FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—In a coals-to-Newcastle spirit of brave provocation, an East Coast musical contingent associated with the HBO drama The Wire is coming to town – and challenging two of New Orleans’ sturdiest and funkiest ensembles to a Wire-versus-Treme battle of the bands.
A charity fundraiser for two key charities in the New Orleans music community, the May 11th event at Tipitina’s Uptown pits Galactic and the Stooges Brass Band against Baltimore’s funk-jazz pioneer Lafayette Gilchrist and Washington D.C. go-go icon Anwan Glover & The Backyard Band.
“Who brings music to New Orleans?” said David Simon, producer of both HBO dramas. “Who comes here and throws down against badass outfits like Galactic or the Stooges?”
Originally from Baltimore-D.C. but familiar with the New Orleans music community, Simon insists that the evening could prove epic. “I tried to warn them about New Orleans, I tried to hold ‘em back. But Lafayette and Big G won’t be told. They’re coming. They’re ready to cut.”
Backing the D.C. and Baltimore bands will be actor Michael K. Williams, formerly “Omar” on The Wire and currently “Chalky White” on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Williams will be emceeing for Drama City and Bodymore, while New Orleans native Wendell Pierce, or “Antoine Batiste” on Treme will front for the hometown musicians.
“I’m predicting something epic, something with blood on the floor. I’m just thankful that Michael can’t get his sawed-off shotty past the TSA,” said Pierce, who also played “Bunk Moreland” on The Wire.
Musicologists familiar with the groups involved are already saying that the throw-down could rival epic band battles such as the Muddy Waters-Howlin Wolf imbroglio at the Checkerboard Lounge in June 1954, or the famed Savoy Stomp between the Benny Goodman Sextet and Chick Webb’s Band at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in 1937.
Oddsmakers have the hometown New Orleans acts at a five-to-three line, though there are some who say the underrated East Coast contingent is hungry for an upset.
“Come at the king, you best not miss,” says Williams.
With several CD releases under his belt, Lafayette Gilchrist leads a full-blown, horn-heavy jazz-funk ensemble in his New Volcanoes band that New Orleans will find strangely familiar. In the same way that locals have taken the brass tradition and pulled it through the keyhole of hip-hop and R&B, Gilchrist has embraced D.C. go-go music and bass-heavy Baltimore club sounds, marrying both to jazz composition.
And to go deeper into the legendary D.C. go-go sound, six-foot-six Anwan “Big G” Glover – who as an actor played the role of “Slim Charles” on The Wire, remains one of the great lead-talker vocalists in that unrelenting genre of funk. The 14-member strong Backyard Band is one of the premiere go-go outfits in Washington.
“If Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers are the equivalent of the Dirty Dozen,” explains George Pelecanos, a Treme and Wire writer-producer and D.C. native, “then Big G and the Backyard Band are the Rebirth. These guys are go-go royalty.”
All four bands will appear at Tipitina’s, at 501 Napoleon Avenue, on Friday, May 11. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show will go until 2 a.m. Actors from HBO’s Treme will also be on hand in support of the event. All proceeds will raise money for The Tipitina’s Foundation and The Roots of Music, local charities that support music education in New Orleans.
General admission tickets are $20, with V.I.P. lounge tickets of $100 offering fans an opportunity to hang with cast members and musicians, listen to all of the off-stage trash talk between contingents from the two metropolitan areas and their corresponding dramas, and enjoy an open bar.
“It will not be pretty,” says Treme executive producer Eric Overmyer, who has spent years in both places. “The rules of engagement are no rules. Prisoners will not be taken. The wounded will be shot.” Tickets are available at http://www.tipitinas.com/