How big is Zach Bryan? Just merely mention his name and watch the comments section fill up with pointy-nosed hipsters and agro purists telling you how much he sucks. That’s how big Zach Bryan is, because nothing is more uncool in independent music than success.
Is he the best artist on the planet? That’s a subjective question. Is he country? Well, he’s more country than anything else. But whatever you want to call him and however good you think he is, Zach Bryan is one of us. He’s taken on the corporate music machine directly. On Tuesday (1-9), he called out country radio for waiting all the way to 2024 to give Tyler Childers his first Top 50 appearance on the radio charts, not to mention Zach’s tackling of Ticketmaster.
Zach Bryan came from the underground and homespun recordings. He recently helped bestow Billboard Hot 100 hits to Saving Country Music Artist of the Year Sierra Ferrell, as well as The War and Treaty, and nabbed Kacey Musgraves her first #1 through their collaboration “I Remember Everything.” And despite being one of the biggest music artists on the entire planet deposing Bro-Country at the very top of the country charts, Zach Bryan has held onto a curious amount of humility.
Bryan sold out most of the dates on his 2024 stadium tour in minutes. But for a currently undisclosed reason, he decided to stop by one of Austin’s coolest night spots and supporters of true country music—Sagebrush on (very) South Congress—to play a surprise pop-up set for the first 100 people who could get their asses there on Tuesday night.
UPDATE: As suspected, Zach Bryan was recording a music video, with Matthew McConaughey.
Many, many more than 100 people showed up, and braved a frigid Texas cold front for the opportunity to see Zach in the most intimate of venues. Bryan announced the show just about an hour before the start time on Twitter.
Those lucky enough to get in got their faces rocked off with songs like “Condemned,” “Something in the Orange,” “Heading South,” “Dawns,” and of course Zach’s monumental closer, “Revival.” Zach played accompanied only by his fiddle player Lucas Ruge-Jones. No sign of Zach’s Austin buddy Joe Rogan, or his other buddy Charles Wesley Godwin, who may have also been in Austin on Tuesday taping his own interview with Rogan.
The Sagebrush can hold about 300 at top capacity, which gets tested whenever hometown heroes Mike and the Moonpies play, or Croy and the Boys have an album release show, or now Austin resident Jesse Daniel wants to stop by. Operated by Dennis O’Donnell who also owns Austin’s premier honky tonk The White Horse, Sagebrush features some of the best Austin area and national country acts around.
Zach Bryan’s appearance was a big opportunity for Sagebrush to score some deserved national pub, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those lucky few who got in. Bryan even bought the beer for the party.
Most important though, Zach Bryan being willing to play a 100-capacity show at this point in his career speaks to his insistence on staying grounded and intimate with his fans as best he can considering his circumstances. There was no guest list or VIP list to get in whatsoever. It was the first 100 fans, period. Yours truly was finally was able to “Don’t you know who I am!” my way into the door about halfway through the show to snap some photos and scribble some notes during the roughly 50-minute set.
But this one was for the die hards, and will go down as one of those shows many swore they were at, and only a few actually were. Many performers half Zach Bryan’s size wouldn’t get off the bus to play a show five ties as big unless it was a for a corporate retreat or to promote their terrible bar on Lower Broadway in Nashville. But Zach Bryan did.
This is the madness that ensues when a stadium act plays The Sagebrush in Austin. Attendance was capped at 100. Full report from Zach Bryan’s surprise show in Austin coming… pic.twitter.com/fjBCYzOOde— Saving Country Music (@KyleCoroneos) January 10, 2024
Line for the Zach Bryan SURPRISE show in Austin at the tiny Sagebrush stretches to Oklahoma. Only 100 people getting in. A few more than 100 are here. pic.twitter.com/eBKCdEm0TU— Saving Country Music (@KyleCoroneos) January 10, 2024