Austin, TX’s Whiskey Shivers return to Chameleon Club in Lancaster on Saturday
[Note: At press time, this show was scheduled for The Millworks in Harrisburg, and so this story is printed in the Harrisburg edition of our April issue. After going to press, the show was moved to Lancaster’s Chameleon Club.]
Bobby Fitzgerald serves as a skilled jester when he takes the stage, telling a constant stream of inappropriate jokes and stories – all while sporting his trademark mullet.
The 26-year-old is also an adept fiddle player, dating back to his days growing up in the Finger Lakes region of New York, when a retired dairy farm neighbor taught him the intricacies of the instrument and instilled a healthy appreciation for Americana music. Today, Fitzgerald helps lead the way of the Austin, TX-based old-timey/newgrassy outfit Whiskey Shivers.
Part hoedown, part drunken party, Whiskey Shivers has sought to break down the barrier between the stage and the audience, creating a live show that’s not only danceable but also memorable.
“When we walk into a place, we may not look like the most professional of young men, but it’s cool because it sets the bar a little lower, and people’s expectations aren’t too high,” Fitzgerald laughs from his home in Austin. “But then we do a good job, and they’re blown away.”
Formed in 2009, Whiskey Shivers quickly coalesced into a solid five-piece, consisting of Fitzgerald (vocals, fiddle), Andrew VanVoorhees (bass, vocals), Joe Deuce (washboards), Jeff “Horti” Hortillosa (vocals, guitar) and James Bookert (banjo). Since then, they’ve traveled across the country, performing hundreds of concerts a year and constantly bringing their up-tempo, raucous live show to new towns.
The band’s innovative 2011 video for the song “Gimme All Your Lovin’” went viral when celebrity blogger Perez Hilton posted it on his website. And with the September-released self-titled album, the bandmates appear to be poised on the cusp of a major breakthrough.
Produced by the young Nashville-based singer/songwriter Robert Ellis (and fueled by a healthy dose of Evan Williams Green Label bourbon), Whiskey Shivers is an 11-track barnburner filled with a mix of new tunes and popular covers. It constantly ebbs and flows between slower jams like “Graves” and “Long Down Low” to up-tempo party anthems like “Hot Party Dads” and “Swarm.”
The album was Ellis’ first foray into producing (he was coming off the creation of his critically acclaimed album, The Lights from the Chemical Plant), and Fitzgerald says the process of working with a brand-new producer yielded unexpected results. He says Ellis taught the band to come into the studio with an open mind and keep an open mind, figuring out the recording process together over a two-week span.
“It was just a really easy fit and a good match with Robert,” Fitzgerald says. “He was down for it, so we went for it. And it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made.”
On the album, Fitzgerald sings the song “There is a Time” with Kelsey Wilson – his fiancé and member of the popular indie band Wild Child. The song is a cover of the tune made popular by bluegrass outfit The Dillards, who Fitzgerald says has been a major influence on the band.
“In a way, it felt like cheating because we were pulling in a ringer,” Fitzgerald says of Wilson. “I just thought, ‘Well, this song can’t help but to be … awesome with Kelsey singing on it.’”
Although Americana music has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, Fitzgerald says it never really disappeared because its authenticity lends itself to a devoted audience.
“Our country’s in a terrible way and the world is on its way for an imminent demise, but the music’s pretty good,” Fitzgerald laughs. “We’ve got a nice soundtrack to go out to.”
Whiskey Shivers play the Chameleon Club (223 N. Water St., Lancaster) in the Lizard Lounge on Saturday, April 18. Pat Charlie Hatt opens. 7pm. $10 advance/$12 at the door. 21+. Click here for tickets.