Season Two of HBO’s ‘Treme’ will feature The Hot 8 Brass Band, their music and their post Katrina hardships. Hot 8 band leader and founder Bennie Pete shares details about his experience working on the show.
“We got a call (from HBO) for the first season but we weren’t too enthused about the offers," recalls Pete. "It didn’t come off right the first time. Then during their off season, I got a call from (show producer) David Simon. He said he was a fan of the band and wanted to talk about having us on next season. He apologized about the initial contact not hitting it off. He came to one of our gigs and we worked everything out.”
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Treme’s season two makes up for lost time in showcasing the Hot 8’s talents. The band performs their post-storm anthem, ‘New Orleans’, during a club scene which is also featured in the show’s trailer and on the series’ soundtrack.
But Simon wanted to profile more than just the band’s music. He wanted to tell the story of Dinerral Shavers, snare drummer for The Hot 8 and band director for Rabouin High School who was gunned down in December ’06. Shavers was the third member of the band to be murdered in New Orleans — one member, trombonist Joseph ‘Shotgun Joe’ Williams, was killed by the NOPD in 2004. It was Shavers’ murder, along with that of a young documentary maker and mother Helen Hill who was killed in her Marigny home, that finally unleashed the pent up geyser of anger and frustration residents felt toward’s the administration’s inability to quell the rising tide of violence, culminating in a 5,000+ person march on City Hall in early ’07.
The decision about whether to tell Dinerral’s story though, according to Pete, was not his and the band’s to make. “I told him (Simon) it was on Dinerral’s family and how they felt about it. If his mother was with it, we were with it. We wanted the world to know who Dineral was. But I really wanted to leave it up to her to see if she was she up for relieving that whole thing.” Shavers’ mother agreed to having the show depict her son’s story. Her daughter Nakita Shavers, who has become an outspoken anti-violence advocate since her brother’s death, works on the show as a consultant and as an actress playing herself.
Asking Pete what it was like for him to relive his bandmate’s murder, he says, “Honestly it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The guy acting like him looks a lot like Dinerral. Seeing him in the casket, it was different. I wouldn’t say it was sad. I was really more looking at the positive of the situation, dealing with trying to make it the best representation of him and the band more than I was sobbing over what happened. I was more focused on making sure they got it right than tuning into how we felt about this.”
What was tough for Pete, however, was recreating the march on City Hall. “In that scene, it made you relive the situation of really being sick and tired of the crime in New Orleans and the NOPD and how many people been killed by the police and the whole Joe situation... The corrupt thing going on in New Orleans with the police, we were in that mode again, chanting. It really had me feeling it again.”
But overall, Pete says having the band retrace the steps of its difficult journey has been a positive experience for the Hot 8.
“I feel like the band does a lot to rep the city and we don’t get enough recognition for it. For them to come from out of town and give Hot 8 the opportunity, I was happy about that; to show the world what the pain and struggles we been going thru, to shine a light on that.”
Look for the Hot 8 Brass Band in season two of HBO’s ‘Treme’ beginning this Sunday at 9pm CST.
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