A natural reaction to disaster

New Orleans native, `Wire' star Wendell Pierce heeds call to host `Hoodoo Throwdown' benefit concert


On Aug. 29, the day he began to lose his city, Wendell Pierce in New Orleans hunkered down with family, all powerless, all listening to the radio describe a hurricane that would destroy his father's home -- Pierce's childhood home -- in Pontchartrain Park.

Then, work called.

Are you all right? Yes, he was safe. We got to do something, said his boss in Baltimore. Definitely, Pierce said.

So, we will do a benefit once you get up here.

David Simon, executive producer of HBO's The Wire, had called Pierce, who, as fans of the drama series know, plays Baltimore homicide detective William "Bunk" Moreland. (And no, we don't know why he's called Bunk, either.) "David went to Mardi Gras with me. He knew I was a homeboy," Pierce said this week by phone from his parents' temporary home in Baton Rouge.

Pierce is more than a New Orleans homeboy; almost by virtue of geographic genetics, he's steeped in the city's unique musical traditions. For him, hosting a benefit concert would be a natural act of charity. Good way also to give his brother city of Baltimore a hoodoo dose of New Orleans.

So, in the spirit of Mardi Gras, the cast and crew of The Wire, along with Associated Black Charities in Baltimore, are sponsoring "Fat Tuesday Hoodoo Throwdown." The all-ages benefit concert Tuesday at Baltimore club Sonar will be hosted by Pierce and will feature other Wire cast members and performances by three New Orleans bands. Tax-deductible tickets are $50, with proceeds to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"This will be a thank-you and celebration. People of good will reached out to us in our greatest time of need," Pierce said. "But work still has to be done. This disaster is just starting for us."

The "Hoodoo Throwdown" joins a fat list of benefit concerts headlined by New Orleans musicians from Harry Connick Jr., the Neville Brothers and Preservation Hall Band members to Wynton Marsalis, Dr. John and Fats Domino -- whose home was ruined in the hurricane. For the Baltimore benefit, the New Orleans bands The Rebirth Brass Band, The Iguanas and The Subdudes are scheduled to perform on Sonar's main stage. One of the bands has its own hurricane story.

Two members of The Subdudes, Tommy Malone and Jimmy Messa, safely evacuated their homes in New Orleans. But Malone's home was left standing in about 5 feet of water. The band had to cancel shows last month. "The Subdudes hope their fans will bear with them," said their Web site. The group has since regrouped, but family members still remain jobless.

While hurricane relief is a sober theme, the "Hoodoo Throwdown" -- as the name conjures -- is envisioned as a fun event. Fun is good. Just ask Bunk.

"People need to come and have a night out with the Bunk. We can belly up to the bar together," Pierce said. "I'll be sweating and dancing and drinking." Ask him anything about New Orleans. Ask him anything about jazz or the brass band resurgence led by his homeboys, The Rebirth Brass Band.

"Enjoy yourself. That's the priority," Pierce said. "The rest will take care of itself."

Mardi Gras beads, by the way, will be provided.

Masks are optional.


If you go

Fat Tuesday Hoodoo Throwdown will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Sonar, 407 E. Saratoga St. $50 (tax-deductible). 410-547-SEAT or ticketmaster. com (or purchase at the door).

More Katrina-related events

Hurricane Library Relief: A Confederacy of Writers and Musicians

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed or damaged hundreds of libraries on the Gulf Coast. To help them rebuild, the Enoch Pratt Free Library will host a benefit celebration of New Orleans' literary and musical heritage, with readings by New Orleans writer Kalamu ya Salaam and local poets and writers and jazz by the Lionel Lyles Quintet. Free; donations encouraged. Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., 400 Cathedral St. 410-396-5430 or epfl.net

Kidd Jordan in Concert

An Die Musik Live! presents legendary New Orleans saxophonist Kidd Jordan in a pair of benefit concerts with pianist Joel Futterman and drummer Alvin Fielder. All proceeds from two shows will go to the artists, who suffered serious losses in the hurricane, the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp and New Orleans Musicians Clinic. $20. Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. 409 N. Charles St. 410-385-2638 or andiemusiklive.com

More ways to help online: fema.gov; networkforgood.org; redcross.org

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