13’s brilliance at Boogie Town

On the eve of Lester’s Legendary Last Gig at the 1998 Moulin Blues Festival, 13 incinerated a different fest.

“The night before at Boogietown Festival in Belgium- THAT was a gig!” guitarist Alex Schultz recalled in a 2010 comment on nofightin.com.

The Boogie Town Festival on May 1, 1998, at Louvain-la-neuve, Belgium, did not have the benefit, in hindsight, of special guests or strange coincidences. But the show promoters certainly knew what they had with Lester Butler and 13, expressed in a breathless biography in the festival program:

For those who don’t read Dutch or French, here is Google Translate’s best job:

Lester Butler, leader of 13 (Thirteen), feels invested with a mission: to continue to bring alive the spirit of the mojo in the ‘90s and to mesmerize by the music! The character is completely hallucinated and firmly decided to follow through with his passion.

It was in 1996 that Butler, singer and harmonica player of the mythical but ephemeral Red Devils, founded 13. It took him about a year to gather around him the musicians likely to share his passion and his vision of boogie music. The will of Butler is to bring something new to blues and boogie. 

Reinterpreting the standards note for note does not interest him. He wants to capture the spirit and energy of the blues to infuse them into new music. As he says, you don’t pay homage to a genius musician like Little Walter by playing exactly like him, because his innovations, in their day, did not copy anyone. To pay tribute to him, we must continue to innovate, just as he did. At this point, the completely stripping take on Big Joe Williams’ standard “Baby Please Don’t Go” is emblematic of Lester Butler’s completely relaxed approach to the blues.

After a few tests on stage, the formation stabilized: Alex Schultz joined the group on the guitar; he played before that in Rod Piazza’s Mighty Flyers. He is, on paper, a swing guitarist! Eddie Clark, trained in jazz, provides the rhythm with bassist Mike Hightower, who has evolved with musicians from the Mississippi blues. In total, four virtuosos, but which evolve in different genres. And it is this diversity which makes the originality and the richness of 13.

The intoxicating and almost dark atmosphere of 13 on stage is accompanied by a hot rhythm.

To these technical qualities and this inspiration is added the charisma of Lester Butler, hallucinatory singer. Everything forms a dripping and sulphurous boogie: Good, big, fat … but brilliant.

Who wouldn’t want to check out that show? Hallucinatory, fat, brilliant!

Recordings from the Boogie Town show are relatively easy to come by, so we can judge for ourselves:

And about that yellow highlight: This program comes to No Fightin’ from drummer Eddie Clark, with his notes from the festival in 1998. It includes this aside on another page that you won’t find elsewhere:

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