Is Shinyribs the New Parrothead Nation?
Welcome to the Shinyribs sardine can.
Photo by Reginald Burns
Only a week before the July 1 publication of a cover story I wrote for the Austin-based quarterly Texas Music, with the premise that Shinyribs is the fastest-rising comet on the Texas scene, the band played Under the Volcano Wednesday night. They proved my thesis beyond all doubt.
The scene at the usually chill Rice Village bar, where Kevin Russell has been performing for more than seven years, was a sweaty, noisy mob scene, a far cry from the 40-50 ornery, off-the-beaten-path old heads who showed up when this all began. I'm a huge fan of the band, but by the time Russell and his pared-down crew took the stage I had left. It was that crowded, and more people were waiting in line to be admitted; I’ve never witnessed a line at Under the Volcano before in eight years of seeing Wednesday-night shows there. This Shinyribs thing is big, folks, and looks like it's only going to get bigger.
I went back to the venue around 9:45 p.m. and caught the last 30 minutes of the set. It was still a mob scene, but the heat and crowd had convinced some people to give up and go home or elsewhere; random parking spots were available across the street that hadn’t been available at 8:30. As I parked, I met two twentysomething women leaving the club.
“Giving up?” I asked.
“Yeah, we thought we could tough it out, but it’s too hot in there," one said. "It’s fun, but it's starting to smell like a gym.”
I ventured in anyway, found a spot to stand at the bar and ordered a beer without a problem, although the bartenders had the look of the last survivors at the Alamo. It seemed maybe 20 or so people had left, but the area in front of the stage was still an impenetrable sea of mostly male heads and bodies. Russell was leaning into the stretch run with crowd favorites like “Take Me Lake Charles” and “Poor People’s Store” as 75 percent of the writhing mass bellowed out the choruses, hands waving in the air. A conga line broke out, only adding to the crowd chaos. The only thing missing was Bic lighters waving overhead.
And that’s when it hit me. A scribbler at Texas Monthly recently decreed that Russell is the heir apparent to Willie Nelson. I thought that was a nice sobriquet, but after seeing the last two Shinyribs performances at Under the Volcano, I’m going to beg to differ with that esteemed magazine and declare right here and now: Shinyribs is the next Jimmy Buffett, not the next Willie Nelson.Much like the Parrothead-in-Chief, Russell now completely owns his crowd. He could have sung “Cheeseburger in Paradise” or “Achy Breaky Heart” or “Tequila Sunrise” and the crowd would have slurped it up like a cheap margarita and begged for seconds.
I tested my Buffett theory on a few regulars who’ve been coming to the Shinyribs shows at Under the Volcano for years. The reply? “Hey, I never thought about it, but I think you’re right.”
Give Russell and his cohorts Wednesday night — violinist Danny Levin, bassist Jeff Brown, and beatbox beater Ben Brown — credit for having the courage and stamina and stick-with-it attitude to build an act that has the drawing power Shinyribs has now. The success the band has achieved is exactly what you wish for your favorite new band.
And Russell has the whole thing down so pat now. While the band scurried to pack gear for the run home to Austin, Russell worked his way patiently through the throngs that wanted to touch the hem of his garment, shake his hand, or, like one woman, have him autograph an arm. No politician could’ve been smoother or more purposeful. Kinky Friedman, look out.
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