One was a hair-tossing, crowd-surfing hard-rock band whose four brawny members looked as if they rock the weight room as mightily as they do their amps. Another was an innovative, rowdy rapper who -- with his large, Dayglo-attired live ensemble and black-lit stage -- looked as if he were the hip-hop answer to a head shop poster rack. And then there was the rather bookwormy, immobile band that sort of looked like a laid-back staff at any Minneapolis coffee shop.
With sharply hooked songs and coolly off-kilter guitar jams, though, the Prissy Clerks more than made up for their (in this case) glaring lack of stage antics and took top honors at Vita.mn’s Are You Local? contest Friday night at 7th Street Entry. The co-ed indie-rock quintet got to play a second set in the First Ave main room right after winning Friday. They will then go on to play the Vita.mn day party at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, on March 16.
Prissy Clerks leader Clara Salyer, 19, at once beamed with pride and showed her nervousness as her band walked out as the announced winners. They were greeted mostly by cheers but also to a minor chorus of boos from fans of runners-up the Japhies, who were chanting their band’s name before the winner was revealed. Nothing like a rock show turning into a high-school jock rally.
The Japhies certainly had the livelier stage show. Frontman Reed Wilkerson jumped atop the crowd at the end, and bassist banged a floor-tom in the center of the crowd during the “Black Diamond”-like “Runaway.” Rapper Xavier Marquis’ set was arguably even wilder. His various backup/hype vocalists jumped around Marquis in their neon face paint, and his surprisingly metallic band pounded away, coolly mashing up of Silversun Pickups' "Lazy Eye" in the set highlight "Maybe Something."
But the judges favored the less-flashy Prissy Clerks, who had their own peculiar visual charm. Their babyfaced singer/guitairst and her accordion squeezing partner Emily Lazear, 18, made for a cute front line while the older male members stayed to the back, looking very workmen-like. They excitedly but steadily breezed through their main-room set despite the chaotic circumstances. As in the Entry, the Clerks especially won over the crowd with the swirly-guitar-laced, shoegazer-pop closer “No Sir.”
The best thing about the whole night was the fact that the bands were so vastly different, a trait that carried over to the rest of the main-room lineup. Fort Wilson Riot opened the show with its quirky, drum-machine-accompanied indie-pop, followed by the sweet, wallopinggarage-punk of Pink Mink. The Blind Shake made a big impression mid-show with its hard-blasting, two-guitar noise-punk, punctuated with high kicks better than we’ll probably see from David Lee Roth on May 19. Peter Wolf Crier took a semi-maniacal tear through the frazzled art-rock off last year’s album “Garden of Arms."
Transplanted indie-rapper Astronautalis, who relocated here from Seattle-via-Florida, delivered his first full main-room set to close out the night. It seemed like a fitting end, as he emphasized the Twin Cities scene’s anything-goes qualities – especially during his freestyle set – and brought out a high-profile pal from the new hood, Sims.It turly felt like he intended to answer the “Are You Local? question
“I’m so damn happy I moved here,” Astronautalis said several times as he noticed that most of the crowd stuck it out to the end. Yes, even including some of those disgruntled Japhies fans.