Despite touring the country heavily for the last few years, Whiskey Shivers are still one of the best-kept secrets in Austin, Texas. The group’s delightfully unhinged and explosively fun performances are the stuff of legend amongst those in the know. But on Saturday, October 28th it was clear that word is trickling out about the self-proclaimed “trashgrass” band when they hit Portland for a show at Revolution Hall.
The band is currently on tour supporting their latest studio effort Some Part of Something. Though the Shivers have always shined more onstage than in the studio, the new album may be their most cohesive and polished collection of songs to date, and that isn’t a bad thing. It was those songs that made up the bulk of their set in Portland. With fiddle player Bobby Fitzgerald and guitarist Jeff Hortillosa handling the bulk of the singing, the band straddled the line between liquor-soaked bluegrass and barebones punk rock. Songs like “Liquor, Beer, Wine & Ice” and “Fuck You” demonstrated the band’s ability to write catchy and silly songs, while the stomping “Cluck Ol’ Hen” captured a more serious, darker side. There were also fast-paced bluegrass instrumentals that felt like a drunken picking circle around the campfire, except with musicians totally on their game.
This being Halloween, the band made plenty of time for musical costumes. Their take on The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love” was playful and charming in a downhome kind of way, while their version of the Dixie Chicks favorite “Earl” sandwiched in between Iron Maiden’s heavy metal classic “The Trooper” was a Texas-fried bluegrass-metal-country mash-up that shined with raucous energy. Longtime favorites like the infectious “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and the instrumental “hot Party Dads” were played fast and loose with the fervor of a moonshine-swigging jug band.
By the time the Shivers left the stage, they had the crowd hootin’, hollerin’ and dancing for dear life. Though the bigger stage and venue may have confined the band a bit, preventing them from jumping into the crowd and performing “Rocky Top” surrounded by beer swilling concert-goers as they have been known to do, their performance was still riveting in all the best ways a rollicking bluegrass show can be. They may still be working their way towards bigger crowds, but there is no denying Whiskey Shivers are on a path to bigger stages.
All photos by Greg Homolka.