John Butler Trio at Red Rocks 8.12.11

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis

This one was for her. My girlfriend, Carly, loves John Butler. His music moves her like none other. Though I wasn't all that excited about it leading up to the show, the evening unfolded in an interesting manner and played out like a dream.

Red Rocks shows are almost always magic. The famed venue creates a vibe like none other. Entering the venue, we obtained our photo passes from an AEG representative. I joined Carly in the pit on this one. The energy was high and the crowd roared over over our shoulders as the opener, Trevor Hall, took the stage. His hands shook as he, along side his band, looked up at the more than half-filled venue smiling.

Trevor Hall's music was simple yet soothing. The outwardly positive lyrics coupled with the mainly mellow acoustic music was well produced and well executed. The crowd ate up the set and danced freely. One interesting highlight came when Trevor called out his father to sing "Om Shakti Om" with him. Towards the end of his set, he let his dreads down and began to hop around the stage. The conclusion of his set brought a roar from the crowd. He was well received from a near full Red Rocks.

Following his set we made our way over to the merchandise area to meet Trevor. There was a line of younger women fans already waiting to meet him.

"Will you sign my moccasin please?" one girl asked with a huge smile on her face.

We made our way back to the photopit to catch a local Native American tribe. Their songs, dances, clothing and performance was incredible. The crowd watched with a very focused and inquisitive demeanor as one of the women explained their dances. Again as their performance came to a close, the crowd applauded loudly.

The stage was set for the evening's headliner with the full moon shining brightly through the steel columns supporting the stage. With the entrance of the John Butler Trio, Red Rocks came alive. With his hands up in the air and a smile on his face, John Butler took a seat, plugged in and began.

The music was an interesting combination of rhythms and melodies, criss-crossing with a tasteful rehearsed approach. The music was bright and encouraging. It was easy to feel the roots of JBT's music, but it was clear that it fit into the popular rock realm. There were also times where John's slide playing sounded like a sitar, taking the music in an altogether different direction.

The crowd was absolutely sold, however I was still undecided. There was something about his vocal patterns that sounded similar song to song. Then the music began to vary minimally, leaving me wanting more. Somewhere fairly early on, I noticed motion on the rocks. A few people had scaled, crawled and made their way up into a crevice of Creation Rock. I spoke with a staffer who was also looking up at them with his walkie talkie in hand.

"That's a $1,000 fine right there. The paramedics are keeping an eye on them," he said with authority.

The trio impressed me with the tonal quality and I found myself somewhat mesmerized by the strong effects john was putting on the acoustic slide guitar. Between several of the songs, John spoke about political talking points that I felt went right over the heads of the young, some what inebriated crowd.

Towards the end of the set the music became significantly more loose and began to drag on, though the crowd didn't seem to mind. The drummer dropped one of his sticks that he had thrown into the air, following a uneventful drawn out call and response session.

The trio exited the stage to massive applause following their set and much of the crowd began to exit. John came back out with his wife "Mama kin" shortly to follow. After posing the crowd for a picture, they sang a slower tune called "Losing You" (who's proceeds benefit The Kimberely). It was an odd fit for an encore at Red Rocks. The band returned to the stage for one last song, closing it out with some communal drumming involving the whole trio.

As the show ended, I thought about how responsive the crowd was to John's music and overall message. It was as close to a sell out show as I had seen at Red Rocks, without actually selling out. The crowd poured out of Red Rocks and to our disappointment, they left the venue littered with plastic cups, water bottles, beer cans and other various items.

We exited with some of the last folks, and at the last minute I grabbed Carly's arm and said "follow me." We passed a security guard who waved us through, down to the lower loading zone where we made our way backstage via an open access point. We headed up the ramps decorated with framed pictures of previous acts and legends lining the hallway, until we found ourselves across from the green room where we ran into John Butler.

With that, I was able to get a photo of Carly and one of her all time favorite musicians. It ended up being an enjoyable evening and I couldn't deny the reasons why folks enjoyed John Butler's music so much. It's not the most complex instrumentally, but what John does is connect with his lyrics and message. Red Rocks was definitely proof of that.

Carly's Photo Gallery From The Show


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