Jack Antonoff came out of the “hibernation” of making his third Bleachers album on Saturday (March 16) to close out a raucous day at Rachael Ray’s 12th annual South By Southwest Feedback party at Stubb’s BBQ.
Playing Bleachers' first show in five months, according to Jack Antonoff, the group — which played its first public live show ever during the 2014 SXSW — held off of previewing any of its new material. But that didn’t detract at all from an energetic 50-minute, nine-song set that kept the packed field in front of the stage rocking to a selection of anthemic pop favorites such as “Let’s Get Married,” “Mystery,” “I Wanna Get Better” and “Don’t Take the Money."
More than a few obeyed Antonoff’s command to get up on each other’s shoulders (while surely causing the venue and party insurance carriers a few palpitations) during “Rollercoaster.” “Mystery,” meanwhile, became an extended epic with some call-and-response schtick between the band and crowd and a saxophone solo by Texas native Evan Smith. “I Miss Those Days” was the only song to exhibit any rust from the past few months in the studio, but Antonoff covered with some heartfelt memories about the early days of his career, including a performance at a sushi restaurant during his first SXSW.
The show was apparently just Bleachers peeking its head out of the ground for a moment, however. “We’re well into a new record,” Antonoff told the crowd at one point. “Don’t think coming out of hibernation to see you changes anything. We’re going back into the studio.”
Bleachers wasn’t the only SXSW one-off at Feedback. In the wake of the disappearance of other SXSW staples, Ray's event has become the grand damme of Austin day parties during the week, entertaining and feeding thousands, for free, over the course of nearly seven hours. One-man-band Billy Raffoul rolled in from Baton Rouge, La., where he opened for Julia Michaels the night before, to play the party. And the Beastie Boys’ Mike “Mike D” Diamond, who was part of a keynote conversation on Friday with groupmate Adam Horvitz, lit up the field with a rare DJ set that had him working both the mixers and the mics, freestyling over a selection of rap and rock classics including the Beasties’ “So What’cha Want” and “Intergalactic.”
For others on the three-stage, 14-act bill, however, Feedback was another, but welcome, stop in the general grind of SXSW. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Cautious Clay in particular noted it was his 13th show of the festival when he then had to cut his performance short when Big Boi, in a Feedback faux pax, began his set on the stage across the field before Clay was finished with his vibey performance. That, of course, didn’t stop the crowd from just turning around and throwing down with the Atlanta MC on hits such as “Shutterbugg” as well as his new single “Doin’ It” and Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson.”
Australia’s Angle McMahon, meanwhile, came off stage from her set, which included a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s "Silver Spoon," to news that she’d won SXSW’s Grulke Prize winner for Developing Non-U.S. Act. She marveled that the crowd “lined up around the block this morning for food and music,” but added that “you made a good choice.”
Among Feedback’s other highlights was a stirring hometown appearance by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and a powerful performance by J. Roddy Walston’s new band Palm Palm. An indoor stage lineup hosted sublime sets by Ben Dickey, Yola and J.S. Ondara, as well as the high-octane Los Angeles duo KOLARS, whose percussionist, Lauren Brown, was the only musician on the bill to "play" tap shoes. Feedback mainstays Bob Schneider and the Cringe, fronted by Ray’s husband John Cusimano, cross-pollinated during their sets, with Cusimano delivering a rap during Schneider’s finale and Schneider joining the Cringe for a song when it played.
After Bleachers wrapped up, Ray sent fans home with news that she’d signed the contract for a “lucky 13th” Feedback, again at Stubb’s, insuring the party will keep its reputation as a SXSW mainstay for another year.