As always seems to happen after a couple days of nonstop rock 'n' roll, the South by Southwest Music Conference took a freaky turn late Thursday night as many new buzz bands took center stage.

In one corner of downtown, a pointy-haired neo-soul singer from Atlanta named Janelle Monae opened for Big Boi of OutKast fame at the giant Austin Music Hall with a jaw-dropping performance. Monae offered up several 10-minute-plus soul/funk jams and one long torch ballad all amped up by a hyperactive showmanship that was part Prince, Grace Jones and Gwen Stefani (whose band No Doubt is bringing Monae out on tour).

In another corner, a Montreal-reared, Berlin-based, kooky rock howler named King Khan came on-stage at the Mexican restaurant El Sol y La Luna wearing a cape and royal-looking cap, and with a cheerleader/go-go dancer at his side. With his band, the Shrines, his brand of vintage, unhinged garage-rock never slowed down following their aptly titled opener "Land of the Freak."

Thursday afternoon was highlighted by a set of hippie-ish harmonies, arty indie-rock arrangements and mountainous nature songs by Portland, Ore., sextet Blitzen Trapper. The band's concert was carried on National Public Radio, which downsized from daily broadcasts to just one day's worth (Twin Cities NPR affiliate the Current/89.3 FM trimmed back on its broadcasts altogether this year).

The biggest freak show in town, though, was held in an empty grocery store in a little-visited corner of downtown, where Playboy and Lollapalooza producers C3 Entertainment put on an after-hours party headlined by Jane's Addiction. Playing its first big show in 17 years with original bassist Eric Avery, the pioneering alt-metal band revisited such oldies as "Three Days" and "Stop!" while partygoers stayed up till near dawn.

It was still uncertain if more metal was on tap Friday night, with Metallica's unconfirmed SXSW performance, but the band was definitely in town. Talking with reporters at the Four Seasons hotel mid-afternoon, bassist Rob Trujillo was coy about plans. "All I'll say is we're here to get some good Texas barbecue," a reference to the site of their presumed concert venue, Stubb's BBQ, with a 2,000-person capacity rarely seen by the band.