Nobody seemed to notice at first when legendary blues guitarist Billy Gibbons, front man for ZZ Top, jumped up on the stage Saturday at Stubbs BBQ for a free showcase marking the final hours of the South by Southwest Music festival.
But fans excitedly rushed over once the long-bearded bluesman began playing Dust My Broom. They eagerly snapped cellphone pictures of Gibbons while he did a stand-in with the New York-based group The Cringe.
The cameo underscored the sometimes magical and impromptu feel of South by Southwest, which wraps up this weekend in hipster Austin with last-minute acts scheduled to include Kanye West Saturday night.
On Friday, Dallas singer Erykah Badu unexpectedly jumped on stage with rapper Bun B, and Jack White of White Stripes fame delighted street walkers Wednesday when he plugged into a mobile amp and staged a free show in a downtown parking lot.
Gibbons appeared Friday unannounced at the free food and music event called "Feedback" hosted by cooking celebrity Rachael Ray. Other acts that performed: Wanda Jackson, the "first lady of rockabilly," Charlie Mars and Fitz and The Tantrums.
"It's a mash-up of everything I love: actual friends and family, food, and great music," said Ray, host of a nationally syndicated TV show. Ray said she worked for months on the seven recipes for consideration at the event Saturday. Her "culinary coordinator," Andrew Kaplan, had to knock off three of them, a process she likened to killing a family member or "putting down a pet."
She was disappointed he shot down the mini deviled corndogs on a stick, but the four he finally settled on left fans waiting in a staggeringly long line: shredded pork "ropa vieja" on tortillas, 5 chili chili -- a vegetarian chili thickened with portabella mushrooms, jalapeno popper sliders and flank steak "tost-achos." People began lining up at 5 a.m. to attend the free event, which Ray has hosted several years running to "pay back" Austin for hosting the festival.
Gibbons was hawking his own food product, a new hot sauce called BFG 44: "Let's spice it up a little bit," he said as he handed out bottles sporting a label that reads, "Have Mercy. Shake Well." Other than that, Gibbons said he's in the studio with his ZZ Top band mates working a new album.
South by Southwest, now in its 25th year, draws about 2,000 musical acts and pumps over $100 million into the local economy, officials say. There's also a film conference still running. For those who can't catch the music during the festival, ABC comedy show host Jimmy Kimmel is in town to find the most "buzzed about" group that he will put on his show March 29. The acts sign up on www.whooznxt.com , and fan responses produce the winner.
"Hopefully it will help good bands get an audience," said Kimmel, making his own cameo appearance at the Rachael Ray event. "I want to see some bands that I've never heard of before."