credit, but I think it's really apparent that he's worried. The poor little guy, he's very scared. He has no personality, no sense of humor at all," Endicott told Live 105. "Plus, [their bassist, Mark Stoermer] looks like a little Dutch girl with a beard. A nine-foot-tall, Dutch-girl mutant."

Bravery guitarist Michael Zakarin follows suit, taking a shot at ... er, Flowers' suit.

"If you have seen them live, they are incredibly boring. You remember what they used to look like? Then people started comparing them to us and suddenly they got a stylist," he said. "And Brandon frosted his hair and he's buying the cute pink jacket."

The Score Card: We'll give the round to the Bravery, if only because we love a dirty fight.

Round 2

Perhaps stinging a bit from the Bravery's savage beatdowns, Flowers lets drummer Ronnie Vannucci handle the sparring in the second round. And the skinsman slows things to a crawl with a little possum/rope-a-dope combo.

"I've heard all about the beef, and I expected them to have a rebuttal, but I don't involve myself in it. That stuff is going to happen. I got more things to worry about," he laughed. "We're aware that the bigger you get, the more people are trying to take you down. And if I had something to worry about, I wouldn't let it roll off me. But I don't have anything to worry about, so I'm not taking them too seriously. I'm definitely not worried about them."

And now, in an attempt not to strain himself, Endicott too covers up, feigning shock at just how much people care about this supposed beef anyway.

"What's incredible is how much people are talking about this stuff. Our thing with the Killers was on PageSix in the New York Post, like, Britney is pregnant, and the Killers hate the Bravery," he sighed. "All these people were calling me — my mom was calling me, saying 'Who are the Killers? What's this all about?' It's amazing to me that people are this interested."

The Score Card: As fans shower the ring with popcorn and empty cups, we'll call round two a very, very dull draw.

Round 3

Trying to win back the hometown crowd, Flowers tags himself in and begins a fist-tacular assault on the Bravery's credibility, even going low by making a reference to 1990s grunge wannabes Candlebox. The crowd roars with delight at the savagery of the attacks.

"It's like with grunge: There were two or three bands that were going to make it — like Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and Nirvana — and then there were so many other bands that came and went. And that's how it will be with this," he said. "I hope we're one of those bands that comes out of it, not like a Candlebox."

Endicott steadies himself against the ropes and swings wildly, something that does little to endear his band to the Vegas crowd.

"We know we're going to be here for a long time," he counters. "The thing to remember is that people who want to talk bad about us aren't real New Yorkers. Real New Yorkers know we're from their community, and respect what we're about."

The Score Card: Endicott was only saved by the bell in round three. We're giving it clean to Battlin' Brandon Flowers and the Killers.

So, we've got a split decision on our hands — a somewhat hard-fought stalemate. We'll call it a draw — and the biggest loser on this wild Sin City night is ...

Anyone who forked over $49.95 to watch this thing on pay-per-view.

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Illustration: Island/MTV News

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