'Treme' A Vital Platform For New Orleans Musicians
At any of
"Until we were on the air, we had to overcome the New Orleans suspiciousness of Hollywood, which has portrayed the city somewhat poorly," Overmyer says.
"We're over that hump. I may be blissfully unaware, but people in the city have been very cooperative."
At a time when New Orleans streets are becoming increasingly populated with film crews thanks to a Louisiana tax credit for movies shot in the state, "Treme" has drawn a local following for using the city as the city and not as a stand-in for another locale.
Bennie Pete, the tuba-playing leader of the Hot 8, couldn't fit the first season's shooting schedule into the band's calendar. But the act appears in four of the first eight episodes of season two. Separately, band trumpeter Terrell Batiste has become a fixture on the show.
Eager to participate, Pete became a fan of "Treme," he says, for showing the city according to "a New Orleanian's point of view versus someone visiting the town." The show takes place in the months following Hurricane Katrina, chronicling the struggles of local musicians and other Crescent City residents as they cope with its aftermath.
Pete is especially keen on the coming season's focus on the crime wave that disrupted life in the city as many displaced residents began returning after Katrina. The topic hits home for him: Four members of the Hot 8, founded in 1995, were murdered between 2004 and 2007.
"Crime is a reality in New Orleans," he says, noting that he hopes the show will also chronicle the tensions that have arisen as newcomers have bought up real estate and politicians have instituted noise ordinances that have largely shut down street performances by brass bands.
The Hot 8 will perform at HBO's "Treme" season premiere party in New York on April 21. Pete is hoping the band's second studio album will be pressed and available before the 11-show season ends, at which time it will be wrapping up a U.S. tour opening for Lauryn Hill and heading overseas to play festivals.
Meanwhile, New York-based Absolutely Live Entertainment, headed by veteran festival producer Danny Melnick, is producing a tour called A Night in Treme that has been booked for nine dates this summer, beginning June 10 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. The concerts will include performances by acts featured on the show, such as Ruffins, the Rebirth Brass Band, Dr. Michael White, Donald Harrison and Big Sam Williams. The tour borrows its name from a one-off benefit show held at New Orleans' House of Blues last August on the fifth anniversary of Katrina.
Melnick says he hopes to book additional dates in the winter and spring leading up to, one hopes, season three of "Treme." HBO is participating in the promotion of the shows but has no other connection. "It's not about a TV show," he says of the tour, which will include recorded‹and for some dates, live‹narration from "Treme" star Pierce. "It's about everything that happened before the storm. We want to entertain and educate, make sure people understand the history and what this music means to the world‹without preaching. Rebirth is there to party." And, Basin Street's Samuels hopes, to sell a few CDs.