The members of Carroll were already smiling downstairs at Mill City Nights before winning Friday's Are You Local? contest. / Photos by Leslie Plesser

Carroll's members were already smiling downstairs at Mill City Nights before winning Friday's Are You Local? contest. / Photos by Leslie Plesser

The members all hail from various points around the country -- New York to Seattle -- but Carroll’s appearance Friday night at Mill City Nights officially answered the question: Yes, they are local. “Minneapolis is really incredible,” singer/keyboardist/guitarist Brian Hurlow gushed, talking about the warm reception for his synth-enshrouded ambient pop-rock quartet in its first year together. Things really heated up this weekend when Carroll beat out the already-popping hip-hop crew Audio Perm and fellow Macalester classmates Bad Bad Hats in’s fourth annual “Are You Local?” contest.

By a good coincidence or wise guessing, the folks behind “The Local Show” at 89.3 the Current also welcomed the band onto Sunday night’s show -- predetermined well before the AYL? contest took place. In fact, Carroll had about 15 minutes between being voted winners by the AYL? judging crew and having to take the big stage upstairs at Mill City Nights for its victory-lap performance.

Audio Perm

Audio Perm

All three of the contestants competed downstairs in MCN’s Nether Bar, which has a narrower stage and more challenging acoustics than a lot of basement rehearsal spaces I’ve visited. The cramped stage certainly did Audio Perm no favors. Their otherwise booming bass parts sounded like they were coming out of a small boom box, and the crew’s seven rappers looked like a bunch of koi fish crammed into a tiny garden pool clamoring to get to the water’s edge to be fed. AP’s rowdy charm wasn’t lost on the crowd, though, which got into them more than the other acts.

In the end, though, Carroll impressed with plain old razor-tightness. Hurlow’s lackadaisically dramatic vocals shone through even in the dingy downstairs space, and his and guitarist Max Kulicke’s ethereal parts shimmered on both the big and puny stage. Click here for Leslie Plesser's photo gallery from AYL? 2013.

Along with its appearance upstairs -- opening for Sims and Solid Gold -- Carroll won a little money to head to next week’s South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, where they will perform at the Smith College of Music-sponsored MN Nice day party on Friday, March 15, with Haley Bonar, BNLX, the Chalice and Wiping Out Thousands, which also played Friday night, delivering a hard blast of grinding guitar bursts and roaring electro-noise. The best part of Carroll's win might simply be the excuse to escape the weather in this city the guys now think is so awesome.

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