Rain apparently does not dampen the appetite for free food and music — at least not when it’s the offerings at Rachael Ray’s annual Feedback party and concert.
The line snaked literally the entire block around Stubbs before the gates opened Saturday morning, as Feedbackers braved off-and-on rain that was heavy at times into the late afternoon. But Feedback, in its seventh year, has won its reputation as one of SXSW’s most reliable good times, whether you’re there for the brisket sliders or whiskey-sauced chicken wings or music from 14 acts who, due to weather-related technical delays, played for more than an hour past the planned 4 p.m. ending time, with a couple — Blondie and Bob Schneider — forced to cut their sets a bit short to accommodate the circumstances.
For the first time ever at Feedback, it was a band playing Stubbs’ tiny indoor room that generated the biggest buzz. Green Day’s adjunct Foxboro Hot Tubs — who played the night before in the larger Brazos Hall — specifically asked to play there, but the quintet didn’t downsize its show at all, from the balloon drop at the start of the show to the confetti and silly string that frontman Billie Joe Armstrong showered the packed room with throughout the 14-song set.
Sporting a flowered top hat, Armstrong opened by taunting the crowd that it was “Boring!” before the group tour into “Pieces of Truth.” It stuck mainly to Foxboro’s garage-y originals – “Sally” is a kissing cousin to the Monkees’ “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” — though the band also covered the Network’s “Supermodel Robots” and Green Day’s “Makeout Party” and “Fuck Time,” the latter in a long, lusty version that incorporated Ray into the mid-song chants. Foxboro finished with the Who’s mini-opera “A Quick One (While He’s Away),” the original of which, we should note, was about as long as the “Jesus of Suburbia” suite from “American Idiot.”
Cee Lo Green, however, was not to be outdone — he even got a huge cheer when he and his posse arrived, walking across Stubbs’ main stage after sitting for a SXSW discussion at the Austin Convention Center. Fronting a full, mixed-gender band, whose female members sported tight, glittery body suits, and promising to “be your adult entertainment for the evening,” Green started his buoyant, spirit-lifting set with his own “Bright Lights Bigger City” before taking the human jukebox approach at the start of his set, covering MGMT’s “”Electric Feel” David Bowie`s “Let’s Dance.” Throughout he mixed his own material with more covers, including the Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone” (which he performed as part of Gnarls Barkley on the duo’s 2006 debut “St. Elsewhere”) and Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha” before elevating things even further with Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and “the song that made me rich and famous,” “Forget You.”
Despite the shortened set, Blondie was tight and clearly energized by its first-ever visit to SXSW (though drummer Clem Burke is a regular), powering through a hits-heavy playlist that included “One Way or Another,” “Rapture,” “Heart of Glass” and “Call Me,” as well as a rendition of the Beastie Boys’ (You’ve Got to) Fight For Your Right (To Party).”
Yelawolf and blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, meanwhile, offered a sample of their upcoming “Lovestory” album with “Black Chevrolet,” along with some of the rapper’s older favorites (“Pop the Trunk” and “Marijuana”) and playful snippets of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Nirvana’s “Smell’s Like Teen Spirit.”
Cody ChesnuTT’s abundantly funky set has the Feedback crowd grooving hard in between the raindrops, while Allen Stone and the Wild Feathers cranked out rowdy rock, Stone’s with more of an R&B flavor. Schneider — whose accordion player, Oliver Steck, entertained the crowd during the production delays — joined Ray’s husband John Cusimano and his band, the Cringe, for a version of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling.” Indoors, meanwhile, the Last Internationale got the day started with a hard-hitting modern rock mélange slated for its June debut album, and Bad Suns blended atmosphere and energy in convincing fashion.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell proclaimed Saturday Rachael Ray Day and presented the TV host with a plaque; Ray, however, had lost her voice “screaming the Beatles with my husband ‘til midnight” and kept her remarks truncated, though she did introduce Foxboro Hot Tubs’ set.
(Additional reporting by Randy Alexander and John Mogos)