The Wire Treme

HBO’s TREME vs. THE WIRE Battle of the Bands at Tipitina’s

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


  • I’ve noted that you have a great appreciation for jazz and blues music. It’s evident in all of your work. I wish I’d seen this, I’d have tried to come.

    I was fortunate enough to grow up here in Chicago when some of the greats of the 50’s still roamed our clubs. Cover was $1-$5 and I got to know many legendary musicians who taught me to drink whiskey and brandy straight from the bottle. We still have a great music scene here. Drop in or film something here some time and you’ll enjoy yourself.

    Your work is some of the very best ever to make it to a screen. If you keep filming it, we’ll keep watching.


  • I am only just now finding this blog, but I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the night at Tipitinas. I was in New Orleans that week for a trade show and even extended my stay a night when I found out about the event you organized. It turned out to be a perfect way to cap an incredible week of music, almost all of which I had been introduced to through Treme. In basically 5 nights I got to experience Glen David Andrews, Rebirth, Soul Rebels, Allen Toussaint, Donald Harrison, Jr. (with Indians), and then Stooges and Galactic (not to mention the DC/Baltimore contingent, and the cast members from Wire/Treme). Crazy! Mind-blowing, and that doesn’t even mention the people and the bars (Bullets, Vaughns, dba, Maple Leaf, Le Bon Temps Rouler, and more).

    I just wanted to thank you for the incredible entree you’ve given me to New Orleans via Treme that motivated me to experience as much as I could first hand. Next year I’m going to come for Jazz Fest, but I also encourage you do something like the Wire/Treme event again. It really kind of felt like Simon-Con ’12, the only things missing were Melissa Leo or David Morse to represent Homicide, Khandi Alexander for the Corner, and James Ransone for Generation Kill. 😉

    If you do it again next year, I’ll be there!

  • That was an awesome show; thanks for masterminding it. Really enjoyed being introduced to D.C.’s finest. Sorry I made you drop your drink.

  • I’m totally queer for NOLA music, almost to a fault. And Backyard Band dropped a huge bomb on NOLA last night and into this morning. Loved ’em!

  • Any chance it will be recorded or even better videotaped for future viewing? I would pay to see that but can’t get to NO!

    • Sorry. One time only, gotta-be-there thang. But if you send a nice donation to one of the charities, I promise to post something here recounting the event, accompanied, I hope, by photos and maybe a brief home video or two.

      Are you a go-go fan?

      Should we drop the bomb on New Orleans? Drop the bomb, drop the bomb.

      • So Excited!!! DC represent!!!! Backyard played at my HS senior Homecoming Go-go and I am a huge fan of all these music genres coming into Battle. Im also a music sociologist (and Colby College alum where I hear you got an honorary degree), so this is right in my line of research! So let DC drop that Bomb! And show NOLA what the Up-South can offer.

  • The Wire: Only place in popular culture to even mention Go-Go music. What a shame. It really is a fun, interesting take on dancehall/funk. Or maybe it’s just a DC thing.

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