Eagles of Death Metal's Jesse Hughes told the crowd at Rachael Ray's Feedback that "it's a dream come true to be opening for Kenny Loggins."
He wasn't kidding, either. And Hughes was far from alone.
As incongruous at it seems at a hipster mecca like South By Southwest, Loggins, who performed both solo and with his new group Blue Sky Riders, had a generation-spanning field of fans at Stubb's dancing and singing along Saturday afternoon to the one-two punch of "I'm Alright" and "Footloose," as joyous a scene as you were likely to find in Austin during the duration of the conference. And that was after they'd sung along to "Annie's Song" and "Whenever I Call You Friend" (with Loggins' Blue Sky Riders mate Georgia Middleman taking Stevie Nicks' duet part). And, yes, Hughes was hunkered at the side of the stage, enjoying it as much as anyone in the crowd.
That speaks to what's made Ray's party -- in its sixth year and fourth at Stubb's -- one of SXSW's best and most anticipated events -- one that had people sleeping in their cars overnight near the Stubb's gates to make sure they got in for the early-starting (10 a.m.) affair. A combination of free food and drink and a boldly eclectic lineup makes Feedback one of the few SXSW day parties that's worth attending for the entire day.
This year's show began with a short performance by Austin's East Side Memorial High School (look what Mumford & Sons has wrought…) and then moved inside, where ZZ Ward told her audience that she had played that very room at Stubb's last year. "It was my first show at South By Southwest, and I was scared shitless. Now I'm not." Back outside, perennial Austin favorite Bob Schneider had everyone singing the chorus of "Tarnantula."
— Gary Graff (@GraffonMusic) March 16, 2013
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis registered the day's best opening, when Macklemore slipped and fell on stage, telling the Feedback crowd that it was the first time that had happened. After joking that he was going to pass around a waiver preventing them from posting videos online, he decided, "Nah, put that shit up. I want to see it." The duo was also joined during its set by Warren G, while Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan and "Shameless" star Justin Chatwin turned up for the hang.
The Cringe, led by Ray's husband John Cusimano, was without its usual guest – ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons is touring Australia – so Eric Burdon filled the spot, joining the group for the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place."
— Charlie Dougiello (@cdougiello) March 16, 2013
Other highlights of the day included the Sheepdogs' deftly executed jam rock, an accomplished set of sophisticated but sharp songwriting and arranging by Frightened Rabbit – whose frontman, Scott Hutchison, noted that "It's nice to be able to play and work on my tan at the same time" – and EODM's pulverizing, good-humored exposition, which featured a cover of Stealer's Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle With You" that didn't need a knife to take somebody's ear off.
And the food? This year's menu, for which Feedback fans waited in long lines all day long, sported barbecue pulled pork tacos, Tex Mex bacon cheeseburgers with chipotle ketchup, Mexican-style fried chicken and sweet corn soup with Mexican-style pesto. Needless to say, the feedback from both ears and stomachs was favorable.