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Big Easy Express, Rachael Ray help close out SXSW

For Journal Register Newspapers

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AUSTIN, Texas – South By Southwest saw green on Saturday, March 17.

Sorry, Spartans fans – not that kind of green. It was the occasion when the music conference and festival’s final big day coincided with St. Patrick’s Day, meaning high spirits – as well as the consumption of many spirits – as what’s considered the music industry’s spring break came to a roaring conclusion.

And as the green-clad masses took the streets, turning Austin’s Sixth Street into an apocalyptic version of Mardi Gras, some musical highlights sealed themselves into South By Southwest lore…

• Saturday was the day the “Big Easy Express” rolled into town. The Emmett Malloy-directed film documents the tour of the same name that took Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and the Old Crow Medicine show on an eight-day, five-show, 2,300-mile train trek from California to New Orleans. After a debut screening as part of SXSW’s film festival on Saturday afternoon, the musicians staged a four-song acoustic performance. An evening screening on the lawn outside the LBJ Library on the University of Texas campus was then followed by a full-blown concert at which Mumford & Sons was joined – as it was on the original tour stop – on “The Cave” by the Austin High School marching band. After the spirited performance, the teenagers presented Mumford with a clock they had stolen from a rival school’s hallways, much to the amusement of frontman Marcus Mumford. (The evening concert will be streaming on MySpace through Sunday, March 18).

• It was a big day for guest appearances, too, ranging from the unusual to the peculiar. The latter included actor Matthew McConaughey sitting in on congas with The Cult at Austin’s Auditorium Shores. More sublime, perhaps, was Blitzen Trapper hosting former R.E.M. members Peter Buck and Mike Mills and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies and the latter-day Big Star for a cover of Big Star’s “Feel” at Stubb’s. Also at Stubb’s, and as advertised, ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons joined The Cringe for John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” at Rachael Ray’s Feedback party. (Cringe frontman John Cusimano is Ray’s husband).

• The free and open to the public Feedback party, now in its fifth year, was another massive success as Ray fed the masses with special brisket and ground turkey sliders and mini corn dogs. She also dished up planty of music – 14 bands on three stages including Train, Jimmy Cliff, Blitzen Trapper and The Heavy, as well as upstarts such as the Wild Feathers, the Black Belles, Givers and LP and Austin favorite Bob Schneider.

• Fans disappointed they couldn’t get into rapper Nas’ performance of his “Illmatic” album in its entirety on Saturday evening (it was a private show for Vevo and Nike) got a second chance when he played a surprise late-night show for Red Bull.

• On a down note, however, a late-running private party delayed Norah Jones’ showcase concert more than half an hour, while Perez Hilton’s annual One Night in Austin party also went well off its planned clock.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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