Thursday, March 5, 2015

Will Butler at the Bowery Ballroom

Will Butler was born to a musical family in Truckee, California, and raised in The Woodlands, Texas. His mother is Liza Rey Butler, a jazz and classical musician and singer playing clubs in Maine, and his maternal grandfather was guitarist Alvino Rey, a swing era musician and pioneer, often credited as the father of the pedal steel guitar. While at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, Will was a disc jockey at the radio station and served as the poetry editor of its literary magazine. For the past 10 years, he and his brother Win Butler have led Arcade Fire. Will plays synthesizer, bass, guitar and percussion, and received an Academy Award nomination for his work on the original score of the film Her in 2014. A month ago, he dj-ed as DJ Windows 98 for a fundraiser at the Bowery Ballroom. All last week, Butler teamed with The Guardian to write and release a song each day based on the British newspaper's articles. Will Butler's solo debut, Policy, releases on March 10, 2015.

With his solo album still a week from release, the audience at the opening night of his tour may have attended curious to see who is Will Butler apart from Arcade Fire, and perhaps hoping for some Arcade Fire traction. As it turned out, Butler's concert was miles apart from his Arcade Fire catalogue, except that he wore a blood-stained white tuxedo jacket that he sometimes wore on that band's most recent tour. Backed by a band that consisted of his wife's sister, keyboardist Julie Shore, Antibalas' drummer Miles Arntzen and two backup vocalists, Butler performed the entirety of his quirky solo album plus songs from his Guardian series and a cover of the Violent Femmes' "American Music." Much like his performances in Arcade Fire, his energetic, joker-like presentation charged the songs and enlivened the stage show. Sounding very much like a 1960s rave-up garage band, Butler moved from guitar to keyboards and sang with the jittery vocals turned up way high. Nevertheless, while he introduced a previously-unseen side of his musical creativity, he entertained but did not eclipse his history.

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