Do talk about Bight Club

From 186 groups, to three, and finally, to one. Such was the progression of Vita.mn's second annual Are You Local? new-band contest -- which culminated on Saturday at First Avenue and saw hip-hop duo Bight Club claim the prize that will send them to Texas' South by Southwest music conference. There, they'll join fellow Twin Citians Solid Gold, Lookbook, Jeremy Messersmith and others on March 16 at Best Buy's "Minnesota Music" party -- a free, SXSW-sanctioned, all-day rooftop concert at Maggie Mae's in downtown Austin (RSVP soon at www.vita.mn/sxsw).

Much credit is due to Bight Club's Are You Local? foes Hunting Club and Joey Ryan and the Inks. All three acts packed the 7th Street Entry and played fiercely in Saturday's competition, and any would have served as fine Minnesota ambassadors in Austin. But Bight Club -- with supreme confidence and charisma, two decidedly non-Minnesotan traits -- proved the victor. MC Jeremy Nutzman spat bars with ease and wandered into the Entry crowd looking rock-star chic, while beatsmith Tony Rabiola worked his beat station like a joyful speed freak. The duo advanced to a victory encore in the mainroom, where the SXSW-bound Messersmith, Peter Wolf Crier and Lookbook were also performing.

Did Bight Club think they deserved the win? "Absolutely," said Nutzman, adding that his focus the entire night was on the duo's eventual mainroom show. Rabiola agreed, calling the victory a validation. "If we didn't win, we were gonna push 10 times harder," he said, likening the victory to a launching pad. Both members were adamant about one thing: Their ambitions are much larger than local fame.

  • Jay Boller

The SXSW cavalcade begins

One's playing the I Luv Video parking lot. One's playing the Fat Wreck Chords showcase (and it's not Dillinger Four). And one is even planning to see its image planted on a billboard downtown (and it's not Mark Mallman!). These are among the myriad of planned activities for Minnesota bands at next week's South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas.

SXSW vets Romantica, for instance, have been invited to play Austin legend Alejandro Escovedo's popular Saturday party at Maria's Tacos in addition to their official showcase in one of 6th Street's biggest venues, Buffalo Billiards. Gay Witch Abortion's schedule includes an official showcase, a poster-art warehouse party and the aforementioned video store parking lot set, which is seriously a pretty excellent location. Banner Pilot got on the Fat Wreck showcase, while Off With Their Heads will be at Epitaph's show before hitting the road with Bad Religion. Grant Hart is revered enough by SXSW officials to have earned two official showcases (a rarity).

Newcomers We Became Actors, meanwhile, are blogging/video-streaming their experiences as first-timers for Best Buy and mi11.com. Amazingly, it'll also be Trampled by Turtles' first SXSW, and the wait paid off: Their first showcase is with current alt-country buzz darlings Justin Townes Earle and Deer Tick.

As for last year's big breakout act Solid Gold, the dance rockers have another full plate of shows, including headlining Best Buy's "Minnesota Music" showcase on Thursday. Solid Gold's most high-profile appearance -- or at least high-elevation -- might be on a billboard, which their backers are reportedly planning to erect on I-35 in time for the fest. That's the SXSW spirit in a nutshell.

Check www.vita.mn for daily reports from the fest, which starts Wednesday.

  • Chris Riemenschneider

'Appetite' for Austin

"You will like the world when we take over," Mark Mallman wrote on the blog of Ruby Isle, his band with Kindercore Records co-founder Dan Geller and drummer Aaron Lemay. "It'll be pretty much like Morocco, but with beats." Their pursuit continues next week at South by Southwest, as they take the stage Wednesday at Lamberts and Saturday at the Side Bar with their bizarro-dance pop group, known for its pink gorilla suits and iRobot-in-a-record-store indie covers. The group will play a few of the more upbeat songs from its upcoming LP, which Mallman describes as a "depressing version of" Guns N' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction."

  • Rebecca Lang

'Serious' consolation

Though they didn't win best picture for "A Serious Man" at Sunday's Oscars, the Coen brothers can console themselves on a couple of counts.

Their suburban farce's worldwide gross ($24 million) beats that of winner "The Hurt Locker" ($21 million). At Friday's Film Independent Spirit Awards, "A Serious Man" won the Robert Altman Award presented to the movie with the best ensemble cast, and also earned the cinematography award. How many Spirit Awards did "The Hurt Locker" win? Zero.

The Coens gave best actor winner Jeff Bridges his career-defining role in their 1998 comedy "The Big Lebowski," surely a warmup for his boozy lovable loser in "Crazy Heart." His acceptance speech, a rambling emission of "groovys" and "mans" sounded like he was channeling the Dude.

"A Serious Man" also won Premiere.com's Golden Trailer Award, an Internet-based public poll honoring the best trailer for a best picture nominee.

  • Colin Covert

Hip-hop wedding crasher

Afrika Bambaataa is a bona fide hip-hop legend ... and a wedding DJ? Sort of. Bambaataa will perform at Epic Saturday night, but this isn't just any old gig for the music pioneer. One of the downtown scene's biggest personalities, Ben Quam (bartender/emcee/DJ/general manager), and Happy Gnome server Emily Koerber are getting married inside the club that night. Yes, they love the club scene that much. Working with Epic's talent booker, they were able to sign Bambaataa to perform (for the public) after the private reception ends. "Honestly, I can't believe we pulled it off. The idea of having a legend actually DJ'ing that night -- I'm so excited it's not even funny," Quam said.

  • Tom Horgen