Rachael Ray’s second annual day party (sponsored, everyone should know, by Rose’s Mojitos) was set to kick off at noon on Saturday, and half an hour before the doors were scheduled to open, the line stretched literally around the block. I was about to write “inexplicably stretched literally around the block,” but it’s not hard to figure out how this event has become a SXSW powerhouse. You can start with the free food and drink — this year, chilaquiles shared stomach space with those infamous mini burgers — but then go ahead and throw in a consistently excellent lineup of bands that make it hard to dislike the lifestyle maven, despite her blatantly transparent agenda. I mean, her husband does front a rock band. And if you had the ability to let your husband’s rock band open for, say, New York Dolls and The Hold Steady, would you not use it?
Indeed, John Cusimano was the luckiest guy in Austin today, as his unfortunately named band The Cringe scored a prime slot on a patio packed with fans of those two better-known groups — though jury’s still out on whether he managed to do anything particularly memorable with it. The downstairs stage, meanwhile, played host to a flock of worthy up-and-comers including Ra Ra Riot and Airborne Toxic Event, smartly cross-programmed against NYD/THS in order to give the kidz something to enjoy. “If I’m drinking coffee at a show, isn’t that way too f—ing early?” asked Thermals singer/guitarist Hutch Harris during their opening set of repetitive but bouncy rock. The answer might be found in the way I recoiled at the near-dozen members of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros: I like enthusiastic L.A. hipsters funnying about with the 1960s as much as the next girl, but they were way too merry for that hour, even if their expansive soundcheck (“Okay, now can I hear the trumpet?”) was decent entertainment in and of itself.
Details of New York Dolls — declared by Ray to be “possibly the greatest band on the planet” — and the Hold Steady after the jump…
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