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This Saturday's ButlerFest Is a Benefit for a Beloved but Ailing Phoenix Metal Hero

Matt Martinez, left, and Ryan Butler on tour in Mexico with Landmine Marathon in 2014.
Matt Martinez, left, and Ryan Butler on tour in Mexico with Landmine Marathon in 2014.
Krysta Curry

It was John “Hannibal” Smith of the A-Team who used to say “I love it when a plan comes together,” and damnit, it really is a beautiful thing.

Ryan Butler, who has been playing in or recording one band or another both locally and on national and international stages since the '90s, has Wilson's disease, a genetic disorder that causes copper to build up in the liver and other vital organs. His mother died of the condition, and he was diagnosed with it in 2019. He received a liver transplant in early October.

When Matt Martinez decided he was going to help his friend and former Landmine Marathon bandmate in his time of need, the plan came together quickly and powerfully.

To him, Butler is worth the time and effort.

“It's his personality," Martinez says. "I mean, for being somebody that has a lot of potential for quote-unquote rock star clout — you know, being in [bands] that did some high-profile things (like Landmine Marathon and Unruh), working in and owning a recording studio, working with ... a lot of other rock stars, he's never had that attitude. Everybody he comes into contact he embraces as a friend." (Full disclosure: I played in the band North Side Kings with Butler, and concur with Martinez's high opinion of him.)

During this difficult and expensive time, friends and family have rallied around Butler. A GoFundMe campaign set up by Martinez has raised more than $41,000.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, November 21, viewers can tune into ButlerFest, a virtual concert hosted, in part, by Michelle Donovan and her team at the Nile Theater in Mesa.

For Martinez, it is not hard to want to reach out for his friend, and the lineup of artists that have come together for ButlerFest show Butler's impact in the local music community.

Headlined by Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World, bands like Exhumed, Dropdead, Fall Silent, a reunited Where Eagles Dare, and others are also on the bill.

“The lineup itself is just extremely eclectic, which I think is a testament to the diversity of Ryan's friendships. Every band that's involved has some sort of direct relationship to Ryan, whether it be recording with him or playing with their bands. It's all connected,” says Martinez.

Martinez says that getting the lineup together was the least difficult thing about setting up the show.

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“A couple of people I asked, I definitely didn't expect a ‘yes.’ Fall Silent, from Reno, are not as active of a band; they kind of reunited in the past couple years. The Where Eagles Dare reunion was an immediate ‘yes.’ Out of the dream list that we asked, I would say 95 percent of the bands are on this bill,” says Martinez.

Many of the local bands who are contributing 15- to 20-minute sets recorded their performance onstage at the Nile, which has been incredibly gracious and helpful to the cause, according to Martinez. Other venues around the country were equally happy to allow national acts to film their performances as well, so although ButlerFest will be virtual, it will still capture the feeling of a live show. (Please, though, do not show up at the Nile Theater on November 21 expecting to see live music. )

As for Butler, he is in the midst of a long recuperation at home and “coming along good,” as he writes in a message. He says the doctors are happy with his recovery so far, and he hopes to start exercising in about four months, even though he's about a year out from a full recovery.

Tickets for ButlerFest are $10, and all the proceeds benefit Ryan Butler. Tickets are available at butlerfest.net.

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