“You’ve shown us what happens when people rise together, work together and dream together,” Brer Rabbit of indie hip-hop group Flobots said at Tipitina’s in New Orleans Thursday night. He was one of 10 musicians who visited the Crescent City for an activism workshop that concluded with “Musicians Bringing Musicians Home IV,” a benefit for the non-profit group Sweet Home New Orleans.
Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy), J. Tillman of Fleet Foxes, Nicole Atkins and Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin were just some of the artists brought to New Orleans by the activist group Air Traffic Control and the Future of Music Coalition to explore ways to use their stature for social good. Three years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans remains a vital place to consider the ways that people can help, as well the ongoing need for it. Touring the city, Berlin said, “had heartbreaking moments followed by heartwarming moments as you see what people can do.”
The show started with a short, hushed acoustic set by Tillman, and included a live dub set by the Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee, and Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah performing his songs rearranged for the three-trombone lineup of the backing band, New Orleans’ Bonerama, along with a version of the classic “St. James Infirmary.”
“I blew a line,” he said afterwards. “Normally I could get away with it, but I felt terrible doing that here where people know the song.”
During the show, executive director Jordan Hirsch of Sweet Home New Orleans announced, “We’ve been at it since the levees broke, and we’ve put more than $2 million in musicians’ pockets.” The non-profit agency helps musicians with housing, health and work-related issues, and has worked with Air Traffic Control since the first of the retreat series in 2006. Hirsch also announced that Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard wanted to attend but couldn’t, so he made a donation of $5,000.