THE LEFSETZ LETTER: John Butler At The Enmore Theatre

We are having just a fantastic time here in Sydney.

We're staying in Olympic Park, where the conference is located, and have felt the vibe of the 2000 Games, albeit seven years later.

Sydney is an interesting city. Kind of a cross between New York, London and Paris. It's got a bit of the intensity of NYC, but the air of London and Hyde Park reminded me of the Tuilleries, in the City of Light.

Our highlight yesterday was buying dinner in the food halls of department store David Jones. It's kind of like Harrods. And if you haven't been to Harrods' food halls, you haven't lived. Why we don't have upscale food halls in L.A., I'll never know.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

Felice and I spent the whole night developing a plan, figuring out the best location. I think we can get the redevelopers in Westwood to give us real estate for free. What do you think?

Anyway, that was yesterday. And now it's today. And tonight, we went to the Enmore Theatre, in Newtown, to see the John Butler Trio.

Oh, we could have gone last night, when Phil Stevens, the act's manager, was going to be there. But I wanted to prepare for today's speech, and we passed. But it turns out the band was playing again tonight, and Phil arranged for us to go. And maybe it's better this way. Waiting in line for our tickets. Not hanging backstage. Just being a member of the hoi polloi.

Speaking of London, Newtown had that feel. You know, the narrowish streets with endless shops along the way. We dove into a Thai restaurant for a quick meal, and then went to the show at the appointed time.

We were sitting upstairs. I usually expect a seat downstairs. But when I hung over the railing, it turned out the first floor was G.A. So, I preferred upstairs. Where everybody SAT! Who wrote the rule that you can only enjoy music standing up? Bumping into bodies. Great music has a cerebral component. And sitting down you can fully experience it. And we experienced both the cerebral and physical enjoyment of music tonight. You see, the John Butler Trio was positively EXCEPTIONAL! It reminded me of nothing so much as the seventies.

In the seventies, you know if you lived through them, if you just aren't reading about the era in the history books, it was about the album. It was about the music. It wasn't about how you looked, it wasn't about dancing, it was about musicianship, and experiencing music. I was beginning to think that the sun had set on this paradigm, but tonight I found out I was wrong.

The venue… It wasn't an American venue. There was no bar keeping you from jumping to your death from the balcony. And the seats, they seemingly hadn't been replaced since the place was built. They were covered in leather, with rivets! Funky? The Enmore Theatre is the picture in the dictionary.

And the lights went down and the screen came up to tell us, it was a carbon neutral event.

Research John Butler. He was into saving the planet before it became fashionable. And, this visual credit wasn't the only political statement. Mr. Butler had things to say, and the audience listened. Remember when we believed music could change the world? Seems like that era is back. If you're drawn to John Butler, you're drawn to his beliefs. Not enough American acts are standing up for anything. Certainly not before they take a poll. It's a marketing tool. John Butler ain't a product of the system, he's not someone whose career is plotted out on a spreadsheet, he's all about the playing.

And play he did!

He didn't stand up until the last half hour of the two hour and twenty minute show. He sat down, playing acoustic instruments all night! This isn't the TV sound, this isn't the radio sound, this is the sound that goes straight to your heart, unfiltered, that changes your life.

And the people in attendance were not teenyboppers. There were the requisite twentysomethings, but plenty of thirtysomethings and even some fortysomethings. It was about the music, not the scene. What a relief!

And the trio also included a marvelous drummer. And a bass player of equal caliber, who oftentimes played a standup/acoustic double bass!

The sound was mellifluous. It was full. And there were only three people on stage.

Cream only had three people. In an era before tapes, before hard drives, when analog ruled. The John Butler Trio is positively analog, Sans the faking it of the TV acts. They're genuine, and they get the appropriate response.

God, I didn't know the material. And neither did Felice. But our attention didn't wander, we were held captive. Leave early? Are you kidding?

This is college music. The John Butler Trio could blow up in America if they just played colleges every night of the week. Screw TV and screw radio. Go straight to the audience.

And they can't be an opening act. That doesn't work. If you're not willing to pay complete attention, we don't need you. We're looking for believers only. Are you a believer?

You will be after seeing them. And then you'll tell all your buds to come the next time around. You'll download all the songs, to get closer to the band, to feel the connection.

This is the way it used to be. Stunningly, it appears that it's going to be this way again.

Pay no attention to Top Forty radio. Strike MTV from your remote control. Ignore Jimmy Iovine, every label head trying to manufacture sales. Pussycat Dolls? If you think people want to lick that, you're sorely mistaken.

People don't want two-dimensional tripe. They don't want to be pandered to. They want something real, that they can hang on to, that can help them through life.

Acts like this don't explode instantly. They build. They refine their sound, their identity. They gain fans along the way. And suddenly, they've got careers. You remember careers, don't you? Those things that last at least a decade? In the case of classic rockers, many decades?

The musician is most important. Second comes the fans. Then the manager, the agent and the promoter. And that's it!

Screw the corporations. Trying to steal your soul by putting you in commercials. Screw the press. They've got the wrong agenda, they're selling advertising, they're far from unbiased.

Throw out everything you've been told for the past thirty years. It's complete crap.

Learn how to play. Create something unique. That people can explore and connect with. Expand this connection. And you'll have that aforementioned career.

We don't need stars, we need music. We need sound.

And when John Butler picked up his guitar and played solo for almost fifteen minutes in the middle of the set, it was transcendent. He was possessed, and I was too.

You don't need to make it three and a half minutes. You don't need to get to the verse in five seconds. You don't need a catchy chorus. You just need good. Good is elusive. But you know it when you hear it. I heard it tonight.

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