Mixed night for best new bands

About a thousand fans showed up for last weekend's Best New Bands of 2007 showcase at First Avenue, despite the subzero windchill. Here's how the night went:

A Night in the Box proved to be a novelty hit with its faux-gospel, get-behind-me-Satan rock, but I thought co-leader Clayton Hagen showed where the group's priorities lie when he stopped playing his guitar during one song because he dropped his fedora.

A band that has "gospel" in its name but none in its sound, Gospel Gossip started out a bit tepidly but proceeded to nearly steal the show with a beautiful whirlwind of guitars and swerving tempos. It would have been tops if not for Gay Witch Abortion, who looked puny onstage as a duo but never sounded larger.

Mouthful of Bees emerged onstage as a five-piece with the addition of a keyboardist, but I couldn't tell if his keyboard was actually plugged in. It was mostly an off night for the Bees, but a couple of their new songs proved worthy additions to their buzz.

A similarly haphazard but nonetheless promising set was played by Black Audience, the rustic, banjo-accompanied folk sextet featuring Valet's Robin Kyle and his wife, Jayanthi. They rambled through choice covers such as "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" and Dylan's "Queen Jane Approximately," but the highlight came when Jayanthi flaunted the "black" in the group's name by singing the provocative Alberta Hunter nugget "You Can't Tell the Difference After Dark."

M.anifest also strutted his Afrocentric background to great effect, even though a guy standing next to me wrongly guessed he's from Eagan (nope, he's really from Ghana). The best part of his set was a clever remake of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" featuring guest rapper Muja Messiah, with whom he performs Feb. 8 at 7th Street Entry.

  • Chris Riemenschneider

Wake up, Diablo! It's Oscar

There's a long-running joke in Diablo Cody's family that she's the only kid ever to sleep in on Christmas morning. True to form, the "Juno" screenwriter got a solid night's snooze before Tuesday's Oscar announcements and had to be dragged from her slumbers by a friend to learn that her first script earned a best original screenplay nomination. Despite a raft of nominations, most recently from the Writers' Guild and British Film and Television Awards, she resisted over-optimism about her Oscar chances. "Candidly, truly and sincerely, I'm surprised," she said. "I don't think I should win the Oscar," she admitted, adding, "Certainly, I hope other people disagree with me."

Three years ago as a columnist for City Pages, Cody slagged the Oscars in a piece that observed, "Clint Eastwood looks like one of those withered hotdogs on the abandoned spit at Kwik-Trip." "If I was snarking on the Oscars a few years ago, I think I might have been a little bit bitter, don't you think? 'Cause my life was not the proverbial bowl of cherries at the time."

  • Colin Covert

Lucky us

Lucky Magazine's February issue details the nation's "Best New Shopping Cities," and Minneapolis is one of them. "This progressive metropolis is finally having its shopping moment: Indie stores abound with labels both international and local," Lucky writes. Interestingly, Lucky's website once had a Minneapolis shopping section, but they removed it -- apparently because they thought Minneapolis wasn't fashionable enough. Shops highlighted in the February issue include Bluebird Boutique, Clutch, Covered, Design Collective, Ivy, Letterbox, Salon Rouge and the Walker Art Center Shop. Conspicuously absent from the list are Cliché and Styled Life, although the stores have received national accolades in Spin Magazine and MSN City Guides, respectively.

  • Jahna Peloquin

Wrasslin' returns

After taking over the wrestling promotion at First Avenue, wrestler Arik Cannon brought in a new level of production and story lines (i.e. better male soap opera). Unfortunately, he had to put his surging monthly event on hold for a chance to wrestle in Japan last fall. Now he's back and so is F1RST Wrestling. Friday's show, dubbed "Anarchy Rules," will feature appearances by local wrestlers turned national stars, such as former WWE villain Daivari and TNA women's contender ODB. (7 p.m. Fri., $8. 18-plus ,701 1st Av. N., Mpls. 612-332-1775. www.first-avenue.com.)

  • Tom Horgen

Bon to pick

Eau Claire's rising music star Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, didn't have to try hard to seem like a regular joe at his much-ballyhooed Turf Club performance last week. "I'm a bit surprised to see you all here," he told the sold-out crowd, one of his many aw-shucks comments. Early in the set, he admitted, "About the only thing I can think about right now is the Pack." (At least a few of the scarf-wearing indie-rockers in attendance knew he meant the Packers.) He even took a Westerberg-style swipe at his new record label, Jagjaguwar, which he said wouldn't let him sell copies of his heavily hyped album "For Emma, For Ever Ago" before its Feb. 19 release. "But I have some burned copies out in my car," he said.

  • Chris Riemenschneider

Fashion photo contest

The MNfashion FLASH fashion photography contest has just been announced. The contest is open to teams of Minnesota fashion designers, photographers, stylists and models and is the brainchild of Voltage and MNfashion producer Anna Lee. The theme is the color green, and will be due March 1. Eligible participants must have an mnartists.org profile and portfolio, and the winning photograph will appear in the 2008 Voltage: Fashion Amplified look book and be posted on mnartists.org. If you are interested in participating but don't have a team or mnartists profile, the organizations are offering an online portfolio workshop and networking event at 1 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the Art Lab at the Walker Art Center. Visit www.mnartists.org or www.mnfashion.org for more info.

  • Jahna Peloquin

All you're losin' is a little mascara

It really is time to throw out your mascara. On Jan. 1, Minnesota became the first U.S. state to ban the use of mercury in cosmetics, toiletries and fragrances. Surprisingly, the federal government doesn't require personal care products to have its ingredients listed on the label. The state law could result in fines of up to $700 for retailers that knowingly sell goods with mercury and up to $10,000 for manufacturers. Although mercury is only added to some eye products and skin creams in minute amounts, experts say it still can cause neurological damage to users. To be safe, use organic products like Aveda's Mascara Plus Rose ($12 at Aveda Institute, Juut Salonspa, and Denny Kemp Salon.)

  • Jahna Peloquin