?Bruce Springsteen tribute band The B Street Band has withdrawn from its scheduled Thursday night (Jan. 19) appearance at the Garden State Inaugural Ball in Washington.
“Our decision is based SOLELY on the respect and gratitude we have for Bruce and the E Street Band,” writes B Street Band keyboardist and owner Willy Forte. “Bruce’s music has been the foundation of our livelihood. The B Street Band would not exist without the talents of Bruce and our E Street brothers.”
The band came under fire last week when the news broke they would be playing the bipartisan event. The ball, a celebration of New Jersey, had booked the band in 2013. The B Street Band has played the event before, taking the stage in 2009 and 2013 for the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Speaking to Billboard, Forte says the band was taken aback when they found themselves in the middle of what he describes as a “firestorm.”
“It was being distorted. We were never hired by Trump. We were not even playing on the same day as the inauguration; we were playing the night before,” he says. “We played for both Obama’s inaugurations, as it was a non-political event, but we got swallowed up. So now if you are in a storm, you have to make a move, you can’t stay there, and our most important thing is our respect and gratitude to Bruce Springsteen, his music and the E Street Band, and if that’s it, we are going to pull out.”
Asked if breaking performing contract is going to have a financial burden on the group, which Forte describes as “working stiffs,” he says, “How can it not be?”
“I’m not going to speculate for you, but anyone that breaks a contract, there is always going to be consequences to it,” he says. “I was brought up to not break promises once you commit to something and not do it, but that’s beside the point. The main thing for me is our connection, which is intertwined with Springsteen.”
While the band is primarily a Springsteen tribute, the group — which features four vocalists — covers other artists aligned with New Jersey, including Frankie Valli.
“That’s what we have done for 37 years as a fulltime working band,” he says. “And we’ve lost members of our band to cancer. It’s a long story and continuous story, but we got caught in this hurricane. Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, but not this way.”
Speaking to Billboard before the recent news, Forte said performing at the event was more about showing “respect for the office of the presidency” and there was “noting political” about the decision at all.
“We signed a contract in 2009, not knowing who was going to be there in 2013,” he says. “In 2013, we signed a contract for 2017, not knowing who was going to be in there in 2017. It wasn’t a political thing.”
The group has performed for political events before, including the block party for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The group also performs frequently for the New Jersey Special Olympics Committee as the official Special Olympics New Jersey band.
“There are so many good things about our band that people don’t know, and all people now see is this,” he says. “All of this is owed to Bruce indirectly. Everything goes back to him. So now you know why this decision became very clear to us.”
On the night of the actual inauguration, The B Street Band will appear at Cedar Gardens in Hamilton, N.J., playing a fundraiser assisting Steinert High School’s After Prom Committee.
E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt chimed in on the controversy Saturday afternoon (Jan. 14) when he was asked about it on Twitter.
Nice guys. Met them. I wouldn’t say right or wrong. Up to them. But it’s naive to think one can separate Art and Politics. Art IS Politics. https://t.co/yoAtWruY9B
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) January 14, 2017