Look, putting together a weekly music calendar isn’t easy. It can be tedious, boring and frustrating. Sometimes, you have to find your little spaces of joy to keep the whole endeavor from completing sucking your soul away.
That’s how I would like to think the calendar editor at LA Weekly came up with “Groanin’ Lester Butler” back in 1996. I hope it brought him/her a little bit of joy in a thankless job.
Unwanted nicknames aside, the years between The Red Devils and 13 found Lester Butler playing locally around Los Angeles and Santa Monica, Calif., in various versions of Devils, Shadows and unlucky numbers. He found regular work in joints like Bar Deluxe, Jack’s Sugar Shack and, of course, the Blue Cafe.
Here is a collection of calendar clips and bar ads from L.A. papers in 1996, tracking Butler’s moves before his breakout ’97.
Lester Butler spent May 4 — and several other nights — at the Blue Cafe in the 1990s. A favorite spot for artists such as Hook Herrera and James Intveld, among many others, “the Blue” still has fans years later. Co-founder Vince Jordan was a Lester supporter, and his great photos and memorabilia can be seen on nofightin.com. (LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times)
The first calendar sighting of Lester Butler and 13 was for their May 11 gig at Jack’s Sugar Shack with Cousin Lovers. (Not the worst band name of the week: That belongs to Wiskey Biscuit.) Butler and the boys had a lot of competition on that Saturday night, with Cherie Curry, Cibo Matto and System of “the” Down all playing in the area May 11. (LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times)
Gotta love a place called the Opium Den. Lester Butler & 13 played there June 30 or, as LA Weekly said, they “grind out some snooze blues,” whatever that means. The somewhat legendary Melvins played the night after. (LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times)
13’s highest profile gig to date? Lester Butler and the band opened for the iconic Bo Diddley on Sept. 18 at the House of Blues. Diddley in the 1990s often didn’t tour with his own band, instead relying on local pick-up bands to back him up, and open. Was this one of those shows? If you were there, let us know. (LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times)
Lester Butler is back at Jack’s Sugar Shack on Nov. 22 with Three Bean Salad at Trailer Park Casanovas. With all due respect, Harry Dean Stanton on Nov. 30 was clearly the coolest show of the week at Jack’s. (LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Desert Sun)
Finally, here is a big show at the House of Blues Dec. 28: The 10th Annual Little Walter Tribute, with harmonica originals Snooky Pryor and Billy Boy Arnold, as well as Kim Wilson and Lester Butler. The HOB was on fire that last week of 2016, with Cypress Hill, Little Feat, Fishbone and Etta James holding down new year’s eve. (LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times)