Rachael Ray's biggest nightmare about her annual Feedback party at South By Southwest? Why, the food, of course.
"The toughest part is I get so nervous about the food," Ray told Billboard.com on Saturday after watching her husband John Cusimano's band The Cringe jam with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on Robert Johnson's "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom." "I think about the food for months."
Ray says she contemplates several different recipes for Feedback, ultimately coming up with seven finalists. Then, however, she turns the final decision to a colleague to choose the four that will be served at the party.
"I can't do the final round of elminations," Ray said. "It's like 'American Idol' and I'm J. Lo, unable to make the unchosen food cry."
Ray's ultimate choices -- a pork taco, a vegetarian chili, a burger slider with a jalapeno spread and a mini tostado with flank steak and beans -- were a hit with the public-welcome event's crowd, which lined the length of the field behind Stubb's Bar-B-Q nearly from the minute the gates opened. The grub was also enjoyed in the VIP area, where Jimmy Kimmel and John Popper were among the visitors and where Gibbons quietly hawked his BFG hot sauce, which he's working towards putting into mass production soon.
The music at Feedback, now in its fourth year, was tasty as well, with 14 acts playing on three stages for one of the most eclectic and consistently entertaining of all the South By Southwest's day parties. The soul groups -- Eli "Paperboy" Reed and Fitz & the Tantrums -- turned Stubb's into a frantic dance party, and the latter's Michael Fitzpatrick succeeded in getting everybody, including Ray, to "get down," literally, during "Money Grabber."
Bob Schneider opened the show with a sampling of some songs from his new "A Perfect Day" album and Charlie Mars led an assortment of audience singalongs, while Detroit's Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., whose sheer work load helped turn it into one of South By Southwest's buzz bands, packed the inside stage room for an energetic set that included a cover of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows."
And Rock and Roll Wanda Jackson closed Feedback with chatty charm, informing Ray that she has a "reputation" for her cooking, too. "If only she knew about my scratch biscuits, she'd call me for the recipe," Jackson told the crowd during a set that featured early hits such as "Mean, Mean Man" and "Fujiyama Mama," a version of former boyfriend Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel," the spiritual "I Saw the Light" and covers of Little Richard's "Rip It Up," Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over" and Amy Winehouse's "You Know That I'm No Good" from her new, Jack White-produced album, "The Party Ain't Over."
The resurgent Jackson proclaimed this "the best South By Southwest" ever and told the crowd, "You can't imagine how all this feels to have all you here knowing my songs. With this revival and your beautiful generation, I'm having the time of my life at 73."
Feedback was filmed for future episodes of Ray's syndicated TV show.