Garth Brooks plays surprise show at legendary Texas honky-tonk ahead of SXSW gig


Garth Brooks started his first visit to South By Southwest on Friday (March 17) by announcing a big show -- a free concert Saturday on the festival's Outdoor Stage. But he finished the day with a smaller but memorable one.

Brooks made a surprise appearance Friday night at Austin's Broken Spoke dance hall, playing a 45-minute solo acoustic show between sets by the house band. Two-stepping locals gave way to concert mania as those who were in the know crushed at the front and sides of the stage in the legendary roadhouse, a regular residence for Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys and, as venue owner James White told the crowd, an early stop for a certain fledgling singer-songwriter from Oklahoma who went on to become the best-selling solo artist ever in the U.S.

Brooks, sporting a plaid workshirt over a Lone Star beer T-shirt and a baseball cap featuring his small g logo, was as exuberant as those who were lucky enough to be in the room. "I can't remember the last time I've done this," he said, grinning broadly and clearly relishing a situation as far away from his usual arena-sized spectacles as the Broken Spoke was from downtown Austin, where the usual array of nightly showcases raged several miles away.

See photos of Garth Brooks:

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: ASCAP Award recipient, singer-songwriter Garth Brooks performs during the ASCAP Centennial Awards at The Waldorf Astoria on November 17, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: ASCAP Award recipient, singer-songwriter Garth Brooks (R) and wife, singer Trisha Yearwood attend the ASCAP Centennial Awards at The Waldorf Astoria on November 17, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/FilmMagic)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks attend the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Singer Garth Brooks enters the 'Good Morning America' taping at the ABC Times Square Studios on November 7, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Garth Brooks speaks onstage during the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Garth Brooks presents Luke Bryan with the award for Entertainer of the Year ontsage durring the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Garth Brooks presents during the 48th annual CMA awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/WireImage)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks attend the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 06: Recording artists Dustin Lynch (L) and Garth Brooks attend the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/ACMA2014/Getty Images for ACM)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 19: Garth Brooks performs at Philips Arena on September 19, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by CatMax Photography/WireImage)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 19: Garth Brooks performs at Philips Arena on September 19, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 19: Garth Brooks attends a press conference at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite on September 19, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Chris McKay/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Garth Brooks performs on stage at Allstate Arena on September 5, 2014 in Rosemont, United States. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Garth Brooks performs on stage at Allstate Arena on September 5, 2014 in Rosemont, United States. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL- SEPTEMBER 04: Garth Brooks talks to the media during his World Tour Press Conference on September 4, 2014 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 06: (L-R) Musicians Tim McGraw, George Strait and Garth Brooks attend the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rick Diamond/ACMA2014/Getty Images for ACM)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 06: Singer/songwriter Merle Haggard (R) accepts the ACM Crystal Milestone Award from (L-R) Recording artists Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert and George Strait onstage during the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 4610 -- Pictured: Musical guest Garth Brooks performs on February 6, 2014 -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 9: Country music star Garth Brooks sits down with the hosts of THE TALK, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 on the CBS Television Network. From left, Garth Brooks and Sharon Osbourne, shown. (Photo by Heather Wines/CBS via Getty Images)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Garth Brooks announced his upcoming tour, on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 12/9/13, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) GARTH BROOKS
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Garth Brooks visits 'Extra' at Universal Studios Hollywood on November 27, 2013 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 4576 -- Pictured: (l-r) Country singer Garth Brooks during an interview with host Jay Leno on November 27, 2013 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 06: (L-R) Recording artists Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert and George Strait speak onstage during the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 22: (Exclusive Coverage) Trisha Yearwood, Styx's Tommy Shaw, Jeanne Mason, and Garth Brooks attend Playin' Possum! The Final No Show Tribute To George Jones at Bridgestone Arena on November 22, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/NJ/Getty Images for Webster PR)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 22: Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks perform during Playin' Possum! The Final No Show Tribute To George Jones - Show at Bridgestone Arena on November 22, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)
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Brooks played mostly truncated versions of 16 songs, pushing the already torqued room in front of him in high gear with "Friends In Low Places" before dipping into Merle Haggard's Texas-centric "The Fightin' Side of Me" and Joe Nichols' "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Of." Mostly, however, it was a parade of Brooks hit – with sing-alongs frequently conducted by the man himself -- including "The Thunder Rolls," "Rodeo," "Papa Loved Mama" and "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)." "Two Pina Coladas" and the honky tonkin' "Two Of A Kind (Workin' On A Full House)" played particularly well in the Broken Spoke while quieter selections such as "The River," "The Dance" and George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" were a bit more challenging as the crowd took the better part of the first verses and choruses to quiet down.

Brooks encored with a rowdy "Callin' Baton Rouge" and gave Broken Spoke owner White his guitar as a gift before ceding the stage to the house band's next set. He may not have been able to remember the last time he played such a tiny, intimate show, but those who were there will likely never forget it.

RELATED: See photos of Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood together:

28 PHOTOS
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood through the years
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Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood through the years
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood perform a medley of songs at the 50th Annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 02: Singers Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood attend the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 2, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/FilmMagic)
ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood Pre-Concert Press Conference at Honda Center on September 16, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood speak during press conference at Yankee Stadium on July 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 24: Singer Trisha Yearwood (L) and singer/songwriter Garth Brooks speak during a news conference ahead of the first of their six scheduled shows at T-Mobile Arena on June 24, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 04: Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood attend the 49th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 4, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 19: Honoree Garth Brooks (L) and singer Trisha Yearwood attend the 50th Academy Of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium on April 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by C Flanigan/FilmMagic)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 19: Musicians Trisha Yearwood (L) and Garth Brooks attend the 50th Academy Of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium on April 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Michael Buckner/ACM2015/Getty Images for dcp)
DALLAS, TX - APRIL 17: Hosts Trisha Yearwood (L) and Garth Brooks perform onstage during the ACM Lifting Lives Gala at the Omni Hotel on April 17, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Jason Kempin/ACM2015/Getty Images for dcp)
DALLAS, TX - APRIL 17: Hosts Garth Brooks (L) and Trisha Yearwood kiss onstage during the ACM Lifting Lives Gala at the Omni Hotel on April 17, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Jason Merritt/ACM2015/Getty Images for dcp)
NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 25: Recording artists Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks present awards during the Opening Ceremonies of CRS 2015 on February 25, 2015 at the Nashville Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks attend the ASCAP Centennial Awards at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on November 17, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for ASCAP)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 19: Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood attend a press conference at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite on September 19, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Chris McKay/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 06: Recording artists Garth Brooks (L) and Trisha Yearwood attend the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 6, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rick Diamond/ACMA2014/Getty Images for ACM)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 22: Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks perform during Playin' Possum! The Final No Show Tribute To George Jones at Bridgestone Arena on November 22, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/FilmMagic)
NORMAN, OK - JULY 06: Musicians Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks speak in the press room at the Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert to benefit United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on July 6, 2013 in Norman, Oklahoma. To donate go to www.unitedwayokc.org or text REBUILD to 52000. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Shock Ink)
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 06: Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks attends the 2012 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees announcement at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on March 6, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/FilmMagic)
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood perform at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Gala at the Beverly Hilton on May 15, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Performer Trisha Yearwood and inductee Garth Brooks attend the Songwriters Hall of Fame 42nd Annual Induction and Awards at The New York Marriott Marquis Hotel - Shubert Alley on June 16, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall of Fame)
Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks during 2007 MusiCares Person Of The Year Honoring Don Henley - Arrivals at Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by M. Tran/FilmMagic)
Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks (Photo by Michael Caulfield/WireImage for PMK/HBH)
Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage for The Recording Academy)
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood during Disneyland 50th Anniversary 'Happiest Homecoming On Earth' Celebration at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, United States. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks during 33rd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards at Sheraton Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Bill Davila/FilmMagic)
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood during 33rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at Universal Ampitheater in Universal City, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 1222 -- Pictured: (l-r) Musical guests Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood on September 11, 1997 -- (Photo by: Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood during Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards - VIP Room at Sheraton Hotel in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by L. Busacca/WireImage)
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