The John Butler Trio: Music with a message

Blair Adornato

I’ve never been a huge fan of OAR. I might listen to a few songs here and there and I even know the title of their catchiest tune. But I’d never miss an opportunity to see semi good music at Villanova – that opportunity was too rare to miss. However the real highlight of the announcement of OAR coming to our campus was not OAR itself, but their opening band, The John Butler Trio.

I first heard The John Butler Trio while driving to school on a Friday morning in my friend’s white Volvo stationwagon. I immediately asked my friend who they were, for John Butler’s voice had roped me in. He told me that they were a quasi-jam band from Australia and proceeded to burn me a copy of their first album. I’ve been hooked ever since.

When I learned that the John Butler Trio was playing not just in Philly but at our school in our fieldhouse, I was more than ecstatic. The next two weeks consisted of me talking them up to everyone I knew, encouraging them to experience their sound. And then I was told that I would have the experience to interview them after the show. My life could not have gotten any better that Wednesday.

But it did, that Saturday at 9:30 p.m. when I was led down to the Butler Annex of the Fieldhouse, ironic yes, and down into the locker rooms where two of the trio awaited me. Within 10 minutes we had done our introductions, and I felt more comfortable in the fieldhouse locker rooms than I ever would have imagined. Meeting one of my favorite bands was nothing short of nerve-wracking, yet the band had an aura about it that makes it hard to feel out of place. I felt as if I was talking to old friends, for the conversation immediately turned to American politics, the question of elections and Bush support throughout our country, and then to the Jewish tradition of circumcision. Needless to say, it was one interesting hour.

These men are like any contemporary musicians. They were born thinking outside the box and use their public voice to convey this. Not only do they use their voice, but they use their music and their independence to convey their message as well. That message is one that is easy going, laid-back, generous and unassuming. They asked me so many questions about my own experiences in the United States, at Villanova and my desires to study abroad that I hardly had an opportunity to ask them about their fame, success and their mission. We sat and talked for nearly an hour, and the best notes I took away with me was a map Shannon had drawn roughly of Australia. Without having to break the comfortable setting with formal interview questions, I learned their mantra their history and their outlook on life.

The John Butler Trio began after each member attempted solo careers on the Australian music scene, spanning from Sydney to Melbourne. John Butler met up with his other two members after his wife introduced them, and they have been playing together ever since. After taking over Australia with their mellow sounds and lyrics, they crossed the Pacific to gain ground in the United States. We are fortunate that they have, because they have given us a new taste of music, one that is free from the commercial bondage that so many bands have found themselves in, and yet it doesn’t fall under the cliché of indie rock. Their sound is music at its best, tranquil and melodic, yet daring in its lyrics. At the root of this sound is a talent that exceeds that of most of the musicians on the scene today. These men know their instruments, and their performance showed that it isn’t about money or fame; it is about playing music with a message. These men are the true musicians, so perhaps OAR should open for the John Butler Trio next time.