Saturday's big daytime event at the South by Southwest Music Festival was the annual Racheal Ray Feedback, an all-day, three-stage food and music feast at Stubbs.
This year's headliners were Blondie and CeeLo on the main stage and Foxboro Hot Tubs, a side project that includes every member of Green Day, on the indoor stage. By the time they went on, however, that room was filled to capacity so anyone (like us) who'd stepped outside to catch Blondie's set was not readmitted.
CeeLo's set was full of energy and some kitsch. He was backed by a full band that included five women plus two backup singers and dancers, all dressed in spangled, flesh-tone body suits. They were joined by a two-man horn section. Green wore a white silk tank top and white pants and spent much of his set working the crowd into a good mood. At one point, Ray came on stage and danced a bit before he lifted her high in the air and spun her around. It was that kind of set.
He performed " It's Alright," a cover of David Bowie's "Let's Dance," "Don't Cha," a song he wrote for the Pussycat Dolls, and the uncensored version of "Forget You."
Blondie gave her crowd her solid-gold hits plus several new songs that will appear on a forthcoming album, including "A Rose by Any Other Name," released as a single last year. The new album, "Ghosts of Download" is scheduled to be released Monday
Deborah Harry, who will turn 69 this summer, is still a commanding and charismatic performer. She still has plenty of voice, enough to deliver faithful renditions of "Heart of Glass," "Hanging on the Telephone" and "Call Me," all of which ignited lots of singing and dancing among a crowd of about 2,000. They also covered the Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)." At the end of that, Harry let out a Texas-style, "yee-haw!"
Inside Stubbs, before Blondie's set, Spanish Gold from Laredo, Texas, put on a lively set. The band, which includes My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan and former members of Hacienda and Grupo Fantasma, mixes and fuses several styles -- blues, soul, psychedelic rock, indie rock -- into something invigorating and organic, filled with melody and grooves.
Other bands worth checking out:
The Wild Feathers. The Nashville quintet played the second outdoor stage at Ray's party. Recommended if you like the vibe of the Band, Whiskeytown, the Avett Brothers, Tom Petty ... and anything in between.
The Cocktails: Caught them Friday night in a small bar north of Sixth Street. They're from San Francisco but the lead singer, who was wearing a KC hat, is from Lee's Summit. They write short, punchy pop sings with a punk attitude, like a mix of the Clash and the Knack.
Warpaint: The four-piece, all-women band from played a set at the Mohawk on Friday night. The music is lush and hypnotic and ambient with an undercurrent of soul. They'll open for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Midland in June.
Thumpers: They're a synth-pop band from London, and at first their sound wasn't my thing. But after a few songs, I appreciated their energy and so, it seemed, did the rest of the crowd at the Mohawk, which reacted accordingly to the catchy dance grooves.
There were plenty of local bands in Austin for the festival, including at the four-day Midcoast Takeover, a showcase of bands mostly from Kansas City and Lawrence. Saturday night, the outdoor stage at the Shangri La was packed with fans watching Be/Non, the outlandish Drop a Grand, Maps for Travelers and the showcase's closing act, the always explosive Federation of Horsepower. Saturday morning's rain caused scheduling issues; some acts had to be cut so the show could be moved indoors temporarily. Otherwise, organizers said, the event went on without a major hitch. Crowds were big and enthusiastic all four nights.
Beautiful Bodies: They performed their official SXSW showcase early Saturday night at the Soho on Sixth Street. As usual, they put on a loud and lively show. Lead singer Alicia Solombrino and guitarist Thomas Becker worked the room aggressively, getting into the crowd (and on top of the bar) and inciting lots of energy in the small room. An impressive set.
Radkey: Their SXSW showcase was at the indoor stage at the Mohawk on Friday night. The trio of brothers from St. Joseph played some new material that sounded impressive during a set that was as high-speed and polished as it was loud and unhinged. Touring nonstop has turned them into something fierce.
PedalJets: They opened the Friday night show at B.D. Riley's, an unofficial SXSW venue, and they appeared to make some new fans, many of whom stopped and watched from the sidewalk outside the bar. They make being a great rock band look effortless. Having great songs helps, too.