John Butler Trio’s dynamic play shines at The Independent


By Tom Dellinger //

The Independent 10th Anniversary
John Butler Trio with Little Hurricane //
The Independent — San Francisco
February 20th, 2014 //

Last Thursday evening (Feb 20), San Francisco was treated to the return of the John Butler Trio as they played a spectacular show to a sold out crowd at The Independent as part of the venue’s 10 year anniversary celebration. Fronted by John Butler on guitars and vocals and backed by Byron Luiters (bass and keyboards) and Grant Gerarhy (drums), they took the crowd on a musical journey of remarkable depth. First formed in 1998, The John Butler Trio has become well-known to the bay area and John is roundly recognized as a stellar guitarist and performer.

Huge, breathtaking guitar compositions are a common element in his music, and he did not fail to live up to that reputation upon his return to the city. Though he used a couple of electric guitars during the course of the evening, he mostly used acoustics — Two twelve strings, a six, and a Weissenborn lap guitar. And, for those familiar with his work, know that an acoustic guitar in his hands is every bit as powerful and hard-driving as any solid body electric could be. John uses the acoustic in ways not often seen. He employs some effects that he then runs through a brute of a vintage Marshall amp and cabinet — A rig more commonly associated with hard rock, certainly not with acoustic guitars.


John’s style and sound is very unique to him and can easily be recognized. Whether he’s playing it soft and quiet for an intimate moment or playing it fast and furious, his passion for the song always comes through loud and clear, such as on his performance of “Ocean” which he played solo. It’s times like that where the full range of his abilities radiate. Always articulate, he builds from a whisper, leading the listener along, building and releasing, then crescendoing again until nearing the end, the room is so full of sound coming from that wooden box it feels as if it could explode. Truly, this was one of the more magnificent highlights of his performance. And it is that dynamic element that is common to all his compositions.

Opening for the John Butler Trio was San Diego based band, Little Hurricane. An unusual band in that it’s made up only of Tone (Anthony Catalano) and C.C (Celeste Spina). With C.C. on drums and Tone on guitars, and keyboards, the two create a dense driving sound they like to describe as “dirty blues/rock band”. On Thursday night they gave a solid, enjoyable set of mostly originals and a few covers. C.C’s drumming was tight, solid, no frills, and straight at you while the guitars were often a little moody with a bit of heavy reverb wash. The contrast of the two approaches proved to be an interesting mix and was an enjoyable intro for the night.

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