FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS Plenty of brands and celebrities maintain a presence at South by Southwest each year without the commitment of a multiday, fully realized venue like Red Bull and The Fader. Playboy, Perez Hilton, and Rachael Ray all threw parties last week with the help of sponsors such as Jack Daniels, Dell Computers, and Rose’s Mojito.
Playboy's Rock the Rabbit party and Perez Hilton's One Night in Austin bash had people talking early in the week about the choice of venue. An old Safeway grocery store, which hadn't been used in years until the Obama campaign cleaned it up for its Austin headquarters, saw its SXSW debut as the home of both events. Playboy and local producers C3 Presents filled the space with Jack Daniels bars, a video gaming station for Namco's Afro Samurai, and a hot-ticket performance by Jane's Addiction at its Thursday party.
On Saturday night, Perez Hilton worked with New York's BMF Media, which produces the blogger's ongoing concert series, and Los Angeles-based Entertainment Fusion Group and Austin's Giant Noise to install a Dell “playground” in the venue he filled with acts such as the Indigo Girls, Ladyhawke, Solange, and the week's second suprise from Kanye West.
Earlier Saturday afternoon, Rachael Ray returned to Austin's Maggie Mae's for the second year with her concert, called Rose’s Mojito & Rachael Ray’s Feedback: The B-Side. The TV personality designed a menu of spicy macaroni and cheese and ancho chicken soft tacos to pair with the drink sponsor's cocktails, with local event planners High Beam handling production. Ten bands, including New York Dolls and the Hold Steady, had festival-goers without tickets line up for general admission more than three hours in advance. Inside, the only lines were for the food.