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Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013

Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013
Photo by Tony Nelson

Are You Local?
With Solid Gold, Sims, Wiping Out Thousands, L'Assassins, Carroll, Bad Bad Hats, Audio Perm
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis
Friday, March 1, 2013

The Twin Cities takes a lot of pride in their local music scene -- and much of that pride is warranted. Sifted from a group of 223 entries, Bad Bad Hats, Carroll, and Audio Perm were the three finalists that were in the running for a chance at a spot to play on the Vita.mn's stage in Austin for SXSW and a thousand dollars to help fund the trip. Each as different from the other as possible, the three had a chance to show why they were compelling and what made them special to a crowd that was there to find new music to latch onto.

Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013
Photo by Tony Nelson

The three winners' sets were in quick succession of each other in the Nether Bar, located in the basement of Mill City Nights. It's tough for a band to be first in the lineup, especially when a thousand dollars and a trip to SXSW is on the line, but Bad Bad Hats did a good job getting the crowd going. A cross between (formerly Minneapolis, currently Ohio) Bella Ruse and Kate Nash in sound and delivery, lead singer Kerry Alexander walks the line between cute and hipster sexy, especially with her pompadour/bun hairdo. Before being named one of the finalists in the contest, the band's catchy indie-pop had already caught the attention of many people around town; there's no fear that this band will disappear soon.

Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013
Photo by Tony Nelson

Up on the main floor, L'Assassins charmed, or rather, grabbed the audience by their lapels and rocked their faces off with their '50s-flavored rockabilly. As host JMatt Keil said, "I'm more excited about their outfits than anything." Vocalist Tee Ann Simpson led her group, clad all in black, oozing sex appeal and punk fury.

The show fully underway, the next finalists, indie-rockers Carroll, made their way onstage for their chance at stardom. Ambient, almost to the point of tears, the band failed to inspire much from the crowd -- with an audience member overheard saying, "They have good music to have a conversation to." The important thing was, they didn't need to impress the crowd, but the judges of the contest, which included Chris Riemenschneider and Andrea Swensson.

Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013
Photo by Tony Nelson

Perhaps it may be due to their early set where people were not drunk enough, but the crowd for the much-hyped duo Wiping Out Thousands' set seemed a bit zombie-like. Electro-rock is a difficult genre to get into, and with the two members, Alaine Dickman and Taylor Nelson, facing each other onstage for most of their set, it's even more difficult to get engaged into their music. While talented, both members are certainly easy on the eyes, looking so similar that they may be morphing into the same person.

Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013
Photo by Tony Nelson

Of the three finalists, Audio Perm drew in the hip-hop crowd. Termed a "rap crew," the group had the biggest crowd, and even the most energy, in the crowded downstairs bar. From the limited vantage, there was a count of eight members on the tiny stage, performing their hearts out and waving their hands in the air.

Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013
Photo by Tony Nelson

Back upstairs, as the stage was being set for Sims, Andrea Swensson and Chris Riemenschneider announced the winners of the Are You Local? contest. While much of the crowd was rooting for Audio Perm, the judges announced Carroll as the winner of the competition that had 223 submissions -- pretty admirable for the young band. Just like last year, the winner played another set, albeit it was a bit unnecessary to play a whole set. Much of the audience was getting a little restless at this point, with most of the crowd talking through the set.

Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013
Photo by Tony Nelson

Sims seemed to sense this as he took the stage and whipped the crowd back into a frenzy with his energy and natural sense of timing. A member of the Doomtree family, Sims was able to capture the attention of everyone in the venue with his smart lyrics. While late in the evening, Sold Gold fed into the energy that Sims drummed up, the band's set drew from new pieces off Eat Your Young and songs that focused on their electro-indie intonations.

Are You Local? at Mill City Nights, 3/1/2013
Photo by Tony Nelson

Critic's bias: I truly enjoyed Bad Bad Hats and felt they played the best set. The first Are You Local? show I attended  -- 2011 with the 4onthefloor, Pictures of Then (now called Enemy Planes), and MC Longshot -- in my opinion, had a more organic, genuine feel. I think the second set that the winner plays could be shelved; it's excessive.

The crowd: Scene locals and people there to drink and be seen.

Overheard in the crowd: During Audio Perm's set: "I think this band should win even though I didn't see any of the other bands, because they're local." Um, they're all local.


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