"Goodbye Threadgill's, we love you!"
Kevin Russell's final farewell was short and sweet. His band, Shinyribs, had just closed out a long last day and night in the beer garden of Threadgill's World Headquarters, the southern outpost of the North Austin establishment that opened in 1933. The original Threadgill's will remain open, but it's the final weekend for the Riverside Drive location that opened in 1996.
Hometown hero Shakey Graves joined Shinyribs onstage at the end of the show Saturday for a full-house sing-along of Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues," the Austin-defining "Home with the Armadillo" song. It was the obvious finale, given that Threadgill's South stood on almost exactly the same plot of land that had been home to the legendary 1970s music venue Armadillo World Headquarters.
Eddie Wilson was the Armadillo's ringleader, and he opened Threadgill's World Headquarters after taking over the original location from founder Kenneth Threadgill. Wilson made the rounds of the beer garden and restaurant all day and night Saturday, and he'll likely be back on Sunday, which will see the final day of food service in the restaurant plus a gospel-brunch performance by Jon Emery on the indoor stage.
Outdoors Saturday, a picture-perfect afternoon greeted eight Austin acts who got in one last beer garden set before Shinyribs wrapped it all up under starry skies. Guy Forysth, who'd celebrated his 50th birthday the day before, kicked things off and spoke earnestly about how economic factors continue to drive out iconic local establishments such as Threadgill's. "There's a real danger of it washing away the things that make Austin a special place to live," he cautioned.
We caught acoustic sets under sunny skies by Monte Warden, Michael Fracasso, Sarah Sharp & Mitch Watkins and Jackie Venson before things turned more toward electric acts in the late afternoon with Van Wilks, Fastball and Cotton Mather. A magic spark struck midway through Fracasso's set when renowned Austin singer Abra Moore, visibly enthralled in the crowd as he played his song "One By One," spontaneously jumped onstage to sing the final chorus with him.
When it was all over just past 10 p.m., hundreds hung around to buy souvenirs at a merch table and share memories with friends in the restaurant's bar area. The walls were filled with photos and posters that had number-tags on them from Burley Auction, which will sell off much of the Threadgill's memorabilia at an on-site auction next Saturday, Dec. 8.
For now, though, if you want to go, there's one more chance. Threadgill's opens for breakfast today (Sunday, Dec. 2) at 10 a.m., then serves lunch and dinner before its 9:30 p.m. final closing. Proceeds from Saturday's music performances were earmarked to go directly to the restaurant's employees.