WORDS AND IMAGES WARREN MILLAR
In the vibrant heart of Liverpool’s music scene, District came alive on Saturday night as the indie-rock sensation, The Cheap Thrills, headline the stage for an electrifying performance. Known for their infectious energy and dynamic sound, the band delivered a night that was both nostalgic and cutting-edge. Together with five other bands on the bill this was a night to remember.
First a few words as to why we are here at District in the heart of Liverpools Baltic Triangle. Tonight is a tribute and celebration of the late Tony Butler, a guiding light of The Zanzibar Club, Liverpool,Tony forever etched his name in the annals of music history. His passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment to fostering local talent and shaping the city’s musical landscape have left an enduring legacy that continues to resonate through the chords of every song played within the hallowed walls of The Zanzibar and other music venues around the world due to his support of local up and coming bands and artists during his time on earth.
Tony Butler wasn’t just a figure at The Zanzibar; he was its beating heart. His infectious enthusiasm for music, coupled with an unshakeable belief in the power of creativity, transformed The Zanzibar from a mere venue into a sanctuary for artists and dreamers. With his warm smile and genuine interest in every musician who graced the stage, Tony made every performer, no matter how inexperienced or established, feel like a star.
Under Tony’s nurturing guidance, The Zanzibar became a breeding ground for talent, a place where dreams were nurtured, and careers were launched. He possessed an uncanny ability to spot the diamond in the rough, the potential that others might overlook. He encouraged emerging artists to embrace their uniqueness and dared them to believe in themselves. Tony’s faith in the power of music to change lives was evident in every note played and every lyric sung within those four walls.
Beyond his role as a promoter and mentor, Tony Butler was a pillar of the community. He bridged generational gaps and united people from all walks of life through the universal language of music. His kindness, generosity, and unwavering support resonated far beyond the confines of The Zanzibar, touching countless lives and fostering a sense of belonging that extended well beyond the music itself. It’s so fitting to have some great bands playing here at District tonight and everybody here tonight have fond memories of Tony whilst raising much needed money for a great cause “The Teenage Cancer Trust”
First up we have local lads “Waiting Till Marriage” bursting onto the scene mid 2021 these young musician’s seem to have what it takes. Think The Vaccines, The Stokes or Courteeners. For their young age they boss the stage like veterans and their indie sound is tight and melodic with just that hint of rawness that any good indie band need. Some great tunes and guitar riffs all add to the sound these guys create. A great way to open the night.
Next on the District stage we have the wonderful Ruby Jean Walvin and her band. This girl can sing it’s a sort of indie, soulful sound to her voice which just seems to wash over you and brings you into every song. It’s quite a moment when Ruby explains as to why she is here tonight having herself gone through Cancer treatment as a teenager. She then introduces her next song “The Game” which was written about her cancer diagnoses and was used by “The Teenage Cancer Trust” in one of their campaigns. It’s a stunning beautiful crafted set by Ruby and her very talented band.
Next up we have a band I have heard good things about but never caught them live until tonight “Keyside” A lot of Liverpool bands do the Liverpool Indie sound type thing but these guys do it so well I’m instantly thinking of “The La’s” when these guys start their set. Lead man Dan Parker’s voice is typically Liverpool indie and so bloody good. The sound these lads make is spot on, great twangy guitar riffs with baselines to die for. I honestly can see “Keyside” making it big and playing big venues before very long and following in the footsteps of the likes of “The Lathums” and “The Snuts” Watch these local lads they are going places of that I’m sure.
Now its time for “Mel Bowen & The Original Series” we are certainly being entertained by some great music and live bands tonight and “Mel Bowen & the Original Series” are no exception. Funk and Soul at its very best complete with horn section. Mel’s beautifully crafted songs are flavoured with jazz charged grooves which cant fail to get at least your feet tapping out to the groove. The sound is a feast to the ears. Heavy funky jazz baselines together with Mel’s brilliant guitar work and weaved together with Sax and Trumpet really do sound fantastic, tight and on it in a funky, soulful jazzy feast. What a brilliant set.
Now a real treat, some Scouse Country Rock from “Hegarty” What is “Scouse Country Rock” I hear you say, well Its bloody good that’s what it is !! Hailing from Liverpool, 5 piece band Hegarty was formed in 2014. “Hegarty” make an impressive sound. David Hegarty’s voice is impeccable a real country feel to it but with that scouse tone to it which adds to the originality. The band are as one with their foot tapping melodies and real country rock vibe throughout their set. I say forget Nashville, let all take a look at the real home of “Scouse Country Rock” Bootle. As the guys said to me on the night “HEGARTY ARNT WE LAD”
Headline time had come, It was just after midnight before “The Cheap Thrills” finally got onto the stage at District but boy it was well worth the wait. By now the crowd were packed into the intimate venue, anticipation buzzed through the air. District’s gritty and raw ambiance set the perfect backdrop for The Cheap Thrills’ brand of music. The stage was set with a minimalist aesthetic, allowing the focus to remain squarely on the music itself. The opening chords of their first song, “Same Old Faces” reverberated through the room, and instantly, everyone was drawn into the music.
The Cheap Thrills wasted no time in showcasing their signature blend of indie rock, characterized by catchy melodies, infectious hooks, and a healthy dose of retro influences. Lead singer Lewis Pike’s charismatic presence held everyone’s attention from the get-go. His voice, at times evocative and at times commanding, carried the emotion of the lyrics effortlessly. The band’s chemistry was undeniable, each member feeding off the other’s energy and creating a sonic synergy that enveloped the audience. District, with its relatively small size, allowed for an intimate connection between the band and the audience. This created a sense of camaraderie, as if everyone in the room was sharing in something special together. The venue’s acoustics, while not flawless, added to the raw and unfiltered nature of the night.
The Cheap Thrills didn’t just deliver musically, they made the night special for the cause, for Tony, for the Liverpool music scene, for the Zanzibar and for The Teenage Cancer Trust. It was evident that they were not just there to perform, but to create a night to remember for all the right reasons.
1/ Same old faces
2/ Saint or sinner
3/ Heart attack
4/ Last orders
Before I finish this review just a quick story about the time I got into Tony’s bad books. I turned up to cover a gig at The Zanzibar and was full of a cold, couldn’t stop coughing. Tony was on the door and told me to fuck off if I didn’t stop coughing and wouldn’t let me in. I was fuming at the time but now know that he was only protecting his clients and bands that were playing that night. He did let me in eventually but I had to hold back on the cough which nearly killed me !!
Tony Butler’s legacy lives on in the melodies that echo through the Liverpool streets, in the dreams of young musicians inspired to follow their passions, and in the enduring spirit of The Zanzibar Club itself. His name will forever be synonymous with creativity, passion, and the unyielding belief that music has the power to transform the world.
Rest in harmony, Tony Butler. Your melody will forever resonate within the hearts of all those who were fortunate enough to cross paths with you at The Zanzibar and beyond.
FOLLOW TEENAGE CANCER TRUST
FOLLOW CHEAP THRILLS
FOLLOW MEL BOWEN
FOLLOW RUBY JEAN WALVIN
Warren is a live music and festival photographer based in Cheshire and covers gigs/festivals mostly in the North West of England. He has been photographing live music for over 10 years and has covered major artists and festivals