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A Silent Auction With Loud Music

January 25, 2008
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With the fifth and final season of HBO’s The Wire in full swing, a number of official events have been happening lately in and out of Baltimore to comemorate the city’s most famous current cultural export. And this week, that included a silent auction of Wire-releated merchandise at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

In addition to the items up for bid, the evening included an open bar and music from one of the show’s cast members and a couple local artists featured on the recently released Beyond Hamsterdam: Baltimore Tracks From The Wire.

Although we couldn’t afford to bid on any of the items anyway, it was disappointing that the available goods consisted mainly of autographed DVDs and some limited-edition The Wire hoodies, most of which were signed by celebrities who have nothing to do with the show, with the exception of cast member Jamie Hector. Still, there was at least one very cool bit of Wire memorabilia on display in the museum that wasn’t for sale (mild spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen Season 3): the clothes worn by Idris Elba during his final scene as Stringer Bell, complete with bullet holes and fake blood stains.

The DJ for the night was club music institution Rod Lee, who has produced dozens of tracks, both for local rappers and for his own club releases, that could set off just about any party. So it was disappointing that he made the safe decision to stick with mainstream R&B for most of the night, providing some nice background music between performers. In fact, the only time Lee played his own music was on a couple occasions when he blended Akon and Beyoncé a cappellas with one of his best-known beats, from the landmark 2001 local hit “Bank Roll” by Tim Trees. Granted, the crowd at this event was definitely older and more, well, white than at his usual gigs, but I think they would’ve been receptive to some club—particularly Lee’s The Wire soundtrack highlight, “Dance My Pain Away.”

The other locals in the house representing the show’s soundtrack album was Darkroom Productions, the team responsible for four tracks on the disc, and their protégé Diablo. After everyone in the room had been shuffling around and snacking on hors d’oeuvres for an hour, it was tough for Diablo to command their attention. But he tried his best with a four-song set, with Darkroom’s Juan Donovan as his hypeman, running through aggressive mixtape material like “Jumpin’ Like Rope” and “Smell It” while the scattered audience remained a couple yards from the stage. Some more ears perked up when he closed with his big single and soundtrack contribution, “Jail Flick,” but it was still a sharp contrast to the instant reaction the song got at an early performance two and a half years ago, at a small club on Eutaw Street. It’s impressive that song has almost single-handedly opened doors for Diablo to play, say, a swanky event in a museum overlooking the harbor, but that’s probably not the ideal environment in which to experience a song called “Jail Flick.”

After some more mellow beats from Lee, the stage was taken over by the man known to The Wire fans as Slim Charles, known to his mother as Anwan Glover, and known to go-go fans as Big G of the Backyard Band. Go-go is so deeply entrenched in Washington that anyone living only an hour away is likely familiar with its live funk band sound, but it’s still a rare treat to see a go-go band in Baltimore, especially one as long-running and popular as the Backyard Band. And it was during its set that the crowd in attendance reached its peak and started to loosen up, as the band played slow jams and go-go arrangments of current hits like Jay-Z’s “I Know” and Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine.” We didn’t stick around to see if the party continued after its set, but we like to think Lee came back and tore the roof off with some club.

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