The Butchers primed for a big night in Aspen

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Trenton Allen has his spot at Belly Up: on the floor, audience left, tucked into the corner. What he doesn’t have is anything to take home after the show has ended. Allen laments the fact that, in the four and a half years of Belly Up’s existence, there has not been one official release documenting what has taken place on the club’s stage.

“Why isn’t anybody putting out live shows from here?” asked Allen. “It seems like it should be happening every night. I’d buy every show I go to. There’s magic happening there every night.”

Allen, a musician as well as a music fanatic (and a longtime counter guy at New York Pizza), has determined to set things right. The Butchers, the band in which he is a guitarist and lead singer, are set to record their concert Sunday night, May 24, at Belly Up, for a CD/DVD package. The process of preparing for the event has given Allen a hint at why such endeavors are not nightly occurrences: Recording a concert is hard, time-absorbing work.

Allen and his mates ” drummer Jeremy Gould, lead guitarist Josh Griggs and bassist Tim McMahon ” got the wheels rolling on the project months ago. All four have abandoned day jobs to focus their attention on the recording. That’s in addition to the rehearsal sessions ” four to eight hours, every day, for over a month ” designed to get the material as tight as possible. Saturday nights are reserved for tutorials in sound design and other technical matters, at New York Pizza, with Belly Up sound man Ralph Pitt.

At least one thing has fallen nicely into place. Aspenite Kody Hornburg recently graduated from Full Sail Recording Studio in Orlando, Fla., and was looking for a project just as the Butchers were seeking a recording engineer. But more things have gone awry than right. As Allen notes, “We said, Why not be the first to put out a ‘Live From the Belly Up?’ Little did we know … .”

The biggest unforeseen blow came two weeks ago at a full moon bonfire party, when the band’s computer found its way into a drainage ditch. Washed away was all the recording software the band had assembled; replacing it took money and time, both of which were already in short supply. Along the way, they discovered they needed to buy 24 cables to connect the Belly Up soundboard to their recording devices ” another unanticipated expense.

The hassles, though, are far outweighed by the band’s enthusiasm and confidence. As Gould puts it, “We want to do something huge. We’re at the threshold. It’s time to hit.”

The Butchers dismiss the idea that all their rehearsal time will drain the freshness from their performance: “With that tightness, we can anticipate the other person’s playing. With that anticipation, we can give them room to expand,” said Gould. And they are quick to add that performing brings another element into the picture: a live audience. Sunday’s show ” with downvalley band the Redtones opening ” is free, and the Butchers, in their 10th appearance at Belly Up, are counting on their fans to turn out, ready to make their contribution.

“With that crowd, that changes everything,” said Allen, who assembled the band four years ago out of the musicians who appeared at the Open Mike nights he hosted at Club Chelsea.

“We want to see them go nuts,” added Gould, who described the Butchers’ music as “heavy groove rock,” inspired by the hard-rock band Gov’t Mule, and the New Orleans funk group, the Meters. “It’s music that sucks you in and makes you part of it. Everyone in that audience will be part of the recording ” part of the sound, the video, and the energy that is so important to live music.”

The Butchers’ recording history to date features just one three-song EP, made on relatively simple equipment. Sunday’s show will be recorded with 24-tracks, in high-definition. The band knows that the live setting doesn’t allow margin for error.

“When you walk in, you have one chance. One chance to get it right. We’ve been throwing everything we have at it,” said Allen.

But Allen also believes that, having already gone through some turmoil, the Butchers are in position for a memorable night.

“I’m learning, as we go, one ” that it’s an experience,” said Allen. “Two ” it’s highly technical. You need a technical advisor. Three ” it can be challenging, as a band, to decide what we want to create, to record, to release.

“But four ” and the most important part in my mind ” we’ll be able to re-create the once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s going to be Sunday night. With a band that’s overcoming all the obstacles, to give the most entertaining night.”