Critics' Picks

Duran Duran

A few months ago, I--as I've done for the past few years--attended the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, spending almost a week as a visitor in a city I once called home. The place that I left doesn't much resemble the place I returned to in March, and it hasn't for several years. Places like Liberty Lunch are torn down in the name of progress, and even as the city grows uncomfortably crowded, its citizens become more and more removed from the situation. I mean, as recently as four or five years ago, Austin meant something to the people who lived there and those who were forced to leave it behind for whatever reason.

Anyway, where was I? OK, so I'm back in Austin for SXSW, an event that, like Austin itself, has become much too bland and impersonal to remember what it used to be about--you know, back in the good ol' days. (Nope, I don't remember 'em either.) But I still remember what SXSW means to me; I'm nothing if not goal-oriented. For me, it means free food and drinks, and this year, my last hurrah with cigarettes. And when I say "last hurrah," I mean two, maybe three packs of cigarettes a day, enough nicotine and tar to coat my lungs and soak most of my various vital tissues in disgusting carcinogens for weeks, perhaps months, to come. Since most of your finer tobacco companies are kind enough to send field reps armed with enough free samples to buy a few comfortable years in the joint, I didn't have to drop much coin either. It pays to have non-smoking pals willing to pick up a pack or five for you.

Even better (just a smidgen) than the gratis smokes are the copious amounts of free booze, especially if you're not particular about a) what you drink, b) who picks up the tab, and c) what you kinda-sorta promise that person in return. Which, well, I am not. "What's that?...Yes, I am very interested in what Graham Parker's up to these days...Yeah, bourbon's fine...Gimme." On top of all that, the Driskill Hotel, where I was holed up, not only was within walking (stumbling?) distance of just about anywhere I wanted to go, but its in-room mini-bar was stocked with the perfect amount of Sprite to head off any and all hangovers at the pass. And, almost every record label, publicity firm, music-related Web site, whatever, decided to have an all-you-can-eat-and-drink afternoon shindig, meaning getting your drink on could begin as early as, say, noon.

Consequently, by midnight, without fail, I would be a little, as we in the business like to refer to it, shit-faced. Not drunk enough, mind you, to decide against phoning home to talk to my girlfriend, which was not a very bright idea for countless reasons. After maybe three nights of these calls, she finally got fed up with me, especially after I kept going on and on about this awesome Duran Duran concert T-shirt I didn't buy for her because--and I can't believe I said this--it was too much money. And I do mean on and on and on and on, to the point where even I was embarrassed. We haven't discussed the incident since then, and with any luck, we never will. What does this story have to do with anything? Not much, which is roughly the same amount of relevance Duran Duran has on music today.

Zac Crain

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Zac Crain
Contact: Zac Crain