Philly remembers one of its dearly departed.
Not everyone gets a Pitchfork-hyped memorial concert in their honor. Maybe that's not fair, but it makes total sense that Trevor Butler's getting one. He was a musician, after all, and a friend to countless other musicians who are still reeling from the bombshell news of Butler's recent death in a tour van crash.
Those musicians, including the guys in Man Man, the Wrens, the A-Sides and Nymph, are sending Butler off with a show to benefit his family. All proceeds from the R5 concert help cover Butler's medical and funeral expenses, as well as drummer Greg Lytle's ongoing medical bills due to the fractured skull he incurred in the same crash.
Bottom of the Hudson, in which Butler played bass, were returning north on July 29 after the final date of their East Coast tour supporting Fantastic Hawk, the bedroom rock band's latest release on Absolutely Kosher. The Philly/Brooklyn act was driving through North Carolina, not too far from Butler's hometown of Myrtle Beach, S.C., when a tire blew out and hurled the van out of control. It rolled a few times, leaving Butler dead and newly recruited drummer Lytle in critical condition. The rest of the group, including lead singer and songwriter Eli Simon, sustained minor injuries.
"Losing him is like losing an arm. It's not growing back, and you can't get another one," says Simon. "Asking what's next for Bottom of the Hudson is like asking Mrs. Lincoln how the play was."
Simon is neither playing the show nor attending it--too much, too soon--but the rest of the lineup was a no-brainer for its organizer, A-Sides keyboardist Chris Doyle, who'd been tight with Butler for more than a decade and even shared a bed with him when they first moved to Philly in 2001. The expansive bill may seem strange, a bit varied and over-the-top, as both the Wrens and Man Man could sell out the venue on their own. But they're all friends of Butler--guys who toured with him, played music with him, lived with him and lost him.
"He was just a totally rad dude. It must've been Southern hospitality or something, because even though he lived in such crazy spots and through such crazy situations, he was always so open. He'd offer up anything," says Russell Higbee, "Cougar" from Man Man. Butler was actually the driving force behind Higbee joining Man Man--he convinced him it was okay to shift focus from Coyote, their joint project with Ryan Hamilton.
Though the members of Coyote were busy with other bands, they wrapped a new album this summer, with plans to release it this fall. That album, Butler's final recorded work, will be available at the memorial show as a limited edition, free with the cost of admission.
This isn't the first tribute event for Butler, but as far as Doyle is concerned it's the tribute event for Butler. Back in August a bunch of friends organized a show at Tritone, preceded by a "ghost ride" in which almost 100 bike messengers relayed an empty bicycle around town in honor of Butler, who worked for some time as a courier. At the end of the ride, the bike was rolled off the South Street Bridge, submerged in the waters below.
And just a few weeks ago the A-Sides donated all profits from their record release party to the families of Butler and Lytle. But that didn't feel big enough to be called a proper memorial show; it didn't "knock the wind out of people," according to Doyle, who's inked Butler's initials on his forearm, a tribute to his best friend that'll last forever.
This show will be enough, Doyle says. It'll be "electric," attended by anyone who appreciates a good concert, and Butler's friends who didn't make it south for the funeral service. Butler's mother, father and sister will also be in attendance.
Even if you can't attend, donations are being accepted via PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org), and at the Bellamy Law Firm Trust Account, P.O. Box 357, Myrtle Beach, S.C., 29587, in the name of the Jon Trevor Butler Memorial Fund.
A Benefit for Trevor Butler's Family
Thurs., Sept. 20, 8pm. $15. With Man Man, Wrens, A-Sides + Nymph.
First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. 866.468.7619. www.r5productions.com