music / Columns

Jam Central Station 02.23.13: John Butler Trio

February 23, 2013 | Posted by mojo4395


Hey all! I’m in a pretty good mood today. Family is going on vacation this weekend in D.C., awesome city. Saw an amazing show with Elephant Revival and The Ragbirds last night. You’ll be hearing more about that one next week. But this week I wanted to go back into the vault and take a look at an artist I covered back in 2009. John Butler was pretty big then, and he’s just gotten more popular since. Figured it was time to remember how he got to the awesome spot he’s in.


As far as Australian musical exports go, the John Butler Trio is far removed from what people normally think of as popular Australian music. Despite being from the same continent, The John Butler Trio bears little resemblance to classic hard rockers AC/DC. Their music crosses genres from roots, funk, and bluegrass to heavier alternative. Over the past decade, John Butler has gone from busking on the streets of Perth to releasing platinum albums in Australia and embarking on numerous successful tours of the U.S. They’ve become Australia’s most popular jam band export, and developed an extensive fanbase along the way.

Although he identifies as an Australian native, band leader John Butler spent the first 11 years of his life in Torrance, California. He moved to Australia with his father after his parents divorced, and settled into Aussie life. He became close with his maternal grandmother, and, at 16, he began playing guitar. His grandmother gave him his late grandfather’s 1930’s dobro guitar, and he began playing in earnest. He began studying art in college in 1996, but also began writing and recording his own music. He spent more time with his music than his art, and soon dropped out of college to pursue music full time.

His first album, the self-released Searching for Heritage, was the launching point for his career. The instrumental album only sold about 3,000 copies (making it a highly-sought-after collectors item for fans today), but it also caught the eye of people in the local music scene. He used the success from that album to begin playing clubs, and he began developing a fanbase. By 1998, Butler was ready to do a professional album. He enlisted the help of drummer Jason McGann and bassist Gavin Shoesmith to record John Butler. They began touring Australia, both opening for established acts and playing their own club gigs.

The band was having success on the Australian touring circuit, but they hadn’t been able to get onto the radio. With the release of 2000’s JBT EP, the band changed that. “Pickapart” became a radio hit for the band, and allowed them to begin playing bigger venues. Their appearance at 2000’s “East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival” was a huge success, and there were high expectations for their second full-length album. Three didn’t disappoint fans, and quickly went platinum in Australia.

Three won a variety of Australian awards for the band, and the album was re-released in the U.S. in 2002 on Dave Matthews’ ATO Records. The band did their first U.S. tour in 2001, and followed that with a 2002 tour that included stints opening for John Mayer and The Dave Matthews Band, along with a well-received performance at Bonnaroo. They released Living 2001-2002 early in 2003, which debuted in the top ten in the Australian charts, a huge feat for

Butler returned to the studio late 2003 with a brand new “trio” backing him up. He made it clear at the time that he no longer viewed the John Butler Trio as a set band, but instead as a dynamic group put together for the songs that he wrote. The strategy appeared to work, as Sunrise Over Sea debuted #1 in Australia and saw significant worldwide success. “Treat Yo Mama” and “Betterman” became successful singles, and Butler continued to gain popularity in the U.S. as well as Australia. They followed Sunrise with Live at St. Gallen,which consisted of a one performance in Switzerland and another at the Sydney Opera House.

Grand National was released in 2007, and had considerable Australian and American success. The album was the first John Butler Trio album to include extensive use of horns and strings, and a variety of percussion instruments. The band took the success of the album on the road, and played festivals in Australia along with playing Lollapalooza in the U.S. and touring with G. Love in 2008.

Butler took a break from the Trio in 2009, instead embarking on a solo tour in the U.S. and Canada. He played a variety of festivals, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, and sold out headlining shows. After his summer performances, he returned to Australia and announced the formation of a new Trio, this time consisting of Byron Luiters on bass and Nicky Bomba on drums. The album that resulted, 2010’s April Uprising brought him not only continued success in Australia but even more American exposure. He responded by touring the States and hitting up festivals. The highlight of this was a headlining show at Red Rocks in Colorado that was streamed live.

Butler’s unique style has allowed him to reinvent himself and his band on a regular basis. He’s most well known for his finger picking guitar style, but he’s also an accomplished slide guitar player, banjo player, and he’s even known to play the traditional Australian didgeridoo. He’s taken to wearing acrylic fingernails in order to allow him to play his music without destroying his hands. He also helps run his own record label, which allows him extensive creative freedom for his recordings. His live performances often mix his acoustic instrumental pieces with more electric songs that use a variety of pedals and effects. While he may take on a variety of labels, predictable is definitely not one of them.

John Butler’s career extends far beyond his music. He’s extremely politically vocal and active, and his lyrics reflect his beliefs. He’s won a variety of awards from political and environmental groups. He’s also started his own foundation, known as the JB Seed Program, that grants money to artists and organizations focused on artistic and cultural diversity in Australian society.

In just over a decade, John Butler has become a new face for Australian music. His Australian success has translated well to the U.S., and he’s become a favorite of American and Australian festival-goers. In the jam band scene he’s gone from festival filler to an upper tier act for major festivals. Although he’s always changing and updating his backing band, Butler’s staying power is evident, and he should be making music for quite some time.



Bonnaroo lineup out!
Bonnaroo announced their lineup with the help of Weird Al Yankovic this week. The (painfully slow) announcement ended in a festival that’s pretty huge on headliners but not very jam-friendly in the undercard. Paul McCartney, Mumford & Sons, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers will headline the 4-day event. Joining them will be Bjork, Wilco, Pretty Lights, Gov’t Mule, Jim James, The Lumineers, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Passion Pit, The xx, Of monsters and Men, ZZ Top, R. Kelly, Wu-Tang Clan, Sam Bush & Del McCoury, Dwight Yoakam, and obviously many others.

Peach Music Festival announces lineup
The Peach Music Festival will be held in Scranton, PA on August 15-18. The event will be headlined by The Allman Brothers Band and will include Bob Weir & Rat Dog, The Black Crowes, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Railroad Earth, Galactic, Rusted Root, and many others. Both the Allman Brothers and RatDog will be doing two shows at the festival.

Firefly Festival announcement!
The firefly festival will take place at The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE on June 21-23. The festival will include performances by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dispatch, Vampire Weekend, The Avett Brothers, Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers, Foster the People, and many other bands.

DelFest Lineup
DelFest announced their 2013 festival lineup this week. The Del McCoury Band will obviously play a prominent role, but they’ll be joined by two sets of the Trey Anastasio Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Yonder Mountain String Band, Trampled by Turtles, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Elephant Revival, and many other great acts. The festival takes place in Cumberland, MD on May 23-26.

Dave Matthews Band Tour Dates
The Dave Matthews Band will head out on tour once again this summer. They have their usual expansive set of tour dates lined up. Presales through the Warehouse Fan Club have already started.

04/06 Pelham, AL—Oak Mountain Ampitheatre
04/27 Southaven, MS—Snowden Grove Ampitheater
04/28 New Orleans, LA—New Orleans Jazz Fest
05/17 The Woodlands, TX—Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
05/18 Dallas, TX—Gexa Energy Pavilion
05/21 Austin, TX—Tower Amphitheatre
05/25 Saratoga Springs, NY—Saratoga Performing Arts Center
05/26 Saratoga Springs, NY—Saratoga Performing Arts Center
05/28 Toronto, ON—Molson Amphitheatre
05/29 Scranton, PA—Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain
05/31 Burgettstown, PA—First Niagara Pavilion
06/01 Cuyahoga Falls, OH—Blossom Music Center
06/06 Holmdel, NJ—PNC Bank Arts Center
06/07 Hartford, CT—Comcast Theatre
06/08 Hartford, CT—Comcast Theatre
06/15 Mansfield, MA—Comcast Center
06/16 Mansfield, MA—Comcast Center
06/21 Noblesville, IN—Klipsch Music Center
06/22 Noblesville, IN—Klipsch Music Center
06/25 Wantagh, NY—Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre
06/26 Wantagh, NY—Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre
06/28 Camden, NJ—Susquehanna Bank Center
06/29 Camden, NJ—Susquehanna Bank Center
07/02 Bethel, NY—Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
07/03 Darien Center, NY—Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
07/05 East Troy, WI—Alpine Valley Music Center
07/06 East Troy , WI—Alpine Valley Music Center
07/09 Clarkston, MI—DTE Energy Center
07/10 Maryland Heights, MO—Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
07/12 Cincinnati, OH—Riverbend Music Center
07/13 Hershey, PA—Hersheypark Stadium
07/17 Tampa, FL—Live Nation Amphitheatre
07/19 West Palm Beach, FL—Cruzan Amphitheatre
07/20 West Palm Beach, FL—Cruzan Amphitheatre
07/23 Orange Beach, AL—The Amphitheater at The Wharf
07/24 Charlotte, NC—Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
07/26 Virgina Beach, VA—Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach
07/27 Bristow, VA—Jiffy Lube Live
08/23 Commerce City, CO—Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
08/24 Commerce CIty, CO—Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
08/27 West Valley City, UT—USANA Amphitheatre
08/30 George, WA—The Gorge Amphitheatre
08/31 George, WA—The Gorge Amphitheatre
09/01 George, WA—The Gorge Amphitheatre
09/04 Stateline, NV—Lake Tahoe Harveys Outdoor Arena
09/06 ChulaVista, CA—Sleep Train Amphitheatre
09/07 Irvine, CA—Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
09/08 Mountain View, CA—Shoreline Amphitheatre

Claypool’s Duo de Twang shows
Les Claypool added a few additional Duo de Twang shows for this year. They already had a couple West Coast dates and a couple festival stops on their itinerary, but they added a handful of others shows to go along with those dates.

March 20 San Rafael, CA—Terrapin Crossroads
March 22 Los Angeles, CA—The Troubadour
March 23 Pioneertown, CA—Pappy and Harriett’s
March 24 Phoenix, AZ—McDowell Mountain Music Festival
April 18 Atlanta, GA—Terminal West
April 19 Live Oak, FL—Wanee Music Festival
April 20 Athens, GA—Georgia Theatre
April 22 Saxapahaw, NC—Haw River Ballroom
April 23 Asheville, NC—Orange Peel
April 26 Philadelphia, PA—TLA
April 27 Washington, DC—The Hamilton
April 28 New York, NY—The Gramercy

Gov’t Mule tour dates
Gov’t Mule added some tour dates that will fill part of the gap between their Wanee and Mountain Jam Festival dates. The band will be bouncing around a bit throughout April and May. Expect more dates to fill in some of these gaps.

April 18-20 Live Oak, FL—Wanee Festival
April 21 Charleston, SC—North Charleston PAC
April 24 Wilmington, NC—Greenfield Amphitheatre
April 27 Cincinnati, OH—Taft Theatre
April 28 Columbia, MO—Blue Note
April 30 Kansas City, MO—Uptown Theatre
May 1 Springfield, MO—Gilloz Theatre
May 3 New Orleans, LA—Mahalia Jackson Theatre
May 17-19 Gulf Shores, AL—Hangout Festival
June 6-9 Hunter, NY—Mountain Jam


Jam in the Sand
March 1-5, 2013
Breezes Grand Resort
Negril, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra’s first Jamaican event. This event will feature multiple DSO shows as well as three Keller Williams sets and other activities

Buku Music Project
March 8-9, 2013
Mardi Gras World Warehouse
New Orleans, LA
Performers include: Kid Cudi, Calvin Harris, Primus, Passion Pit, STS9, Zedd, Major Lazer, Big Gigantic, Datsik, Lettuce, and many others

SnowBall Music Festival
March 8-10, 2012
Winter Park, CO
Performers include:Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Portugal. The Man, Rubblebucket, and many others.

Suwannee Springfest
March 21-24, 2013
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Peter Rowan, Keller and the Keels, Jerry Douglas, Cornmeal, Leftover Salmon, Donna the Buffalo, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, Elephant Revival, and many others.

Ultra Music Festival
March 15-17, 2013
March 22-24, 2013
Miami, FL
Performers include: Tiesto, David Guetta, Above & Beyond, Bassnectar, Fatboy Slim, Richie Hawtin, Crystal Castles, deadmau5, Major Lazer, Thievery Corporation, and many others.

March 21-24, 2012
Killington Resort
Killington, VT

April 12-14, 2013
April 19-21, 2013
Performers include: Stone Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blur, Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bassnectar, xx, Modest Mouse, Lou Reed, Postal Service, Grizzley Bear, Wu-Tang Clan, Lumineers, and many others.

Wanee Festival
April 18-20, 2013
Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Allman Brothers Band, Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang, and many others.

April 25-28, 2013
Wilkes Community College
Wilkisboro, NC
Performers include: The Avett Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Jerry Douglas, Steep Canyon Rangers, Donna the Buffalo, Sam bush, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and many others.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
April 26-May 5, 2013
New Orleans, LA
Performers include: Dave Matthews Band, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Widespread Panic, B.B. King, The Black Keys, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, Maroon 5, and a very diverse lineup of many other artists.

Shaky Knees Music Festival
May 4-5, 2013
Atlanta, GA
Performers include: The Lumineers, Band of Horses, Drive By Truckers, Jim James Band, Gary Clark Jr., Dr. Dog, and many others

BottleRock Festival
May 10-12, 2013
Expo Grounds
Napa Valley, CA
Performers include: Furthur, The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, Cake, Alabama Shakes, The Black Crowes, Ben Harper, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and many others.

Hangout Music Festival
May 17-19, 2013
Gulf Shores, AL

Summer Camp Music Festival
May 23-36
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
Performers include: moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, The Avett Brothers, Yonder Mountain String Band, Thievery Corp., Big Gigantic, Lettuce, Cornmeal, Keller Williams, and many others.

May 23-26, 2013
Cumberland, MD
Performers include: The Del McCoury Band, Trey Anastasio Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Yonder Mountain String Band, Trampled by Turtles, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others.

Dark Star Jubilee
May 24-26, 2013
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Performers include: 3 nights of Dark Star Orchestra, Mickey Hart Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, The Wailers, The Werks, Greensky Bluegrass, Donna Jean Godchaux Band, Elephant Revival, and many others.

Sasquatch! Music Festival
May 24-27, 2013
The Gorge
George, WA
Performers include: Mumford and Sons, The Postal Service, Sigur Ros, Vampire Weekend, Primus, The Lumineers, The xx, Cake, Arctic Monkeys, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and many others

May 30-June 2, 2013
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR
Performers include: Widespread Panic, Yonder Mountain String Band, STS9, The Black Crowes, Umphrey’s McGee, Dispatch, Shpongle, Snoop Lion, Gogol Bordello, Zed’s Dead, Rebolution, and many others.

Mountain Jam
June 6-9, 2013
Hunter Mountain, NY
Performers include: Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, Primus, The Avett Brothers, Dispatch, The Lumineers, Gary Clark Jr., Soulive, ALO, and many others.

Governors Ball Music Festival
June 7-9, 2013
Randall’s Island
New York City, NY
Performers include: Guns and Roses, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, The Avett Brothers, Pretty Lights, The Lumineers, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Thivery Corp., Gary Clark Jr., and many others

Camp Railroad
June 10-14, 2012
Full Moon resort
Big Indian, NY
This 4-day music camp will feature members of Railroad Earth in an assortment of workshops, performances, discussions and other sessions to help aspiring musicians and those interested in the music industry to gain an insight into the inner workings of the band. A variety of accommodations are available, and musicians of all skill levels are accepted.

June 13-16
Manchester, TN
Performers include: Paul McCartney, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Mumford & Sons, Bjork, Wilco, Pretty Lights, The Lumineers, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Passion Pit, Of Mosters and Men, ZZ Top, and many more.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 20-23, 2013
Telluride, Colorado
Performers include: Sam Bush Band, Jackson Brown, Emmylou Harris 7 Rodney Crowell, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Jerry Douglas Band, Punch Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival, and many others.

Firefly Music Festival
June 21-23, 2013
The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway
Dover, DE
Performers include: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Avett Brothers, dispatch, The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, and many others.

Solid Sound Festival
June 21-23, 2013
Museum of Contemporary Art
North Adams, MA
Hosted by Wilco. Other performers include: Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Neko Case, White Denim, and many others.

Electric Forest Festival
June 27-30, 2013
Double JJ Ranch and Resort
Rothbury, MI
Performers include: String Cheese Incident (3 nights), Pretty Lights, Lotus, Passion Pit, Dispatch, Beats Antique, Railroad Earth, Trombone Shorty, Digital Tape Machine, Jeff Austin & Friends, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

High Sierra Music Festival
July 4-7, 2013
Quincy, CA

Jambase Live
July 5-6
The Gorge
George, WA

Camp Bisco
July 11-13, 2013
Indian Lookout Country Club
Mariaville, NY

All Good Music Festival
July 18-21, 2013
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH

Northwest String Summit
July 18-21, 2013
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Keller Williams & Friends, and many others.

Pitchfork Music Festival
July 19-21, 2013
Union Park
Chicago, IL

Floyd Fest
July 25-28, 2013
Floyd, VA
Performers include: The Lumineers, John Butler Trio, Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Trampled by Turtles, Blitzen Trapper, and many others.

Gathering of the Vibes
July 25-28, 2013
Seaside Park
Bridgeport, CT

Newport Folk Festival
July 27-28, 2013
Newport, RI
Performers include: The Lumineers, Andrew Bird, Shovels & Rope, and many others

Newport Jazz Festival
August 2-4, 2013
Newport, RI

August 9-11, 2013
Snow Ridge Ski Resort
Turin, NY

Outside Lands
August 9-11, 2013
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

The Peach Music Festival
August 15-18, 2013
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Performers include: The Allman Brothers Band, Bob Weir & Rat Dog, The Black Crowes, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Railroad Earth, Galactic, and many others.

Camp Barefoot
August 22-24, 2013
Bartow, WV
Performers include: Kyle Hollingsworth Band, EOTO, Keller Williams, Team Leaf Green, Zoogma, Conspirator, Break Science, The Motet, and many others.

Catskill Chill
September 6-8, 2013
Camp Minglewood
Hancock, NY

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
October 4-6, 2013
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

Austin City Limits
October 4-6, 2013
October 11-13, 2013


Thank you again for checking out the column. I’ll be back next week, and you can always find more jam on Facebook and Twitter. Until next week, Jam On!


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