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SXSW Roundup: Richie Hawtin, Duran Duran, Foo Fighters and more...

of the Oakland Press

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Hard as it is to believe, electronic music pioneer Richie Hawtin, aka Plastikman, has never been to a South By Southwest Music + Media Conference before.

The Windsor-raised artist can check that off his list now; he’s in Austin to perform a DJ set on Thursday, March 17. And he suspects the gathering will become a regular part of his schedule.

“This is amazing,” Hawtin said on Wednesday, March 16. “I can see coming here very year from now on.”

These days Hawtin is focusing on his Plastikman Live show which he said may be a candidate for South By Southwest in 2012. He’s also planning to spend some time in Windsor this spring and summer, working on new material.

Duran Duran launched its world tour as well as a new album, “All You Need is Now,” on Wednesday night, March 16, with a performance at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q. “The name of this band is Duran Duran,” frontman Simon Le Bon intoned, as if the nostalgia-seeking crowd would not know that. And while the there were some first-night snafus – an aborted first take of the new song “Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)” and a wobbly “Ordinary World,” Duran scored with 80s favories such as the James Bond theme “A View to a Kill,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “The Chauffeur,” “Notorious,” the 30-year-old rarity “Friends Like These” and an extended encore of “Girls on Film” which included a snippet of the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” The group was slated for a public interview at the Austin Convention Center on Thursday, March 16, with a performance at a private party that evening.

Duran was preceded at Stubb’s by Raphael Saadiq, the former Tony! Toni! Tone! And Lucy Pearl leader who killed it with a set of vintage soul that mashed up Stax, Motown, James Brown and any other 60s and 70s R&B touchstone you can think of, rocking through favorites like “Let’s Take a Walk” and “Sure Hope You Mean It” and finishing with the title track from his new album, “Stone Rollin’.”

Both the Duran and Saadiq albums are due out March 22.

SXSW attendees were disappointed by a pair of big-name cancellations on Thursday, March 17. Cee-Lo Green and Lupe Fiasco – whose new album “Lasers” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week – blowed out of their planned showcase. Janelle Monae was slotted into their place, topping a bill that also includes Wiz Khalifa and B.o.B.

Foo Fighters spent Wednesday afternoon, March 16, savoring the previous day’s triumph of the premiere of the new documentary, “Back and Forth,” and a surprise performance at Stubb’s where the band played its new album, “Wasting Light” – due out April 12 – in its entirety.

Gathered at the bucolic Zilker Club House away from the hubbub of South By Southwest in downtown Austin, the quintet ate barbecue and did interviews to promote the film and the album. They’re also gearing up for a long stretch of touring to promote “Wasting Light,” but frontman Dave Grohl said balance has become important to the band these days.

“We have a way of doing this that we’ve always done,” Grohl says. “We try to keep things very simple. We try to do it as much as we can without burning it out. It’s disturbing to look at a schedule that’s two years long. I’ve looked at January 2012 and it kind of scares me. It’s overwhelming, but we’ll get there. I can’t wait to just go play shows.”

Foo Fighters’ tour kicks off May 17 in Tulsa, Okla., and only a few dates have been announced so far. The “Back and Forth” documentary will have limited theatrical screening on April 5 and a debut on VH1, VH1 Classic and Palladia on April 8.

All three members of R.E.M. are in Austin for South By Southwest, but doing separate things. While Peter Buck and Mike Mills are playing with the all-star side group the Baseball Project, Michael Stipe hit town to unveil the Collapse Into Now Film Project, a series of “art films” for each of the 12 songs from the group’s new album by various directors, including Academy Award nominee James Franco.

“I know everybody,” Stipe said on Wednesday, March 16, before screening nine of the films as part of the South By Southwest Film Festival. “So it was just a matter of figuring out which song I wanted them to do. I said, ‘I’m here if you have any questions about what the song is about, if you want direction, guidance, if you want me to step in as producer – let me know. But otherwise it’s yours. Take it and have fun. Do what you do.’

“And I have to say everyone really, unbelievably, rose to the occasion. They’re absolutely stunning.”

Stipe, who co-directed the film for the track “Destroyer,” said the trio knew it wasn’t going to tour to support the album before he started the project. He says his bandmates “basically said, ‘You go do your art thing and let us know how it turns out’,” but have been supportive of the endeavor, which Stipe hopes will “reimagine what an album is in 2011…How do we take a group of songs that were created together and update what (an album) is with the available technology? How can we explore that in the 21st century?”

While the films are gradually surfacing online, Stipe said there’s been discussion about some sort of product release as well, possibly including some footage of the band playing some of “Collapse Into Now’s” songs live in the studio in Berlin. “I’m sure there will be some kind of DVD that comes out that is a collection of all 12 pieces,” he said. “But it might be something different than you might expect.”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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