Let’s be honest: I’d heard of the John Butler Trio but only because we’ve been promoting the fact that Butler Auto Group was sponsoring the group’s September 1st appearance at Britt. In the process of blogging about the sponsorship it became clear that Butler founder, Chuck Butler, is John’s uncle and, suddenly, the concert became a family affair… which is why it was so flattering when Chuck invited me to attend.
So, a little research was in order (it helped that John graces the cover of at least one Rolling Stone issue). Wikipedia describes the group as an “eclectic roots and jam band”… didn’t really help but, okay. What I got
from a brief web surfing session was that JBT couldn’t really be labeled.
Fast forward to the Britt grounds. After the refreshingly quirky opening act Belle Brigade, The John Butler Trio took the stage. Their production was sparse. In fact, the first number featured John all by his lonesome, pinned far stage right by a single spotlight, caressing a slide guitar as if the thousand-plus members of the audience weren’t even there. Fresh out of the gate he was captivating.
I’m no music reviewer but I can tell you the show was phenomenal. Rock, funk, instrumental, even a little rap; I was sold even before John busted out the banjo. It’s not unusual for Britt crowds to stand or dance but a handful of guests usually abstain.
Not with JBT on stage – the whole place was rockin’. Sitting still was out of the question. It was one of those shows you never want to end.
But it did. And thus ensued the most touching portion of the evening: We went backstage.
It was cozy and quiet in the dressing area, a sharp contrast to the cool air and crowds outside. John greeted Chuck and Linda like their last conversation had been moments ago, not the more likely weeks or months. To the other few of us, literal strangers, he was gracious and welcoming, interested and oh-so-down to earth, even commenting that the fuss over his “rockstar”-ness makes him uncomfortable and reminds him to check his ego at the door.
The scene was so sweet it was easy to forget we were in the company of a “celebrity”. John presented Chuck and Linda with a simple brown paper bag of gifts for the family. The atmosphere was one of love and warmth. The fans and the cheering and the spotlights had faded away, leaving three relatives who genuinely like, respect and admire each other.
As we said our goodbyes and headed back outside, fans glimpsed John through the open door. While they hollered his name and professed their love, I was struck by a brief moment of surreality: On one side of that pane of glass, John was just a nephew: Chuck
and Linda are proud of him, certainly but, they love him for who he is. On the other side of the door, though, he’s loved for what he can do.
It’s a joy to be able to report that on both counts, John Butler truly is a star.