Such has been Sturgill's meteoric rise that Billy Bob's could have been renamed Silly Mob's. The joint was packed to the rafters. It took us, no kidding, probably 15 minutes to negotiate the 150 yard walk from the main entrance to our reserved seats, crossing packed dancefloors and lengthy lines for beer, t-shirts, bathrooms, ATM's and so on. Half of Dallas and most of Fort Worth was there. Thankfully we had a place to sit. The General Admission crowd were tighter than "hawgs in a chute" but that did not dampen their Shiner fueled spirit one iota.
Sturgill took the stage at precisely 10.30pm and did not let up until around 15 after midnight, so value for money was never in doubt. He has perfected that twang, that country-bluegrass-rockabilly-gospel sound but it wasn't really until half-way through that the soundboard at Billy Bob's got the mix right. Early on, Sturgill was drowned out by the yokels yakking and milling around the twenty (not a typo) bars that are scatter around BB's. It was estimated by 1310 AM The Ticket there was 6,000+ in attendance and remember, Billy Bob's is not an arena, it was formerly part of the cattle pens in the stockyards. How the heck the sea of humanity at the back could hear or see anything is beyond me.
Sturgill has a great voice. Somewhere between Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. He is unassuming, low-key, dressed like he shops in Wal-Mart. His band, especially his guitarist, is terrific. Laur Joamets, an Estonian who only recently came to the US, is a former metal-head and has absolutely perfected the country electric slide guitar. What Sturgill lacks is a little rapport with his audience. He does not speak much and when he does, he mumbles... now that might partly be due to the cavern he was in and maybe some intimidation. The crowd was raucous and as the night went one became louder and were hootin' and hollering' with appreciation at every opportunity. The amount of beer consumed was impressive, every table jammed with empties. The waitresses could not keep up the pace. Orders came by the dozen in galvanized buckets. Wonderful stuff. It almost felt a bit like the Rawhide scene from Blues Brothers at one stage.
Ironically. Sturgill's biggest cheer was for a song he did not write, an '80's snyth-pop ditty "The Promise", which he has truly made his own. "Life of Sin" and "Turtles All The Way Down" had the crowd on their feet, hats and bottles in the air, rodeo-style. It was such an experience!
Minor complaints about the sound aside, the show was really good. Not the best I have seen at Billy Bob's (see post on Dwight Yoakam) but I would slap down my hard earned cash in a heartbeat to see Sturgill Simpson again, especially at a more intimate venue.