SXSW: Rachael Ray’s Feedback Festival

Lost In Reviews must be well-liked by someone, because we were cordially invited to attend the event of Rachael Ray’s Feedback Festival, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. T’s margaritas and bloody marys. I have never attended one of these parties, but word on the street was that it’s one of the biggest parties at SXSW each year. Rachael picked all the bands herself and the crowd was peppered with celebrity friends of hers and the bands.

We piled into Stubbs around 11 am and with a long line behind us still to come. This was an outdoor concert with four stages set up. It was a cold day in March. The previous days had been in the very nice 70’s, but today it was around 50 degrees. The sky was filled with clouds and at any moment, they might crack open and flood us out. The air was clear and the trees were about to bloom. Rachael and her staff were also preparing huge amounts of food to give to us. The line started forming as soon as we walked in. Before we could eat, though, the bands were starting already.

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t possibly cover all the bands that were here at Stubbs. There were two main stages facing each other. Then there was a bar-sized room hidden behind the South stage called the Stubbs Stage. Even more, there was a tiny chapel-like stage located upstairs from the Stubbs stage that they called the Daytrotter Stage. I only found it half way through the show, so needless to say, I missed that show. Here is the lineup from the show:

North Stage
J Roddy Walston and the Business
Steve Conte and the Crazy Truth
Dr. Dog
Street Sweeper Social Club

South Stage
Bob Schneider
The Cringe
Andrew WK
Jakob Dylan and Three Legs
She and Him

Stubbs Stage
Shayna Zaid and The Catch
The Orion Experience
Local Natives
School of Seven Bells
Justin Townes Earle

Daytrotter Stage
Peter Wolf Crier
Freelance Whales
Pearly Gate Music
Fang Island

So, I just want to touch on the bands that I did see and really think others should check out if you haven’t already. You should really check out all the bands here if you haven’t, because as it turns out, Rachael Ray not only has excellent taste in food, but music too. I guess it helps being married to John M. Cusimano, the lead singer of The Cringe.

The first band that I came across was Shayna Zaid and The Catch. Wow, what a way to start the day off. The band hails from New York and with Shayna leading the Americana group, we are lead through the songs with storytelling in her lyrics. The folksy fiddle is somewhat catchy and I never thought I would’ve liked something like this, but you can’t deny talent when it’s singing with a very powerful voice in your face. They have been around since 2003 and have produced two albums. Their albums, Half a World Away and their debut album Beyond Borders are available now as well as their new EP Au Fait. I would recommend Shayna Zaid and The Catch, obviously, if you love Americana, but if you have shied away from it until now, but love acts like Florence and the Machine, Jewel, or groups lead by very powerful, animated female voices; do not miss Shayna Zaid and The Catch.

Now, I just had to mention Mishka, as Matthew McConaughey was just giddy over him at the party. Mishka has been around since 1999 and comes from Bermuda. His music is in the spirit of the Caribbean and the vibe is very warm and inviting. In fact, when Matthew introduced Mishka, he commented about the weather being cold today and said, “I know it may feel cold where you are, but I guarantee you it’s 70 and sunny up here” referring to the stage. Mishka is one man, but the stage had three other artists along for the ride and to help play the songs. I really did feel warmer listening to Mishka. Now, this is way too obvious, but if you love Bob Marley, this is your new best friend. If anyone can lull you to a vacation in your mind, it’s this guy. He did happen to grow up on a boat in the Caribbean, can you say jealous?

Next for me was The Orion Experience. The quintet is from New York and are a really cool experience. I could describe this group as an alternative band with some rap qualities. I know, rap really? Yes, they have the ability to make appealing, fun lyrics that can fly off the tongue. The group released a full length album in 2007 called, Cosmicandy and an EP in 2008.You might recognize their hit, “Obsessed with You” which is a pretty catchy, funny song about stalking. What I like the most about the group is the alternating female/male lead vocals from Linda Horwatt to Orion Simprini. It’s hard for me to compare them to others as they are like so many bands but not at all in other ways. I’ll just say they are definitely radio-friendly and if you haven’t heard them by now, your not listening to anything.

Local Natives were up next for me. This five piece from Los Angeles act more like a tribe creating something than a band making music. Their sound will definitely be interesting to women. Local Natives have a very mellow, love-making quality to their sound. All members seem to offer back up vocals to lead, Taylor Rice’s harmonic falsetto octaves. Don’t let that be the reason to write this band off if you are not into males singing extraordinarily high (which obviously, I am). They can still kick it into gear and blow the windows out of any venue with their heavy drums, and alarming screams. They have one album, Gorilla Manor, available now.

Now out of all the bands I was discovering here, School of Seven Bells was definitely my new favorite discovery. I am willing to listen to any kind of new music, but I am partial to a certain genre. That would include the likes of School of Seven Bells with sounds that are industrial, electronica, heavy synth, female vocals and still rhythmic. You just have to love a band that considers the Macbook to be a new instrument. The group consist of two lead twin sisters, Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, who play bass and keyboard as well as share the mic. Benjamin Curtis on guitar and a drummer complete the group. I am recommending this band if you like music from Metric, Nine Inch Nails, Bat for Lashes or Franz Ferdinand. They didn’t move much on stage, classic shoegaze, and I can understand as they were trapped by all the wires that connected them to the speakers. Their album Alpinisms is available now. Their new album, Disconnect from Desire will be available soon. You can be sure that if they pass through my town, I will be at their show so I can experience the full set.

The next act was one I had seen previously, but was not going to miss out on, Andrew W.K. Andrew doesn’t give concerts, he gives parties. His intro will challenge anyone not to get pumped up as he gets the crowd chanting and jumping before the music has even begun. Andrew is the man behind all the music, however, he has a band of hair to back him. Not only is he a great musician, he is a first-class motivational speaker, host of a Cartoon Network show for young kids, Destroy, Build, Destroy and an owner of a very popular club in New York called Santos Haus, which is also where he is from. Andrew comes out on stage and wants to be everyone’s friend, and they want to be his too. Not just because he is a rock star of sorts, but because he has the nicest disposition. While singing a very heavy song about the dead, he has a grin from ear to ear on his face. He sang songs mostly from his debut album, I Get Wet and gave the crowd a nice cardio exercise as he was the only band able to get a pit going. I was feeling a lot warmer while he was on stage as well, I can’t help but jump and chant along with him, it’s infectious. His set was over before we knew it, but the feelings remained. There is no other band to compare him too, he is an anomaly. If you like heavy, hard rock, then I’m sure you have heard him already and you know that his albums get put on every time the party gets raging, and he only makes them better.

After that act, the show should have ended, however, Rachael knew that we wanted more so she brought out Dr. Dog all the way from Philadelphia. The name Dr. Dog sounds like a rap group, but that’s just your mind playing association games because Snoop Dogg has been around for so long. No, the five-some have all the necessary parts to make the all-encompassing band. The guitarist, Frank McElroy and bass player, Toby Leaman each look like a hippie and a computer tech, where the lead Scott McMicken could pass as the jock, or the little brother to Zach Galifianakis. Maybe it’s just the beard fooling me though. The drummer, Eric Slick, plays it cool and reminds me of Tom Everett Scott as ‘Shades’ from The Wonders in the film, That Thing You Do, wearing the sunglasses the way he does.Then comes along Zach Miller on keyboards busting out notes looking like a rock star. What a funky bunch, but their music is good for any occasion; it’s fun, jumpy, raspy and brash at times. The best way I can describe them is an American band. They don’t jump around a lot, but dance a little to the songs, as would you. They seemed to have created a lot of songs by just jamming, which is an undying kind of music that’s timeless.

Okay, I’ll just mention a few more, then I swear I will get out of your hair. Have you heard of Street Sweeper Social Club? These guys have a guitarist that plays just like Tom Morello. That’s because their guitarist is Tom Morello. I’ve talked about these guys before when they toured with Nine Inch Nails last summer and they still rock, or is it rap? It’s an awesome blend of both, actually. The only complaint I have with them is that their intense energy on stage is not transcended through their self-titled album. I’m crossing my fingers that their next album will hold the magic. Until then, I will see these guys live anytime.

Another band most might have heard of, which also closed out the concert, is She and Him. The lead singer is the beautiful actress, Zooey Deschanel from 500 Days of Summer. She and M.Ward, which makes up the “Him” part of the band have been creating songs since 2006. They have two full length albums, Volume One and Volume Two, both available now. Now if you have heard her speak in any movie of hers, you already have a good idea of how she sings, which I really love. However, some of her songs can get a little too country for me. The twang in songs tends to send me into seizures. I hold on though, because She and Him have some really adorable, lighthearted songs like, “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” which was also featured on the special features of the DVD for 500 Days of Summer. I also love “This is Not a Test” which is probably the closest I will get to liking country, but there is a definite 60’s swing vibe to this song that just feels safe. They just released their second album, Volume Two and I have yet to really delve into it, so I will have to get back to you. Check them out, but I am warning, they may not be your style. Just imagine, their music is perfect for sipping lemonade out in your backyard on the porch swing, watching the sunset. Now you want to listen to them, don’t you?

The day did come to an exhausting end eventually, and I had such a blast. We were cold, and a little moist from the clouds, but our bellies were full from the delicious food prepared by Rachael Ray and her staff. The Bloody Marys and Margaritas from Mr. and Mrs. T sure helped to keep us warm as well. As you can see, Rachael provided a little bit of everything in hopes that she could satisfy everyone, musically. What was so great though, is that I liked music I normally would push aside. It was a lot of shuffling back and forth for the goods but it was worth every minute of it. I will most surely be keeping my eye out for this party next year.

I give Rachael Ray’s party 5 “McConaugheys” out of 5

by Angela Davis

Photos from Rachael Ray’s Feedback Festival


About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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