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Juliette and the New Romantiques, King Khan and the Shrines Bring Heat to Rolling Stone's SXSW Party

March 22, 2009 10:45 AM ET

Rolling Stone's Saturday afternoon showcase at Peckerheads went from a sweaty affair to a sweltering one as singer-actress Juliette Lewis hit the stage with her new band, the New Romantiques, to run through material from her upcoming disc, Terra Incognita. As Lewis told RS backstage, she wanted to step out from behind the power riffs of her previous band, the Licks, and embrace a sound where guitars were more of an atmospheric backdrop for songs teaming with raw emotion. (The Mars Volta's Omar Rodriguez-Lopez became her collaborator after the two met at a festival and talked Fellini films). "Holy shit, I feel like we're in my living room," she exclaimed after ending her opening song, "Romeo," a dark and mysterious number, with a piercingly epic note. "In the closet of my soul."

Lewis stalked the front of the stage in sequined stockings and a beaded black dress adorned with feathered wings on her shoulders, her eyes closing as she fell into a trancey zone. She busted out a gut-wrenching blues song ("Hard-Loving Woman"), and concluded with the David Bowie-esque "Suicide Divebombers," which swirled around the refrain "The past is dead." After showing off how her elastic voice can stretch to accommodate songs that conjure Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, Lewis may just be leaving any preconceived notions about how seriously she takes her music in the past, too.

(For photos fresh from SXSW, check out our gallery.)

Earlier Canadians King Khan the Shrines hit the stage with their always-unpredictable soul-garage revue. Frontman Khan emerged from the crowd, escorted by a pom-pom waving colleague, and instantly broke into a sweat, shrieking and strutting like James Brown crossed with Jim Belushi. Organs twirled, sax blasted and a rogue audience member slapped a tambourine on his side as every member of the big band grinned and grooved. "This next song is about being on welfare," Khan said, introducing a tune with a surprisingly upbeat "sha la la la la" chorus. He broke out his gold cape and an evil laugh, ending the too-short set with an appropriately dramatic flourish.

(Find all of our video, photos and live reports from Austin's SXSW in our Rock Daily blog.)

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