Retro ruled on South by Southwest’s final Saturday — at least for Rachael Ray’s 11th annual Feedback party at Stubb’s on March 17.
The combination of old school rap heroes Salt-N-Pepa and the star-studded Beatles tribute Dr. Pepper’s Jaded Hearts Club Band had fans relishing enduring favorites from two eras, a euphoric close to the six-hour, three-stage, 15-act free public event. Add a dash of St. Patrick’s Day spirit, including a bagpipe corps that marched through Stubb’s and onto the street at the start of the day, and summery weather — not to mention the free food and drink Ray provides for the masses — and it seemed impossible to have anything but a good time.
“So this is Austin winter?” Jet’s Nic Cester said early in the Dr. Pepper’s set, a fab 45-minute romp through 14 Beatles favorites. In its first full public performance, the group — which also features Muse’s Matt Bellamy on bass, Last Shadow Puppets’ Miles Kane on vocals and members of Nine Inch Nails and the Zutons — dressed in early ’60s Beatles leather and used vintage instruments and amplifiers. They landed on just the professional side of ragged as they revived “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Bad Boy,” “Back in the USSR, “ “Taxman,” “It Won’t Be Long,” “Hey Bulldog,” a metallic “Helter Skelter” and more. The group also celebrated Kane’s 31st birthday with a traditional round of “Happy Birthday” — “I think Paul McCartney owns it,” Cester quipped — and a cake.
Before that, Salt-N-Pepa, accompanied by DJ Spinderella and a trio of muscular male dancers, pushed the party into overdrive — even with Cheryl “Salt” James battling the flu. “My girl Rachael Ray asked me to be here, so I could not not,” Salt told the crowd. “What a Man” sounded as fresh as it did 20-odd years ago, with Ray and husband John Cusimano joining the troupe on stage for some dirty dancing. The trio brought Ray back for “Push It,” adorning her in one of their trademark jackets.
Girl Talk also elevated the Feedback fun with a half-hour DJ set that brought fans from the crowd on stage to dance and sent confetti, balloons and enough toilet paper to populate the venue’s Porta Potty park flying from the stage.
Quieter acts such as Kurt Vile and Waxahatchee seemed a bit lost in the mix, though solo sets by Erika Wennerstrom (known for her work with Heartless Bastards) and Kevin Morby fared better on the inside stage. The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr. flew the flag for rock, as did Cusinamo’s the Cringe (he walked through the crowd and onto the VIP deck during a cover of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling”) and Austin favorite Bob Schneider, who finished with a one-two punch of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Tarantula.”
And the best news of the day, for the crowd, came when Ray promised to bring Feedback back in 2019 — although it sounded like it might just take her voice, by then reduced to a rasp, the full year to return.