A friend of mine who may not be my friend much longer really wanted to see Duran Duran’s first-ever SXSW set last night at Stubb’s and assumed there would be a long line. So he lined himself up a VIP pass -- or tried to, anyway. After arguing with the door man for a minute over his name being “on the list” (oh, how many times those words are heard in Austin this week), the nameless/shameless friend harrumphed away, only to realize the error of his ways: There actually wasn't a line for SXSW registrants at the show. Not even a little one.
So it went Wednesday, which weirdly felt even more subdued than Tuesday night in Austin. The unwashed masses have yet to arrive in full force, and no major names were on the schedule. The biggest act of the night was Queens of the Stone Age, whom I love but did not want to see over several prospective newbies. I did try to get in for the long-awaited return of Bad Brains at Emo’s, but there was indeed an unbeatable line there. Bad Brains in bigger demand than Duran Duran? Turns out, SXSW is still cool. Here’s some of what I did see.
Best of the night: I was hesitant to buy into the buzz over Raphael Saadiq, being old enough to remember his old group Tony! Toni! Tone! and having already spilled ample amounts of love for a lively, quirky, wiry retro-soul star two years ago when Janelle Monae had her big coming out at SXSW. Saadiq was ceaselessly entertaining outside Stubb’s though, bouncing around as hyperactively as his music does and nailing the timing with his ultra-tight band.
Close second on best of the night: San Francisco trio the Dodos lived up to their hype as the closing act of French Kiss Records’ showcase. Featuring two tastefully noodly guitarists, one monstrous drummer and no bassist, the band practically marched through its set, building up its choppy, percussive, Talking Heads-like like rockers until they spilled over into Built to Spill-like distortion baths. Twin Citians can catch the Dodos right after SXSW at the Cedar Cultural Center on Wednesday. St. Paul kid Colin Caulfield also reportedly went over well earlier at the French Kiss showcase with his Chicago-based band Young Man.
How the Minnesotans fared: The Ryan Olson-led all-star ensemble Gayngs got together a night before its “Affilyated” marathon to play an unannounced set at its label Jagjaguwar’s showcase. The gang probably should have just waited till tonight. Several members were noticeably missing from the mix, and even after taking an extra 15 minutes to sound check (thus limiting its set to a mere half-hour), the sound on stage was an absolute mess, with ample buzzes and bleeps that weren’t supposed to be there. Tonight should be much better. … One of the missing Gayngs members, P.O.S., came out much better. He debuted yet another new project at Doomtree’s well-attended showcase at the permanently weed-aromatic reggae bar Flamingo Cantina. He and longtime cohort Astronautalis delivered songs from an upcoming album made under the moniker Four Fists. The new tracks were at once hilarious and musically riotous, and they did some hilarious freestyling in tribute to the newly deceased Nate Dogg. Said Astronautalis, “Nate Dogg is who T-Pain was trying to be when he bought a computer.”
On tap for Thursday night: The Strokes are playing their free public show at Auditorium Shores; Cee-Lo Green, Lupe Fiasco and Wiz Khalifa are all at La Zona Rosa (sure to be a line); and newbies on tap include Dom and OFF!
See all our SXSW coverage, including photo galleries, at www.startribune.com/sxsw